July 31, 2009

I Don't Hate Katherine Heigl

I have just read an interesting article about sexism and Katherine Heigl. Click here to read it. I don't hate Katherine Heigl. I really, really don't. Has she said things that could be seen as bitchy? Yes, but really, what high-powered male performer hasn't talked about how some of his movies have been shit? Or some of his roles weren't as good as they should have been? Russell Crowe is as crusty as they come, but he still wins Oscars and no one says he should be fired - why? Because he's a man, and with male performers, all we ask from them is that they be good performers, and Russell is still a good performer.

Heigl is also a good performer. She is good at her job. She has great comic timing packaged in a stunningly beautiful body and face. I do not think she is nice, but Patrick Dempsey has said things to demean and downplay Chandra Rimes and has been known to be a jerk to his co-stars on set, but you don't hear people calling for him to be killed off the show. Why? Again, he's a man. He is allowed to be a jerk as long as he plays McDreamy to a tea. Women are the only people who can't just be good at our jobs, we can't ever complain about them.

Heigl complained about a long work day in a jokey manner on Letterman last week, and suddenly the world was up in arms. How dare she ever say anything the least bit critical - even in jest? Some critics sited the fact that, in a recession where so many are unemployed, it's insensitive to complain about your 17-hour workday. WTF? In a recession labour law and employees' rights go out the window? If my boss told me I had to blow him to keep my job, would I just have to accept that? Would it be rude to complain, because it's a recession?

The thing is, most of what Heigl says, I agree with. She said that it was "hard for her to love" Knocked Up, because the female characters were a bit degrading. She never said she DIDN'T love it or that it didn't have other lovely qualities that made it great - she just said that it was imperfect. So what? She was being self-reflexive about her role in helping to create a somewhat misogynist text. I felt the same about the movie - I loved it, but it was also hard to love it. There were moments I had to tune out to love it - a lot of which involved the shrewish portrayals of women. Every text is problematic to some degree, so why can't we be honest about and discuss these problematics and their meanings? I don't think it was ungrateful of Heigl to say this. It was honest and brave.

What I think is interesting is that Heigl has, if anything, become an even bigger star since she started making bolder statements. The Ugly Truth opened big. The media may HATE her, but the public doesn't, and I don't. Do I think Heigl looks like a super pleasant person? Probably not, but not all my friends are super pleasant either. Sometimes when you're a smart and daring girl who has to exist in the world we have but also wants to help improve it a little bit for the future at the same time, you have to make unpopular statements.

Heigl is a rebel. She's not perfect. I'm not sitting her endorsing everything she says, but really, what celebrity is perfect, and why should that fact that people think she's not nice be more important than the fact that she's a good performer? Society IS sexist; Heigl is right to complain...


Lenny said...

Great article and Heigl is definitely not perfect but she is strong and honest. What is actually most unfair about it all is that Heigl is in fact an absolute sweetheart and it is crazy she is being labelled as something else.

Anonymous said...

Heigl a rebel? Rebels usually fight for a cause, what is KH fighting for? Surely not empowerment of women with the crappy misogynist rom-coms she stars in.

Stunning body? Really? Cute face, but the body...

rantsalamode said...

I don't think that her romantic comedies are unequivocally misogynist, though. I think they are complicated and problematic. While 27 Dresses wasn't the most enlightened text, Heligl's character at the very least didn't find happiness until she stopped letting people use her. She's a rebel because I think she wants people to acknowledge that, despite the fact that she and we like often like romantic comedies, there are problematic elements about them. Self-reflexivity is always good in my books.

Also, re. her body - why must people be so critical of women's bodies above size two in Hollywood? The definition of a good body is not necessarily a waifish or extremely toned body - it can also be a body with beautifully shaped curves, like Heigl's.