Friday, May 25, 2012

Scarlett Johannson and the undercurrent of sexism

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Scarlett Johannson
Scarlett Johannson

It’s so brilliant (albeit for sad reasons) that this actually happened:

Reporter: I have a question to Robert and to Scarlett. Firstly to Robert, throughout Iron Man 1 and 2, Tony Stark started off as a very egotistical character but learns how to fight as a team. And so how did you approach this role, bearing in mind that kind of maturity as a human being when it comes to the Tony Stark character, and did you learn anything throughout the three movies that you made?

And to Scarlett, to get into shape for Black Widow did you have anything special to do in terms of the diet, like did you have to eat any specific food, or that sort of thing?

Scarlett: How come you get the really interesting existential question, and I get the like, “rabbit food” question?

The respect given to you if you’re a man in the entertainment business, and the respect given to you if you’re a woman in the entertainment business: all perfectly summed up in one idiotically thought out line of questioning.

Also perfect is this:

Scarlett Johannson glancing askance at Robert Downey Jones, Jr. at an ‘Avengers’ press conference

Of course, it’s important to note that the reporter presumably wasn’t being deliberately sexist; in fact, I don’t even think he’s as dumb as his question makes him sound. Rather, it just reflects the latent undercurrent of sexism that runs through our culture and which is particularly evident in the glab-fab world of stardom. No-one cares what men look like, even in the entertainment industry (unless their selling point is specifically their Adonis-like body image, such as with various action stars), as long as they can play their roles and occasionally promote the popular social cause du jour. But for female stars, it’s all invariably about body image and genderal norms both physical and behavioral. Thus, we get to the point where men are asked about their characters’ psychology and philosophy, whereas women get to talk about achieving that perfect waist-hip ratio.

Thankfully, this isn’t an ironclad prison of thought, and more and more celebrities are starting to rise above it, such as alluded to in Ms. Johannson’s comment. Progress may come frustratingly slow at times, but the more people speak out, women and men alike, the better for all of us.

(via @BadAstronomer)

Edit (05/25/12 5:27 PM ET) – Fixed a couple of typos.