At a pivotal point in Lucy in the Sky, the new drama starring Natalie Portman as an astronaut suffering from PTSD after her first space mission (a story loosely based on the bizarre real-life exploits of Lisa Nowak), she is told by a male superior that she has become "too emotional" to do her job.
Lucy in the Sky is hardly the first film to depict sexism in the workplace. It's not even the first film this year where strong women are told they're too emotional; we witnessed similar moments in both Captain Marvel and Dark Phoenix, and those were literally superheroes being belittled. But it's still a jarring reminder that gender bias is everywhere, even at an institution as noble and reputable as NASA.
"It was interesting to see how the same kinds of behaviors can just be labeled differently," Portman told Yahoo Entertainment about her research into playing an astronaut (watch above). "Like a man being a daredevil might be a woman being reckless. Or a man being really confident might look like a woman being arrogant."
Portman watched the 1983 space saga The Right Stuff in preparation for the part. "It's all these guys hazing each other, and just kind of good-spirited competition, all of these men racing to beat each other to be first people in space, and seeing that kind of energy in NASA. And then trying to replicate that with a female character. It's not likable when you see it in a woman. You're like, 'Oh, these behaviors come off really differently just in a female form. So you see how the world reacts to you differently."
Said director Noah Hawley: "I think there's this soft bias that occurs in all walks of life and workplaces. I think if you told the men in the movie that they were being biased against her because she's a woman, they would argue that they weren't at all. We don't usually in our films incorporate those elements. Tom Cruise is never stopped from saving the world because of some sort of institutional bias."
Jon Hamm, who plays Lucy's "confident" colleague-turned-romantic partner, alluded to the fact that NASA recently had to scrap plans for their first-ever all-female spacewalk because they only had one spacesuit that could fit a woman's body.
"It's absolutely true that female astronauts, and anyone in that game, [have] to work twice as hard with half the credit. It goes back to Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. She did the same thing, just backwards and in high heels, but the gets all the credit."
Lucy in the Sky opens Friday. Watch the trailer:
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