Filmmaker & Artist


Napoleon Complex


Being an independent female, a strong black woman, or a Joan of Arc is a trait to be envied. Women are smart enough to know that we have a duty to empower each other and wield our knowledge and strength that is in all of us. That is not always the case. It is almost a dead horse to talk about inequality, sexism, or gender roles.. I like to think there is a more creative way to accept and move forward from these issues. I fashion myself to be strong in my femininity and my humanity BUT that does not mean I have not susceptible to the ever-lingering, Napoleon Complex. Perhaps, liberties are being taken on what this term means but it is definitely the plight of men and absolutely of: women.

It is not as if I have never been conscious of the struggles women can face but it was not until I was in College that I felt it full force. Not only did I feel the need to prove myself to my male peers but I especially needed the approval of my female peers. In my opinion, to garner a female peers' approval or acknowledgment is a hell of a lot harder than gaining any sort of male attention. I found myself often surrounded by women who seemed as if they were puffing out their tribal chests and chanting to claim their territory. On the contrary, it could also be quite the opposite, if I was not subduing to sexually exploiting my body I was not "free" or "enlightened" like the rest of them. I fell on the outskirts of my sisterly approval. Why could I not get in with the "girls club"? When did it shift? 

It seems as if, and not to over-generalize, that women have needed to prove themselves for so long that in some cases it has taken the opposite effect. Instead of embracing one another and leading each other to success, we are tearing each other down just like the so-called "Man" has for all of time. What if us Women are our own weapon? 

Side Note: I am not here to say Women need to be versus Men or that now, Women are the enemy, it merely is a situation of humanity, and how do we go about treating each other on a human basis rather than gender. 

End of Side Note. 

About six months ago, I was on a set for a music video. I knew mostly everyone on set and came to work as a Make Up Artist. Now, I do not do make up; Nor, do I advertise that I ever would. I was asked by the Director if I could and I had nothing to do so I said, yes. Almost instantly, I got this bad attitude of:


"Oh I was only asked to do makeup because I am a girl"


"I wasn't asked to do a production job because they think I can't do it"

I never once thought:


What if I was asked because the team liked my work ethic? or What if they like when I am on set?


I took the negativity and ran with it. 

Needless to say, I had a great time doing make up. I got to talk with the actors and actresses, learn new things, and happened to do a good job. It was a really fun time. Later that night, on our dinner break, I sat around with some of the crew and somehow we got on the conversation of another fellow filmmaker. I asked if she was going to be filming someone's project and one of the crew members said (I am paraphrasing): 

"We chose someone else because she always tries to prove herself too much. She just gets mean on set and does not do the best job. She's really good but we don't like when she gets like that. A lot of girls get this like Napoleon Complex on set." 


I might have been way too blown away by this statement, but I think rightfully so. When he said, Napoleon Complex, it was as if I never heard anything more brilliant. That is exactly it. That aggressive behavior is exactly what is belittling any sort of respect, independence, and pure liking for one another. I cannot say I have not been guilty of this because I was instantly reminded a month later when I did exactly what I said I would never do... 

In October 2013, I brought two male crew members/friends from NYC out to San Diego to shoot my Thesis film: RIO/RICHARD. My entire crew consisted of guys/boys/men, whatever you call them, and me. I had complete control of that and hand-picked each crew member because I appreciated their work and them as a person. My crew was never an issue until Napoleon got the best of me. Whenever something went wrong, or I was told to hurry up, my blood curdled. Halfway through DAY ONE, I cracked. Too soon. I could not even believe myself. The outburst was minor but day two hit me like a train. At the end of a long day shooting in a motel, we were exhausted but I was not going to let anyone rest until I got on my soapbox.

Here is the breakdown:

As my DP and Camera Assistant (let me remind you, friends) packed up, unloaded film, and worked hard into the night, I paced in the small, linoleum bathroom as thoughts and images piled into my surging brain. If I had an actual soapbox, you could have declared me legally insane. I marched out of the bathroom as I repeated in my head: Don't cry. Do not cry. DO NOT CRY. My voice did not even make it out of my larynx. They kept working all the while not knowing what I was about to do. I stood almost 15 feet away from them, in the corner, hands pressed in a prayer-like position, tears attempting to escape, 

"Guys, stop what you're doing for a second...I have something to say."


If I had the actual manuscript of what I said, I think I would turn to dust instantly. This speech either lasted two minutes or at least 25. I made bold statements such as:

"As a female in this industry, you don't understand how hard it is."


"I felt as if you do not trust my judgment because I am a girl."


"You need to respect me."


I am pretty positive the only reason that they did not quit or fight back is because they were completely across the country, staying in my house, and I had their tickets back to NYC. I instantly searched for validation. My youngest brother and boyfriend/lead actor were both in the room during my dynamic plea, and I begged them to tell me that what I said was indeed purposeful. Chase, my brother, laughed but he is 15 so I was pretentiously comfortable with disregarding his opinion. Luke, boyfriend/lead actor, on the other hand just hugged me and said everything was ok. 


I know I am not completely mad and out of my mind because I was able to make light of the speech and upon returning to school I told my thesis class the story, not only as a cautionary tale but to relieve myself of the guilt for having made such a speech. Sometimes, I still get worked up and feel as if my words were utterly necessary and poignant but I boil that down to passion

With all of that said, one of many problems still remains: Dominance destroying camaraderie. It is so hard to not make this about gender but I think it is ok to do so. When females pit females against each other, how do we ever expect to get anywhere or do anything? Or better yet, as a female, if I am not treating my male counterparts properly, why should I expect any better treatment? We are all seeking attention somehow in someway, I can say without a doubt, some form of attention is a necessity to life. If I feel the need to use aggression, intimidation, bribery, trickery, or anything negative for that matter, that is on me and who I am as a human, and no other human should have to succumb to that. If I am good at something all I need to do is be good at it! And simply just be good. I do not need to be the hottest girl, the most talented girl, the most liked girl because you know what? Those superlatives do not exist. There is always someone smarter, sexier, funnier, etc. It is all opinion. If I spend my whole life asserting myself to people and forcing them to accept me, it is going to be a thankless journey.  I might as well be Andy Dick if I take that route. 

Do not let your attempts to be praised get confused with breaking down others. If you are great, you will be great. One day we will all be pushing daisies and it will not matter whose are the prettiest. 




Kelli Reilly3 Comments