The last real bastion of institutionalized sexism

Those of you who have been following along for a while may have noticed that the vast majority of my celebrity profiles are of men. And that the ones that do spotlight women are almost exclusively focused on very young women. There's actually a reason for this, and it has to do with the criteria by which I choose people to research.

The entertainment industry is one of the last holdouts when it comes to treating women like human beings. Traditionally, although there are a lot of women considered 'heavy hitters' because of the price they can charge for a project or public appearance, they are not generally taken very seriously as artists, or even as people. Their creative input is not typically solicited. I know of a good handful of actors who are notorious in the biz for ad libbing in front of the cameras and rewriting the shooting script whenever they think it needs improving, but I'm not aware of any actresses who do the same -- they may well be out there, but for some reason, this isn't considered a charmingly funny story to tell about starlets, so I'll never know.

Part of this is the way the selection process works. Successful actors are typically attractive people chosen from the ranks of the talented; successful actresses are talented people drawn from the ranks of the attractive. Since the kind of intelligence that makes me curious has a better correlation with talent than it does with beauty, this radically skews the odds. The main exceptions are mostly comediennes like Tina Fey, who rose to fame by being bright and talented and then someone noticed that she cleaned up purty enough to be cast in 30 Rock opposite Alec Baldwin, who was a matinee idol before he decided it was more enjoyable to do commercials for Hulu and make fun of himself.

Another part is that there seem to be a lot more actresses than actors being kept on very short leashes. Not all of them; show Angelina Jolie a leash and by the end of the conversation I'm pretty sure you'd wear it and goddamn like it. But a lot of them seem very stage-managed when they're doing interviews, much more so than the guys. Very seldom have I seen an actress on a talk show just give the host a look and whack their smartass remark right back at them. It's not necessarily that I can't get a bead on them; it's just that all I get out of the lock-on is TARGET ON BEST BEHAVIOR, and that's not at all helpful when it comes to sussing out the personality of someone reasonably normal. (What the crazy people think of as 'best behavior', on the other hand, is often highly illuminating.) A lot -- though not all -- of the hosts, in turn, are less pointed with the women, and less apt to make sarcastic or off-color remarks.

The short leash thing seems to be dying out, or at least there are individual actresses who are willing to ignore it. Kristen Stewart is getting notorious for being a complete wiseass in interviews and for not much caring what anyone thinks; Jennifer Lawrence doesn't appear to have much of a filter between brain and mouth, and if anyone is trying to get her to stick a cork in it they're doing a very bad job. I'm seeing it so far mostly in very young women -- young enough to have seen the fall and rise of Britney Spears and just the fall of Lindsay Lohan, and taken note of all the speculation that their handlers were a very big part of the problem.

Also a factor is a difference in acculturation, in how people tend to crack under pressure. Being a movie star is terribly stressful in a lot of ways. The drugs and alcohol issues seem to manifest more according to individual personalities than anything else, with a pretty good spread out there from the traditional 'sharing your blow with hookers in a hotel room' to 'savage violence against anyone who breathes at the wrong time' and everything in between. Personality-disordered behavior breaks down much more strictly along gender lines, with men tending to become enormous narcissists and women going into full-on borderline/histrionic blowouts.

The most profoundly sexist part is probably that the women can be crazier and still work, because they're expected to be broken somehow. There's still a perception that making a living doing something that relies largely on your looks is a sort of a last resort, something you gamble on if you have no other options in life. On the one hand, they figure if you're a smart, pretty girl going into theater, then you obviously have daddy issues or a drinking problem or unmedicated bipolar or something else self-destructive going on. People tolerate all kinds of crazy shit from hot women, especially if they don't expect you to behave any better. Like, you're not pleased when your toddler decides to condition her own hair with Spaghetti-Os, but you're not furious either, because you gave Spaghetti-Os to a toddler, what the hell did you think was going to happen? On the other hand, this also means that people will largely train themselves to ignore your batshit behavior, which in turn means the odds are much higher that if you really need help with something, nobody will be paying enough attention to offer it to you. It's not that this never happens to the guys, just that when it does it's usually that there's a specific reason nobody wants to be the one to apply consequences, like the guy is legendarily nice or a devoted family man or just obscenely rich and has a lot of clout. With the women, the feeling is very much that people put up with it now because she'll only be pretty and usable for so long, and after that nobody'll have to deal with it anymore.

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