Thursday, August 18, 2011

Liberal Hollywood Shortchanges Actresses

Originally posted at Big Hollywood: LINK

Great films need great actors and great actresses. Unfortunately, Hollywood doesn’t do great actresses anymore. . . it does Barbies. In truth, Hollywood never was great with actresses, but it’s gotten much worse lately. Talent, apparently, no longer matters when casting actresses, just looks. To be a modern “actress,” you need to be under 35 years of age and look like every other Hollywood ditz. What’s worse, Hollywood is now trying to pass off sexual exploitation as “strong roles” for women.

Megan Fox adjusts her "talent" before their next scene.

1. Dear Hollywood: Stop The Age Discrimination

Age discrimination is a problem in Hollywood. Seriously, what is the fascination with jamming twenty-somethings into every role? It doesn’t work. These young girls simply don’t have the maturity or the depth to play the parts of women. It strains credibility beyond the breaking point when they cast some silicon enhanced girl to play the nuclear scientist or the head of a corporation or. . . well, any woman in a position of authority. I know powerful women, professional women, and women with a great deal of maturity, and none of them look or act anything like Hollywood seems to think.

And please stop casting girls as the wives of old, old, old male actors. It’s creepy. Teri Garr and Richard Dreyfuss worked in Close Encounters because they looked like a couple. Septuagenarian Harrison Ford married to Megan Fox doesn’t. Not only can we not see them getting together in the first place, but we can’t see them as a “normal, loving couple.” Instead, the words “gold digger” and “cradle robber” and even “grave robber” come to mind. And holy cow, stop casting “mothers” who are only a year or two older than their movie “daughters.” Was there a plague in Hollywood that wiped out all the women over 40?

2. Dear Hollywood: Stop Cloning Actresses

Hollywood also needs to end its cloning experiments. It needs to stop rejecting actresses if they have the slightest trace of individuality or if their bone structure is 1% off the model. Seriously, this makes it impossible to cast people who look the part. Forget the nuclear scientist mentioned above, what about the average waitress or the mother of three or the cop? Real women don’t look, act or dress like Malibu Strip Club Barbie™. This is the female equivalent of casting only musclemen as extras, and is again kinda creepy.

"We are the Borg. We are ready for our close up."

More importantly, by casting clones, Hollywood guarantees that few modern actresses will be memorable because it’s the distinct actors we remember. Indeed, few of the top male actors fall into the “pretty boy” category. Outside of a Redford, a DiCaprio, or a Cruise, few leading men look anything like male models. Bogart was a small man with a crooked face and a lisp. Stallone looks like he lost a fight with a blender. Bruce Willis beat the blender, but it took 12 rounds. Jack Nicholson is the blender. How about James Cagney, DeNiro, Bill Murray, Charles Bronson, Steven McQueen, Clive Owen, Benicio Del Toro, Alan Rickman, Adrien Brody, Daniel Day-Lewis, Dustin Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, Richard Dreyfuss, etc. . . not a standard profile in the bunch. And when you get into character actors, the defects and distinctions multiply. . . Steve Buscemi anyone?

I'll bet you could visualize each of these men as you read the names. Why? Because these men are memorable. They weren’t cast because they are pretty to look at, they were cast because they are distinct -- they stand out both in looks and personality.

Believe it or not, the same thing has always been true with the great actresses as well. Look at the actresses we remember. Few of them can be called “classic beauties”: Lauren Bacall was rather butch, as was Katharine Hepburn, and is Sigourney Weaver. Lucille Ball was hardly a looker. Sophia Loren and Julie Andrews were beautiful, but not in a beauty queen sort of way. Loren was gorgeous and wild. Andrews had “girl next door” beauty. Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck and Angela Lansbury all looked 60 the moment they were born. We remember these actresses because they stood out, i.e. because they were different. What’s more, we feel we know them because their personalities come across so strongly on the screen.

Now tell me how many of these you can visualize: Scarlet Johansson, Kate Hudson, Rosie Whitely, Cate Blanchett, Elisha Cuthbert, Rachel McAdams, Kristen Stewart, Jessica Biel, and Elizabeth Shue Banks. I doubt most people could pick them out of a line up and none of them have memorable personalities. In fact, most actresses today are so interchangeable that I wonder if anyone would notice if you swapped a couple out in the middle of the film. . . “hey, weren’t you blonder before?” And even when they do stand out, it's usually for the wrong reasons: Megan Fox. . . idiot, Lindsay Lohan. . . train wreck, Anne Hathaway. . . bleached by aliens.

Unfortunately, because Hollywood is looking purely for beauty, they aren't finding great actresses anymore. To me, the test of a great actor/actress is whether or not they could have taken on a great role. For example, could any of the actor/actresses listed above replace any of the guys in Glengarry Glen Ross? The male actors listed above could have done it. Hepburn, Bacall, Weaver, Davis, Stanwyck and Lansbury could have done it. . . Julie Andrews, probably not. But what about the modern actresses just listed? Don’t make me laugh. Nor could any of them have taken over for Bacall in To Have and Have Not or Hepburn in The African Queen. Sure, they can all take over Megan Fox’s role in Transformers or whoever's role in the next romantic comedy, but that’s about it.

3. Dear Hollywood: Stop Lying About Strong Roles

Finally, we come to the issue of strong roles. Hollywood actresses have complained for some time about a lack of strong roles for women in Hollywood. I think their complaints are valid. But Hollywood doesn’t know how to fix the problem. So instead, they try to redefine the problem. Now we’re told about an El Guapo-like plethora of strong roles involving action heroines. But this is nothing but el toro kaka public relations.

Imagine you are a director and you want your daughter to have a “strong role” in your film. Here you are describing the role: “Basically, you put on a tight leather cat suit and some S&M gear. Then you run around shooting at people and flashing your chest and your butt. I will collect money from men who will reeeally enjoy watching you jiggle and bounce across the screen. Sound good pumpkin?”

"For an extra $10, I'll do an empowerment table dance."

Hollywood apparently sees no problem with this, as that pretty much describes most roles given to female action stars. But how is this a strong role? These women are acting out an adolescent male sexual fantasy. They might as well be in Hustler.

A strong role is one you would be proud to let people watch. It involves playing a character that either brings out strong emotions in the audience or it involves being the kind of person people respect. That means using your wits and maintaining your moral code in the face of adversity and pressure to surrender. It means overcoming the obstacles you face through strength of character. The leather-clad dominatrixes and slinky spies are not demonstrating some strength of character within themselves, they're selling sex.

Mommas don't let your daughters grow up to be actresses. . .

Am I right? What actresses would you say are great? And don’t you find it a little bit strange that a place as liberal as Hollywood would be so openly sexist and ageist? Hmmm.


AndrewPrice said...

Let me make a correction as I can here, but I can't at BH. I meant Barbara Stanwyck, not Barbara Eden

AndrewPrice said...

Also, check out this photo: LINK

A commenter at BH posted it. It's a "morphed average" picture of the "average Hollywood actress". Tell me this isn't what most of them look like these days!

BevfromNYC said...

Geez, who can get a word in edgewise over at BH when you post!

I don't even bother to learn their names anymore 'cause they all look so much alike. TV is where all the good part for women are anyway.

Only one comment - You are absolutely wrong, wrong, wrong about Cate Blanchett and I won't stand for it!! Now that we understand each are absolutely right on all other points. Even the female writers don't write strong parts for real women.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, LOL! They do seem to turn out for my articles so far. :-)

On learning their names, what's funny is that I know a lot of the names but can't put them to faces, even when I've seen their movies -- they are that bland. There are some that I know, but it's rare that it comes from remembering them in a film. It's usually more that I recall them from some news item.

We can agree to disagree on Blanchett! LOL! That seems to be the biggest beef with the commenters, who all seem to like her.

The problem I have with her is that I honestly can't think of anything she's done. And when I look her up, I go, "oh, ok." I just have never seen her in a role that strikes me as particularly memorable. Maybe you can explain it to me? What do you see as her best roles?

On the rest of the article (which I think a lot of people aren't even getting too because they're hung up on the Blanchett thing), I think it's an absolute disgrace that Hollywood does this. And if I had a daughter, I absolutely would not want her growing up thinking that Hollywood's version of the heroine is what she should look or act like.

I'm not a feminist but I'm offended as a human being and a lover of film that they are doing this.

Koshcat said...

This is a huge problem because it often ruins a movie for me. Take The Borne Identity. Getting in to it, awesome fight scenes and then find Julia Stiles is the major contact for a CIA black ops in Paris? I keep hoping Jason kills her each time I see the movie. Out of your list I don't think I could pick one out of a line up even if you threatened me with a hot poker.

On the believability note, I was watching a bad movie on ScyFy (whatever the heck they spell it now) about a giant shark vs. a giant crocodile. There was this government agent played by some skinny, big boobed actress who looked about 17. Yet she was giving orders and talking tough. Ruined the movie despite an adult Urkel.

AndrewPrice said...

Koshcat, I know the very movie of which you speak -- I watched it last night! I couldn't believe that was Urkel. But it looked like him so I looked it up to confirm and sure enough, it was him!

Yeah, she was not only a horrible actress, but I can't see any military guy taking her seriously.... even in a giant crocodile v. giant shark film.

On the list, I agree. And there are literally hundreds more and even the ones who are famous often are famous just because of longevity, not because of anything in particular they have done on film.

I find that I often know the names because I'll hear them enough and I'll see their films. But I can't for the life of me connect a name to a face. They really are all truly interchangeable. Sadly, it doesn't have to be this way. I can actually connect names to faces with British BBC actresses because they are all fairly distinct -- and they're good actresses.

The Bourne film is a good example. Another one was Denise Richards as the nuclear scientist in one of the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films. She looks like she should be starring in some teen comedy, not as a scientist of any type.

John Johnson said...

Hi. Heads up.

Selena Gomez plays a brilliant hacker in 'Getaway'. I wish I could type more, but I'm still blacking out from laughter.

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