Moviegoers are bullish about The Big Short, Adam McKay's upcoming adaptation of Michael Lewis' best-selling chronicle of the 2000s housing bubble. Not only is the subject matter equal parts fascinating and infuriating, but the cast of this high-profile film—out on December 23—is almost unbelievably stacked.
Two trailers for The Big Short have spotlighted its marquee quartet, the "four outsiders" who drive the narrative: Steve Carell (as Mark Baum, based on Steve Eisman), Brad Pitt (as Ben Rickert, based on Ben Hockett), Christian Bale (as Michael Burry), and Ryan Gosling (as Jared Vennett, based on Greg Lippmann).
If you observed that those faces all belong to dudes (and white dudes, at that), you are correct. Of course, we have yet to see the movie, but we can't help but wonder: Where are the women?
To be fair, there are women in the trailers, primarily in the form of strippers targeted by predatory lenders.
Also observed in these clips are Baum's wife Cynthia (Marisa Tomei) and Georgia Hale (Melissa Leo), a woman in dark glasses whose real-life analog is murky. Whoever Hale is based on, it's clear she's not among the enlightened few. "I'm sure the worlds' banks have more incentives than greed," she says credulously, in her one and only line in the trailers.
It's always a treat to see Oscar winners Tomei and Leo at work, but it's even more satisfying when their considerable talents can be applied to equally considerable roles. And while the men played by the movie's four lead actors all figured vitally into real-life events, the housing crisis wouldn't have unfolded as it did without women—women like Meredith Whitney. Michael Lewis describes her in the prologue to The Big Short:
Whitney was an obscure analyst of financial firms for an obscure financial firm, Oppenheimer and Co., who, on October 31, 2007, ceased to be obscure. On that day she predicted that Citigroup had so mismanaged its affairs that it would need to slash its dividend or go bust. It's never entirely clear on any given day what causes what inside the stock market, but it was pretty clear that, on October 31, Meredith Whitney caused the market in financial stocks to crash. By the end of the trading day, a woman whom basically no one had ever heard of, and who could have been dismissed as a nobody, had shaved 8 percent off the shares of Citigroup and $390 billion off the value of the U.S. stock market. Four days later, Citigroup CEO Chuck Prince resigned. Two weeks later, Citigroup slashed its dividend.
From that moment, Meredith Whitney became E.F. Hutton: When she spoke, people listened.
It's Whitney who introduces Lewis to her mentor, Steve Eisman, a man the author had never heard of before. Eisman, a hedge fund manager who famously bet against subprime mortgages, became a central presence in the book, and serves as the inspiration for Carell's character in the film.
Arguably even more troubling than the female characters who appear in the trailers for The Big Short who the ones that don't. Besides Doctor Who alum Karen Gillan's role as a lawyer named Evie (who, like Hale, isn't found in Lewis' book), Margot Robbie and Selena Gomez will make cameo appearances, seemingly as themselves. The movie's "amusing conceit" of a finance explainer is detailed in the Hollywood Reporter's review:
…none other than Wolf [of Wall Street] co-star Margot Robbie is brought in fairly early on to take a bubble bath and drink champagne while jocularly explaining about sub-prime mortgages and other issues of relevance; Selena Gomez picks up the baton for similar purposes later on.
…yikes. Nothing like a sexy lady in a bathtub to bring Hollywood sexism crashing down.
Molly Fitzpatrick is senior editor of Fusion's Pop & Culture section. Her interests include movies about movies, TV shows about TV shows, and movies about TV shows, but not so much TV shows about movies.