|Photo from Just Jared Jr.|
This is something that I feel like I see a lot of when it comes to not only young starlets, but young women in general. Whether people are ragging on Kristen Stewart for being boring/ungrateful/awkward, or snarking about Taylor Swift's relationship status, or hating Anne Hathaway for being... a goodie-two shoes or something? It seems like it never ends. And of course, there have been a veritable avalanche of articles responding to the treatment of Quvenzhané Wallis, who is not even ten years old. Many of which I think you should read: here and here are good places to start. This one too.
I asked myself why it was that people are so quick to lavish praise and pump up Jennifer Lawrence while simultaneously shutting down so many of her contemporaries. I think there's a lot of interesting discussion to be had about accessibility and an aura of "one of the people," but I also think it's more than that. I think it has to do with the idea that she portrays this sort of "cool girl" vibe of "I don't really care about makeup or Hollywood vapidity, I just want to have some pizza and beer." Which is an attitude we see a lot. And I'm not hating on JLaw for that! I get the distinct impression that that's her personality, and more power to her. She's also appears to be reasonably friendly/friends with many of her fellow actresses, which helps.
But I do find it interesting that being irreverent and not caring who made her gown and constantly talking about how much she loves food is seen as cooler, more real, or more genuine than other actresses. Other actresses who play the game, pose, answer questions, don't smile on cue, openly take their career seriously, date around, or whatever else. Is it because women are expected to be amicable, friendly, and always fun? Is it that we expect celebrity women to shut up about their career, their beauty regimen, and their diet despite the fact that the public demands they're polished, professional, and slender?
I couldn't help but be on Taylor Swift's side when she commented that Fey and Poehler made a jab at her expense. I don't exactly approve of her making a general statement that women must always lift up other women (women are most certainly allowed to be critical of other women when they're upholding crappy or oppressive behavior), but I feel her on the media's constant need to take pot shots at her dating life; to invent new "boyfriends" for her every time she's photographed in the same vicinity of a guy.
Here's the thing about comedy and satire: social commentary and satire are entertaining because they uncover injustices and nonsense in established systems. They cleverly point out the way in which an accepted social order is corrupt or just plain ridiculous. They lift the marginalized and mock the powerful. Why? Because the powerful walk away unscathed. They may have a bruised ego, but they are still on top. But when you mock the less powerful or the powerless, you're maintaining the status quo. When you make fun of a young woman for dating freely, you're upholding the idea that young ladies don't get to date around, lest they be viewed as fickle or - gasp - slutty.
And I can't help but feel for Kristen Stewart every time someone chides her for looking "bored," for not smiling, for slouching, for whatever. It stings me, because it speaks to a very real issue I dealt with growing up: having other people dictate how I was allowed to express my emotions, and being called a "bitch" when I didn't conform. I'm not a super smiley person. I'm also rather shy and reserved. I like being around people, but I'm not usually that bubbly person chatting everyone up. Even when I'm happy, I'm not constantly beaming everywhere. All my life, people have DEMANDED that I smile. They have seen me sitting quietly, listening, and assumed I was bored or snobby when really I just like to absorb the world around me.
This is what the public does. It polices young women's behavior every second of every day. It tells people that we're allowed to dictate how other women interact with the world, how they act, how they express their emotions. If we don't like it, we can sneer at them and presume that they're a "bitch." It's not just with reserved ladies. It's with ladies who are "too loud," or "too serious," or "too ditzy," or "too full of themselves." We read these behaviors not only into celebrities, but into every woman around us.
Now, I don't know any of these women. They could be great, they could be horrible. I don't know. But that's the thing: I DON'T KNOW.
None of these ideas are new or groundbreaking, I know. But they are things I think about. I can barely watch awards shows or interviews with actresses anymore without cringing at the inevitable onslaught of people picking at how she sits, how she speaks, how she smiles, who she dates, whether or not she's "annoying."
Anyway. I'm not here to tell anyone they shouldn't participate in celebrity gossip or that they can't dislike certain actresses. I just can't help but feel a certain level of protectiveness when I see a young star criticized not for her actions or her art, but for simply existing as a woman in Hollywood. So yeah.
I HAVE THOUGHTS. Do you have thoughts?