Friday, June 18, 2010

Shortchanging Actresses

Many Hollywood actresses claim that Hollywood shortchanges them. They claim the industry doesn’t take them seriously and that there are no good roles for women. You might not believe this, but I think they’re right. And I don’t think this is a good thing.

The way Hollywood selects actresses has become perverse. Forget about acting talent or being right for the part, those days are gone. Instead, Hollywood asks three questions these days: (1) are you under 35 year old, (2) do you have the dimensions of a Playboy centerfold, and (3) do you look like every other Hollywood ditz. If you can’t answer “yes” to all three, then don’t apply. This bothers me.

1. The Age Thing

What is the fascination with jamming twenty-somethings into every role? It doesn’t work. It strains credibility beyond the breaking point when they cast some silicon enhanced “young thing” to play the nuclear scientist (Denise Richards) or the head of corporation X or. . . well, any woman in a position of authority. I’ve met powerful men and women in my life, and they just don’t look or act like MTV-raised young hotties.

And stop casting these girls as the wives of old, old, old male actors. It’s ridiculous. Teri Garr and Richard Dreyfuss worked in Close Encounters because it was believable that these two would marry. Octogenarian Harrison Ford married to a Megan Fox is not believable. Not only do we have a hard time seeing them getting together in the first place, but there is no way we will see such a couple as a “normal, loving couple.” Instead, the words “gold digger” and “cradle robber” spring to mind much more so than “husband and wife.” And holy cow, stop casting “mothers” who are only a year or two older than their movie “daughters.” That just reeks of “fake movie family.”

These young girls simply don’t have the maturity or the depth to play the parts of women.

2. Ban Cloning

Another thing that really bothers me is that Hollywood is basically looking for clones when they cast modern actresses. They seem to want no trace of individuality. If you have so much as a hair out of place or a bone structure that is 1% less than optimum, then you’re gone. This just bugs me to no end.

First, 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 nurse? In the real world, these women don’t look like Barbie. . . no one does. Heck, you can’t even cast the awkward girl next door anymore (the kind of girl who would date Jimmy Stewart or one of the Goonies), because all the actresses look like strippers now.

Secondly and most importantly, by casting clones, Hollywood guarantees that few modern actresses will be memorable. Indeed, it’s the actors and actresses who are not physically perfect that we remember. Seriously, think about it. Very 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, the Marx Brothers, Bill Murray, Charles Bronson, Steven McQueen, Clive Owen, Benicio Del Toro, Alan Rickman, Adrien Brody, Daniel Day-Lewis, Dustin Hoffman, Ben Stiller, Kirk Douglas and his chin, 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?

Believe it or not, the same thing has always been true with actresses as well. Indeed, the most memorable actresses can hardly 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 standard way. Judy Garland was downright homely. Betty Davis, Barbara Eden and Angela Lansbury all looked 60 the moment they were born. Etc. Yet, these are the actresses we remember so much more than the beauty queens.

Compare those names to today’s actresses, who all look alike. Heck, when I say names like Hudson, Winslet, McAdams and Blanchett, I’m not even sure I could identify them from photographs, even though I’ve seen their films. Indeed, they are so interchangeable these days that I sometimes wonder if anyone would notice if you swapped a couple out in the middle of the film?

Moreover, consider this difference: Which of the modern names couldn't take over Megan Fox’s role in Transformers or Kate Hudson’s role in. . . well, anything? Now ask yourself, who could have taken over for Bacall in To Have and Have Not or Hepburn in The African Queen?

That’s the reason this difference is important. Just as no pretty boy could have taken over for Jack Nicholson in The Shining, no bland, blond hottie could have taken over for any real actress in any of their definitive roles. But today’s actresses are so forgettable, so interchangeable, that any of them can play any role. They simply don’t stand out.

3. Strong Roles Need Strong Actresses

And that relates to the last issue that always arises: “there are no strong roles for women today.” You hear this all the time, and I actually think it's true. And I think this is a consequence of modern casting because there are almost no actresses left in Hollywood today who could even handle a “strong” role. Ask yourself, if you were going to replace any of the guys in Glengarry Glen Ross with a modern actress, who could possible fill one of those roles? Hepburn could have. Hudson sure as heck can’t. What if you wanted to replace Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada? Could Garner or Fox do it? Could any of the current crop? No, they don’t have the gravitas to play that strong of a personality.

That's why I think it’s no surprise that when Hollywood needs a strong woman, they hire a British actress like Judy Dench or Helen Mirren, because the Brits don’t seem to throw their actresses out once they hit the onset of middle age. If you've ever watched the new Doctor Whos or anything else from the BBC lately, you've seen a ton of impressive middle-aged, not-hot actresses. You just don't see that in Hollywood anymore.

I think this is horrible for films. Not only does it strain the credibility of films, as noted above, which makes it harder to believe what you are seeing on film, but it makes it that much harder to produce memorable roles for female characters. Memorable roles are what make movies interesting and what give them longevity. But you can't produce memorable roles if you don't have actresses who can play those roles. Thus, by repeatedly casting pointless fluff and should-be-strippers instead of talented actresses, Hollywood has made it all the harder to give us films that stay with us, i.e. great films.

And that stinks.


Tam said...

I think that the fact that no women (except Bev/Scarlett) named a movie character they would like to be if they could choose a few days ago reinforces your argument.

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, I do too. I was expecting more comments from female readers, but then the more I thought about it, the more I began to wonder what female characters are there these days that really capture the imagination?

I have a very hard time thinking of modern female characters that stand out in my mind. I can think of a bunch in the past (though the best roles still went to men), but I can't think of any today.

I really think that's a mistake by Hollywood.

Tam said...

Okay, sorry. I just looked and saw Lara Croft and Matthew McConaghey's leading lady. But they hardly speak to memorable actresses/strong women's roles...

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, True. And I have to say that the problem with the action roles that are given to women (like Croft and "Alice" in Resident Evil) are that they tend to be cynical drawn up.

Indeed, I recall an interview years ago with the maker of one of the first video games to use a female hero, who said the reason they did it was "we know that young guys play these games, so we decided to give them something to look at when they play." And, unfortunately, that seems to be the standard operating procedures when it comes to these characters -- get a Barbie-look alike, put her in fetish gear, and then let her run around in a role that is shallower than anything Arnold Schwartzenegger ever did.

I don't consider these "strong roles" at all. Truthfully, I see these as little more than exploitation roles.

What I wonder about is where are the movies like Glengarry Glen Ross or The Usual Suspects with a female cast?

JB1000 said...

Most movies these days have all the character development and emotional depth of a comic book. Heck, most movies today ARE comic books. And if your movie is a comic book, you don't need someone who can act, you need someone who can pose.

And if someone can actually act, they might demand too much money to be in a movie. The animated Barbie Dolls are cheap and easy to find and they are in no position to demand their points up front.

I used to think it was a failing of the writers but even a great story is multilated beyond recognition by the multiple layers of management and PC BS before it hits the film much less the screen.

StanH said...

Stan raising hand!

Sophia Loren was gorgeous in every way, and check out a picture of Lucille Ball in her early days…a stunning beauty! Barbara Eden! …wow, it made me want to be an astronaut, more than the moon landings. Other than that your article is spot on.

AndrewPrice said...

JB, I think you've put your finger on the crux of the problem -- all you need today is "someone who can pose." I think that's sadly very true.

And I think everything else you say flows from that. When actresses are a commodity that you can get at a dime a dozen, that does keep the costs down.

I think these are all symptoms of the same problem. I'm not entirely sure why Hollywood has gone this route, but it's very damaging to films. Bad actresses mean shallow and forgettable films, which means even shallower actresses, which means even shallower films. It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And I'd like to see it reversed frankly, because I think it will be very, very difficult to make good films again until they start getting good actresses.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, Loren was beautiful, but she never fit into the "Beauty Queen mold." She's was very different from the other actresses of the time. She's one of those women who created her own class of "beautiful."

On Eden and Ball, I think we'll have to agree to disagree. Also, these are just some examples off the top of my head. When you look at the most memorable actresses of any era in the past, you just don't find the clones that you do today. They are there, but they aren't the ones who became stars.

Joel Farnham said...


I hear you, but if you look at TV, you might get a different impression of actresses. In House, Lisa Edelstein and Jennifer Morrison play doctors. Lisa is over 35. Her part is she RUNS a hospital. Jennifer plays a thirty something diagnostic doctor. The support staff in the hospital are not very pretty to look at.

Some shows such as Psych have strong character actresses. Eureka features quite a few character actresses.

These shows do feature some actresses who are beautiful but aren't considered for parts in standard movie fair.

Here is an interesting item. Most of the casting directors are women.

Women in movies? It doesn't surprise me, but again most casting directors are women.

Ed said...

I couldn't agree more. I can't them apart anymore either without a scorecard. I see names in articles and I literally can't think of what they look like.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, That is strange that most casting people are women, yet this is who they are casting? I can't explain that, unless it's another instance of money/management interference, or they are casting what they think the audience wants?

TV is a little different, but not much -- you can at least be older on television.

I honestly wouldn't say that anyone on Eureka is a good actor or actress, or that any of the parts are more than generic sci-fi channel cliches. And I don't believe any of them, except maybe Henry, as a scientist.

Edelstein on House probably falls into the exception to a large degree, but I can't see anyone casting her in any serious films. Also, House is one of the few shows that actually set out to be different, so it's hard to say that this one exception does anything more than confirm the trend.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I run into that a lot. I see a name appear on the front page of Yahoo or something with the words "movie starlet ____" before it, and I often have no idea who that person is.

Even with something like Terminator Salvation (not a good movie), I know the names of the three boys, but I absolutely can't think of the name of the dark-haired woman. And I didn't know that was Brice Howard until I checked the credits -- nor do I know who she replaced in the last film.

USArtguy said...

While I can't agree with all your specific examples (StanH's comment gets a hearty "second" from me) I do agree with your essay. Plus I would, really, really like to see and end to affairs and divorces looked at as resumé enhancements.

AndrewPrice said...

USArtguy, As long as you agree with the essay, then we can still be friends. . . just kidding. Feel free to disagree any time you think I'm wrong. :-)

There are different examples if you don't like those, but I still see them the ones I list as nowhere near the then-classic definition of "beauties." When I look over the lists of famous actresses that I remember, it really is the ones who aren't like the others who stand out.

I think we need more of that today.

Tennessee Jed said...

I would not disagree with your premise even if it is hardly a secret. Great roles absolutely do demand great actors. The problem is, they usually are part of great movies and are, by defintion almost, but a small part of the cinematic landscape. "B" movies aimed far, far, lower are the norm.

The "bimbo" has been around for ever, of course. We now see it has spread to 1) network and cable news 2) sports reporters 3) bartenders/cocktail waitresses. (Well, they have been around forever too.) It's all about catering to a young, robust male audience.

It's even worse on network television with a few exceptions such as The Good Wife, The Closer, and the Jada Pinkett-Smith nurse show that didn't make it. The roles are aimed at morons. Hot babe cop or detective wears low cut jeans, tight tee shirt and a sports jacket while kicking the asses of thugs twice her size (CSI, NCIS, Mentalist, Castle etc.)

I do see hope on the horizon. Look at best selling books. This used to be aimed solely at men. Now, all the reviewers are women as are the books being reviewed. Maybe this will spread to the movie kingdom (Queendom?)

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew, I hardly disagree about Cate Blanchett, so we can no longer be friends... Just kidding. The reason you don't recognize her is that she transforms for each role she plays and thoroughly occupies each role. She is a classically trained actress trained in the classic British style theatre "school" and will be working long after the others have faded. And I think that Blanchett could easily replace Streep. So there, take that!

Otherwise, you could be right. But if real actresses want real roles they need to write them or cultivate writers. That is the one area that really sorely lacking - really good American playwrights and screenwriters. Were's the new Tennessee Williams' or Arthur Millers?

Joel Farnham said...

What is the business model for most of Hollywood?

Is it their target audience 20 and under so that they focus more movies on the young?

Could it be just that simple? Movies made for the young make money? If that is the case, then they lose over half the possible audience they could tap.

Unknown said...

Andrew: There were two Sophia Lorens. The one who was gussied up, given special pushup bras and lots of makeup (American) and the Sophia Loren of great natural beauty (Italian). Dirty, unkempt and the victim of society, the Sophia Loren of Two Women was still far more naturally beautiful than the Sophia Loren of The Pride and the Passion. One of the few times the American version was allowed to be a natural beauty was Desire Under the Elms.

My complaint with today's cookie-cutter female stars is that the vast majority look like boys with boob jobs. They have the natural grace and acting ability of twelve-year olds in children's theater.

Character matters in women every bit as much as in men, but the movies don't seem to get that. Too many women are portrayed as complete ditzes who luck into success of some sort, or harridans who out-man the men in the business or military world.

And I'm with you on the octogenarian men married on-screen to silly little girls. It makes absolutely no sense at all. As Shaw said, "youth--what a shame to waste it on the young." I also get very irritated by women in movies swearing like longshoremen. One of the things that makes women attractive is that they're not like us, thank God.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I agree with everything you say. Great movies are rare, but I think there really have been a lot fewer of them lately than there used to be, i.e. we are in a bad period for movies.

I also agree that "the bimbo" has always been with us. Unfortunately, it's spread to become the norm. Whereas you used to have bimbos playing "the slut next door" or the gold digger, now it seems that so many roles go to bimbos. The male equivalent would be putting a Fabio or a GQ model into every role. It just doesn't work.

And I agree entirely about the tv cops. Not to sound nostalgic, but when I look back on cops like Cagney and Lacey, they looked the part and they acted the part, i.e. they were very believable. They were also good actresses who knew how to do more than pose or pout. These days, most of the cops I see on television remind me of an episode of the X-Files where they had "Doctor Bambi." That's what I think of when I see a hot young female cop dressed like she's going clubbing as she pretends to do police work while trying to look cool.

I was kind of hoping that the increase in female viewers and readers would start to change this, but I'm not sure that's happening. I guess it's still too early to tell, but it seems that women are simply accepting these character stereotypes.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, For the sake of our friendship, I will exclude Blanchett then from my rant! :-)

Still, the rest are entirely non-descript. I could give you a list of 20 "top" actresses at the moment and I would feel the same about almost all of them -- almost none of them stand out.

I agree that bad writing is part of the problem, but I just don't know which came first or if they both (bad writing/bad acting) feed off each other or what?

What I do know is that it's incredibly rare that I run across an interesting role for a female character these days. As I said above, where are the roles like the ones in Glengarry or The Usual Suspects for women? Heck, where is the modern Lady McBeth? Or the corporate version of Queen Elisabeth?

I think it would dramatically imporve movies if the female characters became more fully human, got more involved in the plots, and stopped being used as eye candy.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, You are very insightful.

I've seen several interviews with producers who say that the primary audience for movies these days is young teenagers. And they noted that most of what gets produced is made to cater to that audience. They don't want to see "old people," i.e. anyone over 40.

So it's very, very likely that the reason we are seeing this is that Hollywood is simply trying to satisfy what it considers to be it's biggest audience. Bummer.

What I wish Hollywood would learn (and this applies to corporate America as well) is the power to the niche market. You can do very well aiming for an unserved smaller market than you can competing head on for the biggest market. But no one seems to want to believe that -- especially in the Hollywood/television world.

Joel Farnham said...


I hear you. Think smaller markets and aim accordingly. The question is what type of smaller market?

What is the age range? Most of the newer movies are designed for a ditz type of personality.

I don't know, but I do know that cable has exploded into making series and movies for the week. They don't seem to have a problem.

I think part of the business model with Hollywood is their distribution system and that is hurting them more than they realize.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I agree entirely about strong roles needing interesting/strong character/personality. But you don't get much of that today because everything is so generic.

In fact, it seems that the only roles for women today are (1) ultra hot chick who is tougher than any guy and swears like a sailor, or (2) ultra hot chick who is an ice-queen just waiting to learn that there is more to life when she falls for the scruffy guy, or (3) ultra hot chick who is the female version of the James Bond villain.

And when they do give you a tough woman, it's never a woman with character like a Margaret Thatcher, who is tough because she's got a forceful personality, a sense of right and wrong and has the fortitude to stand up for what she believes. Instead, you get a caricature of a nasty Leona Helmsley take off.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... first of all, I must vehemently disagree about Winslet and Blanchett. Both are classically-trained actresses who can exude radiance and unconventional beauty when they have to. (One friend of mine plans on proposing to Miss Winslet if he ever sees her!) And Meryl Streep can still bring in audiences.

As for everything else, I honestly don't have much of an opinion. I agree that the 20-something trollop thing gets old after a while, as does the middle aged guy with the young wife.

But the thing that irks me on occasion is when every freaking woman in the film is hot: the waitress, the bus driver, the Wal-Mart clerk, etc. A little verisimilitude never hurt anybody! And while I pride myself on knowing names and credits, I honestly get Rachel McAdams and Elizabeth Banks confused sometimes. You're wondering who the hell I'm talking about right now, aren't you? :-)

I do, however, have a crush on Lizzy Caplan but even I would be hard-pressed to tell you what specific quality she brings to her roles. Then again, not every actress can pull off "ironic detachment."

Anonymous said...

And Andrew, you forgot "weird quirky girl" like Natalie Portman in Garden State. That's become kind of a cliche at this point, too.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, My understanding is that the key demographic they are aiming for is 13-24 year olds. They are particularly interested in teenage girls, because they see more movies than teenage boys. In fact, I usually check out a site called "Box Office Guru" and he often breaks down the demographics and it's often 70% female for non-action films.

I would agree about cable, they seem much more willing to take chances -- particularly FX and HBO, and that is where many of the best characters and stories are coming from these days.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Re Blanchett, Bev has already defended her honor. But I honestly can't say that I can visualize anything Blanchett or Winslet have ever done, and I couldn't tell you what they look like either. But my point is bigger than just one or two, it's the whole class of actresses we get today. They are bland and interchangeable, and they bring very little to their roles.

I like to keep track of who is in films as well, so it is troubling that I literally can't tell most of these modern clones apart. If you give me any name from the 1930s to 1990, I probably know exactly what they looked like and what roles they played. But these days, I couldn't pick most of them out of a line up.

On your point about "everyone being hot," that's one of my points as well. So many films no longer have "real" people in them. Instead, every women in the film (including the extras) looks like a stripper/centerfold. It's just not believable. And I honestly miss the days when Hollywood allowed a diverse group of people to play supporting roles and minor roles, so that the film looked like it was taking place in the USA instead of the Planet of the Enhanced Models.

As for Streep, yes, she can bring in audiences, so long as she is playing the generic, cliched "corporate bitch." But she is the exception that proves the rule because she's almost the only actress Hollywood calls upon to play that part anymore. Could you imagine if Hollywood had only one male actor who played every scientist or every head of a corporation or every lawyer? People would get pretty upset pretty fast.

P.S. I do know Elisabeth Banks because I thought she was Elisabeth Shue when I first saw her.

Anonymous said...

Ha! In one post-script, you both spoil my joke and prove my point at the same time. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I hate to admit that I missed your joke?

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Jed, I agree about the spread of bimbos to the network and cable news and as sports reporters. I find Fox to be particularly bad on this, but the others aren't far behind.

Anonymous said...

Okay, it wasn't a "joke" joke. It was just that I thought you wouldn't know which actresses I was referring to so I added in the bit about you not knowing.

But you knew. Last time I underestimate you! :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, My mind is a vast warehouse of trivial knowledge! ;-)

Joel Farnham said...


Kate Winslet was in a little known movie called Titanic. You may have heard about it. It came out before the millenium. :)

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, LOL! I do recall that. But other than people talking about her having a weight problem and the one scene with she and DiCaprio were on the front of the ship, I don't remember much about her performance.

Of course, if I say that too loudly, Scott will probably hunt me down and kill me, so let's pretend I didn't say it. ;-)

Joel Farnham said...


She doesn't have a weight problem. She is just a full figured woman. Hollywood interested in only anorexic actresses calls it a weight problem.

You don't remember the drawing?

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, I don't think she has a weight problem at all -- I'm sick of the stick figures that Hollywood casts. I think their obsession with being bone thin is twisted.

Trust me, when I see fashion models or the recent rash of actresses who are trying to achieve zero pounds, my first thought is "somebody throw that girl a Twinkie."

But I do recall lots of "entertainment reporters" (like E! Network) and rumor mongers (like E! Network) talking about her having a weight problem at the time.

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew, I agree about Kate Winslet. I thought the least interesting part of Titanic was Winslet and Dicaprio. There was absolutely no chemistry there. And it just got worse in Revolutionary Road...
No offense, Scott, but Winslet is actually the exception to the British actor rule along with Orlando Bloom who, without that blond Legolas wig, is just not that interesting...

Anonymous said...

(sigh) No, I'm not going to hunt you down and kill you. (Besides, when asked why I did it, it would be too embarrassing to admit!) You don't like an actress, it's no skin off my back. :-)

I like her and she's fresh in my mind because I just watched her (and her blue hair) in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And as I said before, my friend is ready to get down on bended knee should he ever meet her.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I agree that British actors seem to be better than American actors. I'm assuming it's the training or maybe the Brits are just looking more for talent than Hollywood casting people? A lot of the Australians are pretty good too.

I liked Bloom as Legolas and I thought he was good in Pirates of the Caribbean, but I agree that he's generally a lightweight. I really can't see him doing anything tense or truly dramatic, or anything where he needs to emote.

As for DiCaprio and Winslet, I didn't feel any chemistry either.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Yeah, that would be hard to explain in court! ;-)

I'm not saying these actresses are unlikable, I'm just saying that by and large they aren't memorable and they lack the gravitas needed to play great parts and make great movies. Moreover, it bothers me that this seems to be all there is these days. There's no variety anymore.

Individualist said...

Young Angela Lansbury

I have to disagree about Angela's Bueaty. In 1944 she was a looker.

Her and Betty White have what I call Grandma Bueaty. They appeal to men because they look like the women that take care of us and not the ones we want. I think a woman has to hit 40 before she develops this.

As to strong roles they may be few but I think they are out there. The actress that is the star of "Dead like me" is not a Bimbette and the actress in Burn Notice I think has Gravitas. I think all of the actresses in Firefly had roles with depth even the courtesan. But Josh Brolin isn't a typical director. But for the most part you are right.

What's your opinion of the Sex in the City roles.

Writer X said...

Andrew, well said.

A fourth criteria for Hollywood actresses is that they must have starred in a ProActive blemish remover commercial. I hate that whenever a film needs a serious, older actress, they trot out Meryl Streep--who is a fabulous actress but, come on! A little variety?

I think you see much more variety (and better acting) in the indie type of films than you do the blockbusters. P.S. Glengarry Glen Ross is one of my fav films.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, LOL! I think you're right about the fourth criteria!

Glengarry is one of my favorites as well because it's just so well done on all levels -- the acting and writing are brilliant and the director did everything right. It's one of those movies where you feel drained when it's over. Very impressive.

I agree entirely about Meryl Streep. I've been impressed with her a good deal, but when I was trying to think of other "serious" actresses, she's really the only name that kept coming up unless you went with the British actresses. And that's not a good thing.

I think there used to be a lot more variety in indie films until the major studios co-opted them. But you're right, whenever you run into an actress who is not a clone, it almost always comes from an indie film -- and they are much better for it. A perfect example is My Big Fat Greek Wedding which never would have cast Nia Vardalos if it were a major Hollywood production.

AndrewPrice said...

Individualist, I don't dispute what you say about Landsbury and White having "grandma beauty," but that's sort of making my point. That is not a category Hollywood would ever accept today. Hollywood would look at both actresses today and say "you don't look like a Playboy centerfold, go away."

I do have to disagree about Firefly and Dead Like Me. I love both shows, but these weren't strong or deep roles. And Ellen Muth, who I enjoyed a lot in the role, was actually not a great actress by any means. Again, I love both shows, but I don't see either containing very deep roles, just really good dialog that was adequately delivered. If anyone had a deep role, it was Fillion and I'm not even sure how deep it was or if it was just "act depressed," i.e. one note.

Sex and the City. . . hmm. How to say this. First, having seen these actresses in other shows, it's kind of obvious that they aren't very good actresses. Secondly, I think that playing a "neurotic single woman" is one of the easiest stereotypes to pull off in television land and has been done so often and so similarly that it's become a total stereotype. Indeed, there is almost always a neurotic single woman on almost any city-based sitcom going way, way back. Ditto "the cougar." So while the show may be enjoyable, it's not original and the ground the actresses are treading is well worn. Moreover, I don't see anything in the acting that grips you or that brings out an emotional response, it depends entirely on contrived plot points to trigger emotion. Finally, I see nothing in what the actresses project into the roles that gives me any insight into their characters. They are instead caricatures that find themselves in various situations. And in many ways, they have become walking product placements. Think of it this way, if you took one of these characters and changed the circumstance to be something much more serious and dramatic, do you have any idea how they would act? I don't think so. I think we only see, essentially, the sit-com level character in them. And that doesn't make them strong roles.

Anonymous said...

I can't let a Dead Like Me reference go without mentioning writer/producer Bryan Fuller's other two shows: Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies.

I thought Dead Like Me started off great but ended up as one dreary experience after another by the time it ended. The two aforementioned shows are much lighter. Wonderfalls' Caroline Dhavernas is a very good actress who shows up in movies now and then (but will never get cast in a lead role because she's not "conventionally" attractive).

And Pushing Daisies was just, as one critic put it, a confection. And both Anna Friel and Kristin Chenoweth are just the cutest things in the world. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The problem with Dead Like Me is that they changed the concept half way through. The first season was very witty, light-hearted and intensely sarcastic. But then it became a hit and they suddenly decided to become "relevant."

So when they made the second season, they restructured it as a drama with dark humor. Suddenly, characters like Mason went from strange and funny, to tragic alcoholic. And they focused a lot more on the relationship between the mother and the daughter. And that is what sucked the life out of the show, and resulted in the show being canceled.

I never tuned in to the other two shows.

Individualist said...

I have never actually watched Sex and the City but I did see the second one to find out why the liberals hated it because of how Muslims are treated.

I was less than impressed but that was mostly due to the story line. The ending was contrived.

I thought Firefly was a good example because the female characters were not based solely on sex appeal. I have only seen the first Dead like ME shows on Scifi channel so I did not know they ruined it.

Part of the problem may be that Hollywood's PC fascination with feminism is the problem. Older women who are mothers and grandmothers are not seen as good role models. The push is for women to be CEO's or ninja's to show women are as good as men. This translates to women should do men's roles. For a women to be seen as dominant she benefits from being gorgeous. A woman can intimidate with her beauty which is good for Laura Croft or High Powered Lawyer roles. If you disdain soccer moms you leave out a lot of roles for "real" women. An exception would be Bullock in the Blind side I guess but that was playing a real person so maybe it does not count.

Jamie Lee Curtis, she is bueatiful but can diminish it to play a normal role.

AndrewPrice said...

Individualist, Yeah, sadly, they ruined Dead Like Me, and we saw it coming because we were watching an interview with several of the actors before the second season kicked off and they started talking about how this season was going to be so much better because they were going to make the characters "relevant" etc. etc. They were almost denigrating the first season throughout the whole interview.

At the point, we knew there was going to be trouble. And then the second season started and it was just depressing. It had its moments, but it was not the show it had been.

What I think is so strange about Hollywood feminism is that they purport to be ardent feminists, but then they only allow their female characters to go one of two ways -- either as oversexed centerfolds who "act" like quasi-males or as neurotic women. It's like Hollywood has decided that "feminism" means that women must act like the worst caricatures of men but look like the male fantasy Playboy playmate, or they need to be hot but dense and helpless. That's a very strange version of feminism if you ask me and it really does a disservice to the many very competent women I've met in my career.

Post a Comment