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.
“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 slutty.
“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.
Media Vampires, Beware (NY Times)
The Self-Manufacture of Megan Fox (NY Times)
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