All that the press seems to be interested in is woman director Olivia Wilde’s personal drama – not her Venice Film Festival debut. (Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)

By most accounts, Olivia Wilde seems to be far more than the tabloids make her out to be. 

Wilde’s 2019 directorial debut, “Booksmart,” pleased film critics and Generation Z teens alike, even if it fell far short of smashing box office records. Variety has called her “one of Hollywood’s up-and-coming directors.” And her second major directorial project, “Don’t Worry Darling,” just premiered at the Venice Film Festival, drawing a standing ovation Monday and decent reviews. 

But all that the press seems to be interested in is Wilde’s drama in her personal life. 

If the media is not talking about Wilde’s relationship with one of the film’s leading actors, Harry Styles, they’re trying to figure out whether or not Wilde and DWD’s leading actress, Florence Pugh, are in a feud. Some outlets, in what seems to be a particularly low blow, have pitted two incredibly talented women in their fields against each other, simply because Pugh stood further away from Wilde in a group, or Pugh didn’t acknowledge Wilde’s praise for her on Instagram.

It should be noted that Wilde is one of only 13 female directors with films being put up at this year’s festival. There are over 60 films premiering. But all this seems lost as the Internet pounces on #spitgate and other distractions.

In a recent interview with Variety, Wilde expressed how honored she is to get a shot at joining a short list of successful female directors, noting that it’s harder for a female director to get a second shot at a feature film. “Fewer people will invest in the second film of a woman than a man,” she said. And she approaches her films “through a post-feminist prism,” as Variety puts it, with women characters questioning societal roles and sex scenes depicting female pleasure.  

We’re not the only ones who have noticed a possible double standard in the treatment that Wilde is receiving in Venice. In summing up the Internet gossip and salacious details surrounding the film, Italian publication Grazia asks: “So is this a genuine disaster, or are we holding Olivia to a higher standard than similar her male peers? It’s generally not headline news if male auteurs don’t get along with every cast member.”

It remains to be seen how the film does at the box office. But perhaps we should ask ourselves, as Grazia does, whether we’re keeping other women down by ignoring achievement and over-focusing on controversy. That would seem to be what’s happening in Wilde’s case.