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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Funny Men, Attractive Women

Have you ever noticed how male actors, especially comedians, don't have to conform to societal beauty standards? But female actors are usually shunned if they don't conform to these standards and as they get older.

I was watching an interview with Jonah Hill for the movie Funny People (Judd Apatow's latest creation) and they showed a clip starring Hill and Seth Rogen. Neither of these men are "attractive" according to cultural standards, yet they are both popular actors. In the clip that they showed, Seth Rogen was discussing his looks (he has recently lost a good amount of weight for a different role) and how he isn't good looking but isn't bad looking either. Jonah Hill goes on to reprimand him for losing weight because there's "nothing funny about a physically fit man!" This line really struck me because, at least to me, it shed light on the double standard that funny and talented men don't have to be physically fit where as women do.

Men can be physically "unattractive" and make up for it with their personality/humor. But women, on the other hand, have a hard time making it big if they are not culturally attractive. Of course there are some exceptions such as Dame Judy Dench and Queen Latifah. But both of these women are beautiful, they just don't conform to societal standards of beauty; Dench because of age and Latifah because of weight. In comedies, women have to be both attractive and funny where as men just have to be funny.

This is oh-so evident in Judd Apatow movies. The women that "star" in these movies are much more attractive than the men that play opposite then. Not to say that a relationship where the woman is more attractive than the man could never happen, but it is definitely not the norm in movies. For example, in
Knocked Up, Katherine Heigl stays with her unattractive, slacker boyfriend, Seth Rogen. I could understand that if Rogen was actually a good boyfriend, but he wasn't. Just one example of how women in comedies have to be attractive in order to play a prominent role.

And even as attractive, funny women age, they are shunned from the mainstream. They are offered roles to play the mothers of people they are only 10 years older than and to play the old hag next door. Feministing posted a video with Amy Pohler, Sarah Silverman, Christina Applegate, Jane Krakowski, Mary Louise Parker, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus discussing what it means to be getting older in show business. They talk about the roles they are offered and the ones they are turned down for, about not getting magazine covers because they are over 35, etc. While all these women are amazing actors and very attractive, this video speaks to the value of youth (including society standards of beauty) in show business and society.

There are of course exceptions to this "rule." But they are few and far between. Men have the pleasure of relying on their talent and humor instead of their looks whereas women generally have to rely on their looks in order to get least at first.

Further Reading:
Judd Apatow Talks About Sexism, Seth Rogen [Jezebel]


Anonymous said...

From reading your last post about commercials and this post about the double standard with men and women, it got me to thinking about some commercials that I have been seeing recently on television.

Have you seen the recent T-mobile ads with Catherine Zeta-Jones...with the husband hitting on her and ignoring his wife and the young boy who is hitting on her? On the surface, I guess it is funny (?) but it just seems to be subjugating women, making us into something that can be looked at however people want to.

Or, have you seen the Centrum Ads recently? "Of all the things made just for men..." and then showing a golf club, television and a watch. Since when were those made just for men?

Laura said...

I have seen those T-Mobile commercials. I think they are completely ridiculous. There is also one where there are a bunch of nerdy-looking guys going door to door to talk about T-Mobile and no one will listen to them so they send Catherine Zeta-Jones and people will listen to her.

I don't really find any of those commercials funny (I can see where people would though) and yes, it is completely the objectification and sexualization of women.

I have not seen the Centrum ad, I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the tip!

RosieRed23 said...

This trend (funny unattractive guy, attractive girl) is really prevalent in TV sitcoms too. And while the women who play opposite these men may get a good line or three in the movies/TV shows, most of the time they're portrayed as the ones keeping the men from having fun, or they're overbearing, or jealous, etc.

And if you really think about it, these kinds of movies/TV shows often don't portray men in the best light either. Yeah, they get to be funny AND unattractive AND get the girl anyway, but the majority of the time they are basically characterized as pigs.

It's so tired and cliched at this point that when this kind of couple does appear on TV/in a movie, all I can think is "wow, how unoriginal of you."

Anonymous said...

This is why I prefer smart comedies like 30 Rock where you have witty and attractive people! Tina and Alec both ROCK!!!! I would watch good TV ANY DAY over a Judd Apatow movie starring Seth Rogen. He's a Will Ferrell clone, except he's not funny.

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