I’ve been debating whether or not to write this article for some time. On the one hand, maybe it reinforces the focus on women’s looks. On the other hand, it’s a clear indication that outside Hollywood, a woman can have something “wrong” with her appearance and still be an A-list actress with her own string of successful TV shows and, incidentally, a 15-year younger husband (the photo below is a publicity wedding photo from September 2010). And since I wrote a previous article detailing the awesomeness Amanda Redman brings to New Tricks, maybe it’s worth remarking for a moment on something that ought to be unremarkable.
Have a look at Amanda Redman:
She’s a lovely woman by conventional standards and any others. She’s not young enough for Hollywood’s ludicrous ideas about what constitutes female beauty, of course, but even Hollywood would acknowledge she’s gorgeous “for her age.”
Note the extensive scarring on her left arm. Note she didn’t cover it up for her wedding photos. She also doesn’t cover it up on TV shows. It’s a part of her, and if you have a problem with it – well, then it’s sad to be you. From Wikipedia:
Redman is badly scarred on her upper left arm as a result of an accident when she was 15 months old. She was scalded with a pan of boiling turkey-and-vegetable soup and suffered third-degree burns to 75% of her body. Her arm was the only part of her body permanently affected, but the trauma was so severe that she was actually pronounced clinically dead at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead, Sussex.
If she’d been working in Hollywood instead of the U.K., I doubt she’d have been allowed before a camera without the scars being covered. If she’d been in my generation, even that wouldn’t have worked since going sleeveless, semi-dressed and undressed is considered essential to every female acting part these days.
I just love it that she doesn’t want to hide the scars, and that the people producing her TV shows don’t want them hidden either. I also love that the scars are neither explained nor discussed in the shows I’ve seen her in. These things happen; why should it be remarkable that they happened to her characters?
In Hollywood, male actors’ scars are sometimes shown without comment. I often note little facial scars on male characters and wonder if they were added deliberately (say, if the character has a physically dangerous job) or are just a part of the actor the producers decided not to hide. But the same is not true for female actors and their characters. Makeup artists win awards for making women look flawless, not interesting. Scars are a reminder that women can take pain, and survive it, and triumph over it. Scars remind us that a woman has been living life long before she got served up by a camera to titillate heterosexual men. Scars remind us that women have histories – that women don’t simply appear one day, perfectly formed, for someone’s viewing pleasure.
Scars document the things that life – and sometimes men – have done to our bodies. Perhaps that’s the main reason the boy-men of Hollywood don’t want to see women with scars. I wonder.
I think it’s awesome that Amanda Redman wears her scars matter-of-factly, but that is one of the least awesome things about her as an actress. While my previous and above-linked article talks mainly about why her character Sandra Pullman is so fascinating and enjoyable, you should infer from it that Redman carries off perfectly the role of an authoritative commander and strategic leader. Not every actress can do this (we are so burdened with demands to cajole rather than boss), and not every TV show would want her to come across so convincingly (I’m reminded of Janeway glancing at Chakotay every time she issued an order and Sam Carter being written as a lousy commanding officer). It’s partly Hollywood’s belief that you can’t be “feminine” if you’re giving men orders. New Tricks copes with this issue by letting Pullman unflinchingly accept “accusations” of masculinity: she’s in charge. If some people have to rationalize it by assuming she’s some sort of failed woman, she’s still in charge. If people don’t like it, she’s still in charge. And because of Redman’s portrayal, you completely believe it.