Friday, March 17, 2006

Buzzcut Buzzkill

I saw V for Vendetta two weeks ago. For free. There, I've done my gloating. The film was pretty spectacular -- I thoroughly enjoyed its discussion of terrorism and its subtle-not-so-subtle commentary on the West's War on Terrorism today. The movie puts the vendetta of main character V into a real world context that offers a powerful dystopic vision of the future should we remain on this track of trying to wipe out terrorism in all its forms. And Natalie Portman? I have no reference by which to base the character of Evey, but she was rather annoying in the movie, although Natalie Portman was able to capture her transformation fairly well (the problems in her character seem to stem more from the screenplay than from the acting, though electroman will probably disagree). Well, what is it that you've heard about V for Vendetta? Certainly not much about Alan Moore and the Wachowski's, unless you followed that particular scandal about the script. Certainly not much about Hugo Weaving, who is masked throughout the film. What the media is all abuzz about (pun intended) is Natalie Portman. And specifically, her haircut. Portman wasn't Oscar-callibre in this film, but why is it that the mainstream media seems to be focussing almost entirely on the shock of a Hollywood actress willingly cutting her hair for a role? The article I link above talks about Portman flying in the face of beauty myths, but it strikes me as sexist that almost all the publicity surrounding this film seems to be interested only in Portman cutting her hair. As if her experience as an actress are irrelevant, only what she has done to her appearance. Again, we see evidence that women in Hollywood are prized not for their skills as actors, but for their looks. Sure, if they can convincingly read a screenplay (re: are literate) it's a bonus, but certainly not a prerequisite. Take for example the fact that Paris Hilton is cast in anything. As long as women are attractive, they are of some value. And here, the biggest news is that Portman isn't pretty -- at least by conventional standards. What we're really saying is that Portman has given up her feminine markers, has actually defied gender roles and... O horror of horrors, has gotten a "boy"-cut. How, oh how, will we objectify her now? I know, we'll just focus entirely on the fact that she cut her hair and ignore the fact that she was in a major blockbuster movie opening this weekend. Personally, I don't give a damn about Portman's haircut. And I don't think it looks unattractive either. It irritates me to watch women over-hype their hairdos; I knew a woman who buzzed her hair precisely for the same reasons cited in the article: she wanted to fly in the face of the beauty myth. Well, personally, I think buzzing your hair to be a feminist, if you do it only to show off how counter-culture you are, is literally the least you can do. Hair grows back. Making a statement is about making a difference. Don't get me wrong -- if you honestly prefer your buzzcut, and you did it for your own reasons of aesthetic or convenience, I'm not going to hate on you. But for so-called feminists who buzz their hair and wax philosophical about Hollywood, but when push comes to shove, are still only interested in maintaining gender inequities? No, thanks. To me, it's like trying to reclaim an ethnic slur -- if you're trying to fight the objectification of women that causes them to be valued only based on their beauty, I don't think making a statement based upon emphasizing your own outward appearance alone helps end that treatment. It still suggests that women should be judged based upon the way they look. So no, don't go see V for Vendetta because Natalie Portman cut her hair. Please see the movie because Natalie Portman was in the film, and it was pretty damn good.


Blogger William said...

You know, this is just gonna incur the wrath of a lot of your readership, but I've got to say that, for me, a pretty important criterion for whether or not a person is attractive is "Would they still be attractive if they were bald?" This goes for men and women. Call me crazy, but you never know what life might throw you. She might get a disease or maybe end up in a freak lab accident. Now sure, there will be bigger fish to fry, so to speak, but it's that much better to know that the baldness didn't "ruin the artwork".

Sure it sounds stupid, but imagine when people get a new 'do, and it really frames their face well or brightens up their eyes. This hair became a factor in their attractiveness. Now, think of when the same person butchers their hair, and it detracts from the overall package. Season 3 Felicity, anyone?

Now, I felt that Ms. Portman looked like a young boy. A cute boy, but a boy nonetheless. But I'll abort right here, so as to avoid a gender-identification convo.

In any regards, i agree with you. it DOES suck that so much hullabaloo has been made about her hair and not the movie. To be honest, comic kid that I am, I had no interest in seeing the thing until the other day. But from what I've read, it sounds pretty interesting. In the comic shop the other day, this ass clown was going on about how he didn't want to see it because he just knew it was gonna be veiled Bush-bashing, and he got enough of that seeing as how he "worked at the White House everyday." Now, I'm sure this tool was simply a janitor or something, and wanted to name drop, but he proceeded to get into a political argument with some guy, over a COMIC-based MOVIE, no less. In my book, that's something I've gotta see.

Wow...this was like a James-sized response. Except..."White Power!" See? He'd never say that =)

3/17/2006 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

yeah, but no one made a big deal when keanu shaved his head for the matrix.

3/17/2006 02:41:00 PM  
Blogger Mickle said...

Christian Bale had to drop, like, half his body weight to get as much attention for making himself "ugly."

3/17/2006 02:52:00 PM  
Anonymous sheldiz said...

eh, its hollywood -- i don't see how this issue is much different than any other issue where someone starring in a new movie gets a shitload of press for a change in appearance.

if the movie is really that good, it will speak for itself.

3/17/2006 04:33:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Shelley, my problem is when women get more attention and sole attention for this aspect of their work than men. As Mickle said, Christian Bale went from the way he looked in the Machinist to the way he looked in Batman in like a month, and no one said anything. Keanu buzzed his hair for the Matrix and no one said anything. Hell, no one has said anything about Pierce Brosnan's new Yosemite Same-type moustache and beard.

But Natalie Portman cuts her hair and I've seen 3 or 4 magazine covers about it. The same happened when Rene Zellweger gained weight for Bridget Jones' Diary and when Minnie Driver gained weight for Circle of Friends. Even when actresses gain or lose weight not for movies, the magazines go apeshit, but the same cannot be said for when male actors change their appearance or weight.

Why? In my opinion, it's sexism. And it's more pervasive than just Hollywood -- it's the same mindset that affects every woman.

3/17/2006 06:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Portman looks good bald. Many women look good bald (I see baldies at the hospital, at the Komen Breast Cancer fundraiser events, etc). What's the big deal? All actors and actresses change hair, weight, use wigs, etc from time to time.

Why do people keep casting Weaving in serious parts where he's masked or stone-faced? He is a good comic actor.


3/17/2006 06:29:00 PM  
Blogger phillyjay said...

Portman does not look good without hair at least to me.

3/18/2006 08:32:00 AM  
Anonymous vegankid said...

jenn - i'd agree that its an issue of double-standards and wimmin are getting the shitty end of the stick.

anon and phillyjay - maybe you should read what jenn wrote. Its not about whether she looks good or not. The whole problem is that she is being judged for how she looks instead of being judged for content and skill.

3/18/2006 11:03:00 AM  
Blogger phillyjay said...

I read it.I don't think she looks good with a buzz cut.That's just my opinion.

3/18/2006 04:19:00 PM  
Blogger William said...

I feel this is a case of you had an issue, and you looked for evidence. There were MANY articles about Christian Bale's weight fluctuations. I can provide links and video clips. Hell, half of Disc 2 of the damn movie is about his weight loss and gain. It's only out there if you look for it.

Hell, I honestly haven't heard anything remotely like "Oh My God, Natalie's Bald!" since the movie neared its opening date. Sure, it was all the rage while they were filming, over a YEAR AGO, but since the delay of its release due to the England bombings, most of the attention has been towards its political implications rather than her hair. Not a sermon, just a thought.

BTW, it's "Shelly". If she says it, it might sound cold. If i say it, I'm just an overprotective boyfriend =)

3/18/2006 06:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Sarah said...

I recall that it was shocking to some when Demi Moore shaved her head for GI Jane.

The difference is there's no easy explanation without knowing the plot (fairly self evident with GI Jane, not so with V for Vendetta).

Yes, that sucks, but people want to hear a "good" reason for anything as far out and freaky as a woman shaving her head for a role.

3/20/2006 03:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Adam said...

The book is much better than the movie, though the movie was still quite entertaining.

I suggest reading the book and the character of Evey will mean a lot more.

3/20/2006 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

adam, yeah, my bf suggested that evey's character was very massacred in the movie. it's definitely on my list of to do's to go to borders and read the book as soon as i get a moment to myself.

3/20/2006 11:42:00 PM  
Blogger Charles Johnson (Rad Geek) said...

I loved the movie, but Evey's character was definitely slighted, to say the very least.

Evey was aged up (at the opening of the book she's only 16), given a somewhat less dismal life, and portrayed as much less bewildered and dependent on V. I'm sure that in doing this they thought they were providing the film with a Stronger Female Character. The problem is that in the book strength is something that Evey gains over the course of the plot, and so the changes end up destroying about half of her character development.

3/21/2006 12:01:00 AM  
Blogger Mickle said...


Yes, there were a lot of articles about Christian Bale losing weight for the Machinist - I never said otherwise. (I don't recall any Machinist covers though, but then it was a smaller movie than Vendetta).

As I already said Christian Bale had to lose enough weight to seriously effect his health in order to get the attention about his "ugly" looks that Portman got for simply shaving her head. And Zellweger got arguably more attention than either of them when she had to gain what? 20 pounds? for Bridget Jones.

That's a double standard.

3/22/2006 12:47:00 PM  

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