Is Sexism the Overlooked -Ism?

ON

Katherine Heigl is making waves

The big news around the campfire yesterday was Katherine Heigl saying she won’t be chasing down an Emmy nomination. “I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization” she decided against competing, Heigl said in a written statement provided by her publicist, Melissa Kates, who was contacted by the AP.

Boom. Shockwaves. People are now saying that Heigl has taken her career and flushed it down the toilet. Commenters at the Huffington Post are using words such as “ingrate,” “petty” and “ungrateful.” One refers to her comments as “outrageous.” That commenter is, of course, talking about all the statements Heigl has made in the past as well.

“I’m going to be really honest right now, he needs to just not speak in public. Period,” Heigl was quoted saying with regard to one time “Grey’s Anatomy” co-star Isaiah Washington after it came out that he was using gay slurs to describe fellow co-star T.R. Knight.

Then there was that Vanity Fair article in which she described her feature film break-out role in Knocked Up as “a little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. It exaggerated the characters, and I had a hard time with it, on some days. I’m playing such a bitch; why is she being such a killjoy? Why is this how you’re portraying women? Ninety-eight percent of the time it was an amazing experience, but it was hard for me to love the movie.”

Over at The Hollywood Reporter, James Hibberd brings up the previous comments referring to Knocked Up saying, “Um, did she read the script first?” I must say to James, when you receive $300,000 to star in Knocked Up and then following its success your price tag bumps up to $6 million you don’t turn it down. What a ridiculous statement anyway. That would be like someone losing their job and having to work at McDonald’s as a fry chef and complaining, “Man, cooking fries all day really sucks,” and me saying, “Well, you are a fry chef. It is the job description.” Last I checked Heigl wasn’t getting film roles left and right, why wouldn’t she rise above what she thought was sexist for a major opportunity to advance her career?

The consensus seems to be people think Heigl is playing with fire in terms of her career. Getting a bit too big for her britches. People seem to shoot down the sexist bit, but then it continues to pop up. Charges of sexism targeted several reviews for the recent release of Sex and the City. David Poland (a man I can’t believe anyone listens to) comments on Heigl’s Emmy-turn-down saying she will soon have to resort to “almost-40 topless work, hoping to remind Hollywood that they really wanted to bang this blonde just a few years before.” Um, wow. I guess sexism still is alive and well.

Hillary Clinton and her “loving” fans

Even outside of the world of Hollywood we have Hillary Clinton saying her campaign suffered from sexism. At first I thought this was ridiculous. I mean, she’s up against a black man for crying-out-loud. Sexism vs. racism, you tell me which one is more prevalent in today’s society. Racism is the assumed answer, but when people hold up signs saying “Iron My Shirt” you have to take a second look. Yeah, the people were removed, and some applauded their removal, but others chanted, “Iron my shirt!” I am pretty sure had those been racist signs at an Obama rally and racist chants there would have been a real problem, not just a simple matter of escorting a couple of gentlemen out of the auditorium. I am not saying racism is dead and buried, far from it, but it appears sexism is certainly a contender.

So, is it too much for Heigl to comment on a film of her’s being sexist? Is it too much for her to demand quality writing from “Grey’s Anatomy” scripters? Is it career suicide to do so?

Heigl, Clinton and Sex and the City aside, remember the charges Nikki Finke made last year saying Warner Bros president of production Jeff Robinov said, “We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead.” Those allegations were quickly combated as noted by Variety’s Anne Thompson saying:

Warner production prexy Jeff Robinov insists he is moving forward with several movies with women in the lead. Indeed, he is offended by rumors of his cinematic misogyny.

Action features starring women remain a hard sell for many moviegoers. But Robinov said he is still willing to put a femme star into an action role. “But, like any other movie, it has to be the right movie with the right actor and the right filmmaker at the right time,” he said.

I have no idea if Robinov made that comment, but based on the films that are made the ones that focus on women don’t really do all that well overall. As Women and Hollywood point out, “In 2007, only 5 of the top 50 films starred or were focused on women” and “In 2006, only 3 movies in the top 50 starred or were focused on women.” So far in 2008 we have Sex and the City, which has now made over $100 million and is currently the #5 film of the year, Heigl’s 27 Dresses and Baby Mama in the top 20. Of the three, Baby Mama is the only one to receive an overall positive rating from critics, and I would wager to guess that is primarily due to the fact that Tina Fey is loved not only be females but males as well, which make up the majority of movie critics.

I guess, what I am wondering, is just how much is Hollywood affected by sexism? Will Heigl’s comments change anything? If it is true why don’t larger stars such as Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep or Jodie Foster say something? Kim Cattrall spoke out, which ultimately leads me back to Sex and the City.

Now that Sex and the City successfully made the jump from the small screen to the big screen will other femme features pop up just like it? Sex and the City isn’t the puff piece the majority of romantic comedies are. It’s raunchy and sex-filled stories served an underserved market in women starving to connect with a female character that is more like them and not just the dim-witted personal assistant that finds love in the arms of her gorgeous boss (I have no idea if that is a real movie but it serves its purpose).

Could “Desperate Housewives” make the leap? Would a Sex and the City sequel do just as well as its predecessor? Would Hollywood be stupid not to try? Would a film such as Sex and the City be as successful without its built-in audience? Had it not been a TV show in the first place how would it have been marketed to audiences?

Does anyone know?