11/16/2009 11:20 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Tale of Two Young Actresses

The NY Times ran two very different stories about two very different young actresses - Megan Fox and Kristen Stewart - who both appear in huge franchises, Fox in Transformers and Stewart in Twilight.  Both women had cover pieces, Stewart in the Arts & Leisure section and Fox in the Magazine.

Both these women are big tabloid fodder.  Their faces are everywhere
but there are a lot of differences between these women and I think it
illuminates some of the issues facing young women in the business today.

Stewart started her career as an actress before she became tabloid fare.  She first appeared opposite Jodie Foster in Panic Room when she was 11.  She has been acting ever since.  Most of the films she appeared in before Twilight
were smaller, indie pics and she is still making indie films even in
the wake of her being in one of the biggest movies of the year.

Fox started her career as a sex symbol wearing those tight short shorts as the pretty girlfriend running from peril in Transformers
Those big commercial movies (especially ones by Michael Bay) are
notoriously horrible to women.  They have very few lines and are just
window dressing.  Think of Liv Tyler in Armageddon and Kate Beckinsale in Pearl Harbor and you get my drift.  That's how she entered our world, that's how we relate to her. But as Lynn Hirschberg writes in her profile, Fox and her team are trying to create a legitimate career for her beyond Transformers and that includes figuring out how to get girls to like her which is a really, really big problem.

Fox says:

“Girls think I’m a slut, and I’ve been in the same
relationship since I was 18. The problem is, if they think you’re
attractive, you’re either stupid or a whore or a dumb whore. The
instinct among girls is to attack the jugular.”

That is probably true, but it was her and her handlers decision to a) not do another film in between Transformers
where she took on a different type of role; and b) to cultivate the
image of the sex siren to turn on boys and in turn make girls hate
her.  How fun is it for a girl to be on a date with a guy and see her
on the big screen. I bet not too much fun.  She didn't care what girls thought of her before and now after seeing the scathing reception for Jennifer's Body
she has a seriously big problem.  I think the problem goes way beyond
her speaking her mind and flaunting her sexuality.  Have we ever
thought that maybe she just can't act?  Just because you are sexy in
movies doesn't mean you should have a long term acting career.  I think
its really disingenuous to blame girls and women for her problems when
she has when she created them.  Maybe she should try acting authentic
and she might endear herself to some people.

Ironically, the opposite is true of Stewart.  Girls like her.   She's one of them.  Twilight
would probably be a big hit even with different actors but she is
beyond perfect for Bella and you gotta give Catherine Hardwicke some
credit for that.  The tabloids don't leave her alone either and keep
speculating that she is not only dating but is engaged to her co-star
Robert Pattinson, but she doesn't play the game.  She seems quiet and
uninterested in that world.  She gets called moody, Fox gets called

“What really kills me — it really rips me up — is when
people think I’m abrasive, inconsiderate or ungrateful because I don’t
go outside in a bikini and wave to the paparazzi. Come on!”

I wonder what actually would happen if she posed in a bikini.  Would
she lose her good girl image?  Would the public turn on her and treat
her like Fox?  Just looking at what these two young women have to go
through makes me sad.  Your damned if you do and damned if you don't. 
Stewart is difficult because she doesn't buy into the tabloidization of
women, and  Fox has bought into it too much so she is having a hard
time getting free from it even if in real life she is nothing like the
persona she has created.

But we've seen this all before.  Remember Demi Moore and Meg Ryan?  Demi Moore was vilified for her roles in Indecent Proposal and especially GI Jane
She could not get a gig after that.  Meg Ryan was the girl next door
who we all wanted to be until she actually made the mistake of showing
that she was human in her much written about, short, relationship with
Russell Crowe.

The bottom line is that we eat women for breakfast, lunch and dinner
in this culture.  Let's all keep that in mind the next time we call
someone a slut or petulant or ungrateful.  As women we need to figure
out how to be better to each other.