A couple of days ago, the Taste of Cinema list 20 Famous Hollywood Actresses Who Can’t Actually Act popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. The list or “article” was apparently published in May last year, so it can only be some kind of good karma that means I have been blissfully unware of it until now. The premise for this “article”? A “professional mobile app developer” who is totally “a huge movie-buff as well“ and likes to write about films online decided to sit down and “list out some really pretty actresses, who, sadly, are deficient in the acting department” (all the above quotes are from the byline on the last page of the article). And also, apparently, completely neglect to understand a lot of very basic truths about Hollywood and filmmaking.
Before we continue, I’d like to say that there are quite a few actresses on this list that I don’t know – and some that I know by name but whose films I’ve never seen. And then, there are actually a couple that I am pretty sure cannot actually act. I’ll leave that to you to ponder who those might be… However, the takeaway message from this Taste of Cinema piece seems to be something like “lol, stupid pretty girls who think they can actually do something other than look pretty and/or sexy”.
I would also like to state that unlike the Taste of Cinema list gives its subjects, I refuse to judge the name attached to it based on this one poor performance – because I know that there are more people involved in any kind of story or piece being published on a massive website like Taste of Cinema, just like there are more people than the lead actress involved in making a film and even the character that said actress is playing in any given film. In the case of this list that I’m talking about, one other responsible party would be the editor(s) of the website, or just that section of the website, depending on what structure or hierarchy model the site is built upon. I do some freelance work as an editor for a couple of different publications and websites, and I would rather walk down Oxford Street naked with that godawful SHAME lady from Game of Thrones walking behind me, ringing her bell, than approve a piece like this. The fact that it has been published on such a huge website with thousands of followers speaks volumes to me about how much the editors of that website value clicks over content. Despite its click-friendly and highly tabloid list-based design, I have thought of Taste of Cinema as a fairly serious film site. And though I do not want to judge the entire website nor this particular writer based on this one piece, suffice to say I was very disappointed. And fucking annoyed. The following is a list of the main things that annoyed me while reading said piece.
1. Judging a person’s acting abilities based on one single character
Ok. I am not a fan of Twilight, for example, as I am a product of the Buffy generation myself. However, when what you take from it is “wow, Kristen Stewart can’t act” then it shows a significant lack of understanding about how films work. Stewart has been given a character and done what she could with the material she was handed. And just like the Taste of Cinema editors should have done some serious editing work on this piece, the script writers and director is also responsible for making a character work. I doubt any actress could have made Twilight very enjoyable for most of us to watch, and Stewart has probably been sick to death of the whole thing for years already. However, as a teenager (she was 18 when the first movie was released) she landed the leading role in one of the biggest movie franchises in the world and became an A-list celebrity, and has literally dozens of other titles to her name (her IMDB page lists 43 acting credits, before and after Twilight). However, ToC concludes that “unfortunately for [Stewart], a gorgeous face and forever puckered lips cannot serve as substitutes to emotions” and leaves it at that. You’ve been blessed with good looks, Kristen – and goddammit, we refuse to let you have anything else!
2. Ignoring single standout performances and the dangers of typecasting
On the flipside, sometimes an actresses main legacy can apparently be completely ignored just because, I don’t know, because we feel like it. Both Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Aniston get this treatment by ToC. Yeah, let’s just ignore that both ladies absolutely killed it in two of the most iconic female television characters in two hugely popular and influental shows that each ran for several very successful years around the millennium – if we haven’t really heard from them or rather seen them in something super interesting since then, that must simply mean that they actually can’t act and never could! Right? Cause when they do get cast for new roles, it’s pretty much just the same character with a different name in a different setting, so that can only really mean that the acting is terrible, right guys? Wrong. When someone does one character, and so well, for so many years, it seems pretty inevitable that Hollywood wants more of the same in order to make more money and more fame. Get Jennifer Aniston in for an audition because everyone loves Rachel, so make sure she’s basically Rachel but just with a slightly different story and name, yeah? We’ll be swimming in money! Some of the best actors in the world gets typecast and often into lousy roles – take a look at Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino, for crying out loud. They have become the very embodiments of typacasting in later years, do you see them pop up in lists like these? Please. Carrie Bradshaw and Rachel Green were fucking awesome. If you don’t like them, fine, not for you. But if you don’t manage to grasp the seemingly fairly concept that “acting” means “pretending to be someone else, often fictional, for entertainment purposes” and realise that that’s exactly what Parker and Aniston did with their respective characters, then my god, what are you doing writing about films and television?
3. Blaming actresses for lack of good female characters in Hollywood
As I have touched upon in both previous points – actresses do not (necessarily!) create the characters they are given. I really thought that by now it was a fairly established fact that there is a severe lack of decent female characters up for grabs in Hollywood, because just like this ToC article, the focus is more on the actresses looks than their acting abilities (or lack thereof, granted). So to me, blaming Hollywood actresses for not landing “better” parts and shaming them for their “insipid roles” is hypocritical and well, a bit stupid. Taking it even further and saying “this beautiful and hugely successful woman is the real issue here” and saying that she simply can’t act is just downright idiotic – in most cases.
4. Including random famous people who have appeared in a film once
It feel bizarre to have to explain this in this specific context, but having starred in a film does not necessarily mean you ARE an actress. Like, are Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton really ACTRESSES now, is that their thing? Or is it more a case of the age old game of throwing a super famous face into a subpar movie to attract a wider audience and make more money, and also just for shits and giggles? Hmm, tough one.
5. Saying that Kiera Knightley can’t act
Dude. I’m not the biggest Kiera fan, in fact in most of her movies she annoys the fucking fuck out of me. But again, that tends to have more to do with her characters, which are in fact incredibly annoying a lot of the time. But saying that Knightley cannot act? Come on. Even I gave one of her films a completely acceptable review once (link is in Norwegian).
6. Icky descriptions of African American women
In the intro to this godawful piece, the ToC writer describes Halle Berry as an “unconventional beauty”. What? (Berry is not actually on the list by the way, despite herself having earned a Razzie like so many others who are on the list.) Gabrielle Union is described as “dusky, smoldering” and Meagan Good should apparently spell her name differently. Jeez.
So there you have it.
Professional, successful Hollywood actresses who seemingly can’t act after all, because a mobile app developer in a poorly edited (and maybe even comissioned, eurgh) list piece on Taste of Cinema simply says so. He does mention the theoretical concept of “beauty and brains” in his introduction, but here are the names of 20 women who, according to him, were not blessed with such a combination:
- Malin Akerman
- Janet Jackson
- Kristen Stewart
- Jennifer Aniston
- Sarah Jessica Parker
- Paula Patton
- Jennifer Lopez
- Lindsay Lohan
- Melissa Joan Hart
- Megan Fox
- Kim Kardashian
- Kiery Knightley
- Katherine Heigl
- Gabrielle Union
- Cameron Diaz
- Meagan Good
- Sienna Miller
- Paris Hilton
- Bo Derek
Who knew, huh?