Incredible Women

Sharon Horgan’s letter to men

Irish comedian Sharon Horgan struck a chord in 2016, nailing the often messy truth about coupledom in two television comedies (both of which she co-created), that are wickedly funny, oddly romantic and, crucially, bolstered by strong female characters. In Catastrophe – the story of two 40-somethings who meet, accidentally conceive a child, marry and then wage a very middle-class war on family life in North London – it is Horgan herself who plays the lead, an acerbic Irish schoolteacher also named Sharon. As one critic wrote of her BAFTA-nominated performance, “she spins her lines like batons, lending even the coarsest remark – ‘I shouldn’t have called her a c**t; she’s more of a bitch,’ say – the bite of a Noël Coward witticism.” In Divorce, the HBO series co-produced by Horgan’s production company Merman, about a couple from upstate New York going through an acrimonious split, Sarah Jessica Parker takes on the part of adulterous wife Frances with relish, flipping the bird at her estranged husband repeatedly, and to hysterical effect.

It’s fitting then, that Horgan’s letter to all men for PORTER is as droll as it is pertinent.

To all the men I’ve known and loved,

Or actually just, Dear men,

I want to thank you all for taking care of things for so long. You’ve done a great job. Made some excellent art. Probably produced 95 percent of the movies and TV that influenced me as a young girl in need of influencing. Because really there wasn’t so much opportunity back then for the ladies. And I could have done with some more female stories, a hell of a lot more, but it was tough. I mean, we could use pseudonyms or be an anomaly, a token female filmmaker, that was allowed, but really it was you guys who held the reins. Pretty tightly actually. Pheeew! It was hard to wrestle those reins out of your hands! But now I just want to thank you for moving along a little, sliding over a wee bit and creating a space for us, which I have to say we have filled nicely. It’s like we were always supposed to be there.

And I know it’s hard. We’ve settled in and it doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere. In fact, there are more of us on the way. And we’re very happy to be here. Years of storytelling are spilling out of us, and it’s gratifying, for us and for the audiences watching and listening.

All we need from now on is for you to think twice, maybe even three times, before automatically handing the baton to another safe pair of hands, to the experienced male voice. You still control the majority of the purse strings, so be brave, be strong and join us and other more diverse voices than ours, to inform and entertain.

Of course, it’s difficult when there are time-tested stories out there that you know sell, but just think to yourselves: if you tell the same story over and over, then what do you learn? (That 14 Spiderman films in five years is a bad idea and yields diminishing box-office numbers.)

Help us to continue to invoke change and to keep this vital and interesting time in our arts and culture alive and thriving. Or don’t! We’re already here.

Yours with love and deep respect,

Sharon Horgan

The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown.