Wednesday 23 August 2017

Comment: Blake Lively's offence to the ongoing red carpet Hollywood sexism is hypocritical

 

Actress Blake Lively arrives for Variety's Power of Women luncheon in New York City, U.S., April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Actress Blake Lively arrives for Variety's Power of Women luncheon in New York City, U.S., April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Actress Blake Lively arrives for Variety's Power of Women luncheon in New York City, U.S., April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Anna Wintour (L) and actress Blake Lively attend the Michael Kors Collection Fall 2017 runway show at Spring Studios on February 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Michael Kors)
Fashion icon: Hollywood actress Blake Lively delivers her impassioned speech on the evils of child pornography after refusing to discuss her passion for fashion
Actress Blake Lively poses backstage at the Michael Kors Fall 2016 Runway Show during New York Fashion Week: The Shows at Spring Studios on February 17, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images For Michael Kors)
Blake Lively and Woody Allen at the Cannes Film Festival
Blake Lively at the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards in New York this week. AP
Designer Michael Kors and actress Blake Lively attend God's Love We Deliver, Golden Heart Awards
Blake Lively in Gossip Girl
Blake Lively and Woody Allen at the Cannes Film Festival
Young blood: Jesse Eisenberg and Blake Lively are back in the 1930s in Woody Allen's latest offering 'Café Society'
Anna Wintour (L) and actress Blake Lively attend the Michael Kors Collection Fall 2017 runway show at Spring Studios on February 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Michael Kors)
Sophie Donaldson

Sophie Donaldson

Hell hath no fury like a glamorous actress undermined for her humanitarian deeds.

One reporter learned this incontestable fact the hard way when questioning actress Blake Lively at last week's Power of Women event hosted by Variety magazine. Lively had been invited to speak at the event about her work campaigning against child pornography with the Child Rescue Coalition.

Unfortunately, her speaking duties did not begin the moment she arrived. As she knows well, navigating the paparazzi scrum is a requirement that not even the most famous face can wrangle their way out of. And upon arrival, Lively was prodded with the usual line of questioning about her outfit.

She took offence, not only to the triviality of the subject matter at such an event, but to the ongoing red carpet sexism that demands that actresses participate in such inane dialogue. Exasperated, she responded by asking the reporter if she would ask a man the same thing. Upon hearing the story my reaction was to fist pump the air, shouting "THADDA GIRL!"

Blake Lively in Gossip Girl
Blake Lively in Gossip Girl

The inference that a woman's worth is based on her appearance is inflated in front of the camera during red carpet appearances. Hundreds of cameras rove over their bodies as they are fired questions about their dress, hair, nails, makeup and even diet while their male counterparts are left to sidle up in the same black tuxedo and talk about their latest film role.

The injustice simmered over after the 2014 Emmys when actress Sofia Vergara was literally put on a pedestal that spun in circles while the academy chairman Bruce Rosenblum made his speech. The hashtag #askhermore was born in rebuke to this near-satirical display of blatant objectification. The campaign behind the hashtag demands that women are asked about more than what they are wearing, just as men are.

Mid-fist pump, I paused.

The question may have been irrelevant to the event - but in the context of a red carpet appearance at an event hosted by the bible of the showbiz industry, it was a perfectly reasonable thing to ask, especially considering the actress it was posed to.

Anna Wintour (L) and actress Blake Lively attend the Michael Kors Collection Fall 2017 runway show at Spring Studios on February 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Michael Kors)
Anna Wintour (L) and actress Blake Lively attend the Michael Kors Collection Fall 2017 runway show at Spring Studios on February 15, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Michael Kors)

Lively rose to fame for her role in the 2005 film The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Her subsequent role in hit TV show Gossip Girl cemented her status as a promising young actress. But what has really kept her in the public eye is not a slew of fantastic films (I struggle to think of a single memorable role) but her burgeoning involvement in the fashion industry.

She is a regular front-row fixture at Fashion Week and is known to change outfits multiple times a day to be ready for the cameras that cluster outside fashion shows. She counts several designers as close friends and has signed contracts with the likes of Gucci, Chanel and L'Oreal to front various campaigns.

Hollywood may objectify women, and pay them much less than their male co-stars - but Lively and her cohort have the ability to subvert the obsession over their looks, sign on the dotted line and then laugh all the way to the bank.

Lively gladly paints herself as a fashion darling when it comes to supplementing her income. To put it into perspective, she reportedly made $1.4m throughout 2014 acting in Gossip Girl. As the face of Gucci's Premiere perfume it is estimated she made $4m.

Let's face it; the red carpet does not serve as a platform to air one's political views. It's a PR hook that serves both the slebs and the designers who supply their glad rags - most of the time free of charge. The exposure the celebrity usually gives is considered payment in kind.

Lively's indignation suggests that an interest in fashion denotes a lack of substance. A woman mustn't have any regard for such frivolities during 'serious' situations, lest she be taken less serious for doing so.

US director Woody Allen (L) arrives on May 11, 2016 with US actress Blake Lively for the screening of the film
US director Woody Allen (L) arrives on May 11, 2016 with US actress Blake Lively for the screening of the film "Cafe Society" during the opening ceremony of the 69th Cannes Film Festival

It borders on farcical when she very clearly takes an interest in it, as she stands in full hair and makeup wearing a designer suit. Oh, and it was by Brandon Maxwell, in case you were afraid to ask.

Her affront at being asked about fashion, the very thing she happily makes millions from, seems at best contrary, and at worst, wildly hypocritical.

On the subject of hypocrisy, during Lively's heated response she also stated that she was there "to build women up"… a sentiment that sounded very familiar to that time she said that Woody Allen is "empowering to women".

He has been accused of sexually assaulting his then seven-year-old daughter, but Lively's undulating admiration of the beleaguered director wasn't mentioned during her impassioned speech against child pornography.

Now, imagine if she had been asked about that on the red carpet. Suddenly a bit of fashion chit-chat doesn't seem so bad after all.

Sunday Independent

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