Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Who's really being mean here?

Ricky Gervais
Comedian Ricky Gervais (pictured above) hosted the Golden Globes Sunday night, and made some pretty cutting remarks about some of the biggest celebrities in the world.

Gervais started the night by saying, "'It's gonna be a night of partying and heavy drinking. Or as Charlie Sheen calls it: breakfast." Not long after that, he made fun of the fact that no one had seen the Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp movie, The Tourist, even though it was nominated for best comedy and implied that certain Scientologists are in the closet. As Time magazine explained, Gervais also "went on to call Bruce Willis 'Ashton Kutcher's dad,' introduced Robert Downey, Jr. by referencing his Internet porn flick, suggested that cast members of Sex and the City 2 were old enough to have appeared in Bonanza, and offered Hugh Hefner's fiancé some unsolicited advice: 'Just don't look at it.'"

And when he introduced Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, Gervais took a dig at Allen's fading star: "What can I say about our next two presenters? The first is an actor, producer, writer and director whose movies have grossed over 3.5 billion dollars at the box office. He's won two Academy Awards and three Golden Globes for his powerful and varied performances starring in such films as Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Castaway, Apollo 13 and Saving Private Ryan. The other is Tim Allen."

Almost immediately, critics everywhere were crying foul, claiming that Gervais had crossed a line and that his jokes were "mean-spirited." Even before the show while still on the air, Hanks and Allen kicked off the criticism of Gervais.

Hanks retorted: "You know, like many of you we recall back when Ricky Gervais was a slightly chubby but very kind comedian."

"Neither of which he is now," added Allen.

(Call me crazy, but I think calling Gervais chubby is a lot more mean-spirited than implying that Allen is not as successful as Hanks.)

But it did not matter that Hanks and Allen—and a few others like Robert Downey Jr.—got their chance to rebuke Gervais on live television because come Monday morning, almost everyone in the media was chastising Gervais for what they saw as his inappropriate and "corrosive" humor, speculating that he would never again be invited to host another awards show and simultaneously guaranteeing he'll be replaced by someone more polite and—you guessed it—bland and boring.

(Ironically, Gervais had said beforehand his goal was to not be invited back.)

The same thing happened a few years ago to Kathy Griffith when she made a joke on the red carpet about Dakota Fanning looking like she had just gotten out of rehab, and before her, Joan Rivers was famously fired for making fun of one too many celebrities on the red carpet.

Since Griffith and Rivers have been ousted from the awards-show circuit they have been replaced not by other comedians but by another, supposedly more benevolent creature: the entertainment reporter.
These are people—like Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic (pictured above)—whose job it is to cover entertainment news. In order to do their jobs well, they need to be able to get famous people from the film, television, and music industries to talk to them. What this means is that they spend a lot of time kissing some serious celebrity ass.

Seacrest especially is known for pretending that he is sexually attracted to the female stars he interviews, which is most of the time pretty uncomfortable to watch. The end result is that the red carpet has become a huge shmooze-fest in which entertainment reporters fall all over themselves trying to suck up to the hottest entertainers, which also makes it less interesting and entertaining to viewers.

But what I think the networks and media outlets are missing is that although Gervais may be more offensive to the Hollywood elite, it's people like Seacrest who pose the most danger to the rest of us. The most obvious annoyance is that we have to worry about the fact that our brains are eroded by the inane drivel of the entertainment reporter. But, much more importantly, we also have to live with the frightening norms they continue to espouse and how those norms shape us as a society.

The most obvious example is the entertainment reporter's obsession with what the stars are wearing and how they wear it. The commentary has gotten so refined that we now hear detailed analysis of the celebrity's looks while they are still on the carpet. My God, they even have a 360-degree camera for the stars to stand in (which I imagine causes them all to have nightmares akin to those the rest of us have over three-way department store mirrors) and special television markers they use to draw attention to details on the celebs dresses—as if their clothes need to be as closely examined as plays in a football game.

What does this teach us?

It teaches us that every second of every day we are being critiqued and evaluated and judged. It teaches us that even perfect looking, sculpted, and botoxed celebrities have flaws, making us wonder how on earth we can ever measure up.

But that's only the beginning.

Because not only do the entertainment reporters immediately break-down the stars' fashion choices and the day's beauty preparations (the earlier they begin getting ready, the better!), as of late they've also begun asking them about their workout regime. I noticed that on Sunday Seacrest asked numerous female celebrities about this—but noticeably none of their male counterparts—thereby reinforcing the notion that the most important thing about a woman is her body.
Black Swan Reviews
What was most interesting about this question was that the two women who played ballerinas in this year's Black Swan—Natalie Portman (pictured above) and Mila Kunis (pictured below)—admitted to having to work out five hours a day seven days a week to get in shape for that movie.

Let me repeat that. . .

Five hours a day.

Seven days a week.
I've long said that the reason regular women can't look like the women in Hollywood is because it is the job of these women to stay fit and that they exercise longer than anyone who has a real job or children can, and these comments prove it.

On the other end of the spectrum was Sofia Vergara (pictured below).
Vergara was arguably one of the curviest woman on the red carpet last Sunday night, and she said then that she works out "two or three times a week," but also wears those new toning sneakers. (Note to self: get yourself a pair of those damn shoes ASAP.)

So Vergara is working out a reasonable amount and has a rocking bod, but Portman and Kunis are basically living at the gym in order to have ballerina bodies. That ought to tell us that women aren't supposed to look like they do in Black Swan.

But, wait, it gets worse.

Because it's not enough to evaluate every inch of these women's bodies and demand the details of their beauty regimes and workout schedules (what will they do next—ask them if they vomited in a paper bag before they got out of the limo?), but they also have to have their self-confidence undermined while they're at it, as Mad Men's Elizabeth Moss (pictured below) did during her interivew with Seacrest.
When Seacrest asked Moss what she was up to in the off-season, she mentioned that she was doing a play in London with Keira Knightley. Immediately Seacrest acted like Moss had told him she was appearing in a show with God.

"Oh my God!" Seacrest wailed. "You're so lucky. She is so hot." (Or something like that.)

Not only did Seacrest reduce an incredibly talented actress like Knightly to someone who was merely "hot," he also managed to do so while implying to the incredibly talented and equally beautiful Moss that he didn't believe she was as hot as her co-star. No, he didn't say it, but we all know that's what he meant: She's so hot! And you're so . . . well . . . not. It honestly reminded me of those boys in high school who act interested in a regular-looking girl until they meet her hotter best friend. His response was that immature and superficial.

So no we don't have to worry about Seacrest insulting the luminaries the way Gervais did. His tongue (and those of other reporters like him) is so far up Angelina and Brad's ass that they're going to have to name their next child after him. But we do have to worry about him messing with our collective psyche and reinforcing the notion that what matters most in women—celebrities or otherwise—is how hot they are and how well their dress fits.

Bottom line: I'd take Gervais' "inappropriate" digs at celebrites over Seacrest's fuck-with-our-heads comments any day.


  1. I wrote something similar in a paper for World Literature regarding the Ramayana. I was talking about women in the story and how they represent the author's outlook on women in general. Two of the three women were evil, and used persuasion or their attractiveness to get what they wanted, and the other woman, Sita, was a half-god who represented the purity of woman. My argument was that real women could never measure up to Sita because she is part divine. I think it's interesting that that idea survived past the literature of so long ago, and is still affecting us today.

    I would also like to say that I never liked Ryan Seacrest.

  2. I love the idea of a paper on this topic--what if you wrote a paper comparing the half-god in Ramayana to celebrities today? Or take it further and look at divine woman in more than one piece of literature. That's a paper I would like to read. Now all you have to do is write it!