Amanda Redman’s scars

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 ordersNew 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.

Comments

  1. Firebird says

    In reference to not explaining the scars, my French professor had a badly burned palm on one hand. I forget which hand; it doesn’t matter. She actually avoided showing it usually. But she also never explained or discussed it. Normal people who are adjusted to whatever issue they have usually don’t go around explaining their scars or differences. Only self conscious or self obsessed people have to explain themselves constantly (although our society with its emphasis on beauty and appearance does its best to make us constantly self conscious).

    I would find it fairly normal for the person with a scar or disfigurement to try to cover it up as that seems to be expected – like my French professor deftly keeping her palm turned away from sight, although we saw it anyway. Sad but the way we all let our society shape us.

  2. The Other Patrick says

    That’s one thing I really liked about “Mass Effect”, the video game – when you determine your character’s looks, I think there is one setting without scars, and five or so where you have different facial scars. Yes, your female warrior has been in battle.

    And I’m thinking that surely there must be a scarred female character in some movie, but all I can come up with now is Angelina Jolie’s eye patch on Sky Captain (without the character being a vodoo witch or eeeeevil… and maybe even then).

    • says

      Well,

      (1) That’s a much less extensive scar than Redman’s.
      (2) Hosting Top Chef is a way different gig than starring in a prominent show on some network’s new fall lineup. Reality TV is cheap to film, and cheap to replace when it fails. They feel they can push more boundaries with it than they do with fictional programming.

      I mean, I’m glad she’s a TV personality who’s not being pressured to hide that scar. It’s a start. But it’s still a long way from what I’m talking about here.

    • Maddy says

      I was about to post a comment about her. I had some (admittedly assholeish) male friends with whom I watched Top Chef in its first season. At one point I mentioned how pretty Padma is, and one of them said, “Yeah, except that scar RUINS her. If I were going to sleep with her, she’d have to somehow cover that up.” He was serious, and the other men in the room agreed. I had literally never noticed the scar until they pointed it out. I’m also no longer friends with any of those guys, for the record.

      I’m not sure what my point is, other than that holding women to these types of beauty standards causes men to end up with bizarre expectations about how human beings look. When a woman doesn’t perfectly conform, her one fault gets noticed and “ruins” the rest. We were all college-aged when the conversation happened, which you’d think would be old enough for those guys to know better … but I guess not.

      • The Other Patrick says

        Reminds me of a very smart and outgoing person I know who, in a short time, lost about 40 pounds of weight and now has problems with how her stomach looks – she recently told me that men she went out often reacted extremely bad to seeing her naked.

        I mean, seriously, people are not all models.

        • says

          Thanks for sharing this story. It seems to me every time someone brings up a story of some guy complaining about her body when he sees her naked, there’s this loud chorus of “That guy must’ve been a special jackass, because most guys don’t care!” There are a lot of these special jackasses out there, though. They point out bits of fat, a bit that’s too skinny, small breasts, hair they think should be removed (I know, let’s NOT start that one up again, LOL), pimples and other skin blemishes, etc.

          Meanwhile, you know, 99% of them have similar stuff, but that’s okay because women don’t mind that sort of thing.

          And yet, somehow, the myth persists that MEN don’t care about that stuff. Some women do, too, and that’s fine – some people are picky, and that’s just how it is. But the media is fueling the picky man’s pickiness into a sense of entitlement, while picky women are constantly berated and chastised for being so picky.

      • says

        Not trying to make excuses, because holy cow those guys are shallow and deserve to get no sex from anybody for many years as punishment, but were those guys young, say early 20s or younger? It’s my experience that guys that age like to brag about how much they’d put a woman through before consenting to bless her with penis insertion, but it’s just blustering. Not, I repeat just for clarity, that young men shouldn’t be expected to behave better either way. It’s just with most of society thinking that’s real cute of them, I’m not surprised it happens.

        If they’re over 30, however, I really do hope they experienced unwanted celibacy for a decade or so.

        • Maddy says

          Yeah, they were all about 18-20 at the time. I still personally think that’s old enough to know better. I hope they’ve learned since then that women are people, not pieces of furniture, but I’ll likely never find out because I don’t plan on ever getting back in touch with any of them.

  3. phira says

    Tina Fey has a facial scar, but I didn’t notice it until I was bored one night and I read her Wikipedia page. Apparently, she makes an effort to hide it, and when she’s filming, she’ll often have shots filmed that show the unscarred side of her face. Only after learning about the scar did I start seeing it, but it’s so easy to forget about it. Honestly, I feel sad that she feels it’s necessary to hide her scar.

    I’d never heard of Amanda Redman until today, but now I’m going to look into seeing some of her work!

  4. says

    Scars are a reminder that women can take pain, and survive it, and triumph over it.I actually
    Maybe that’s why I’ve always found them fascinating them (NOT in the kinky fetischist sense. Scientific curiosity, more like :) Not eager to get any of my own either, I’m such a big chicken!

  5. Nialla says

    I have about an inch long scar alongside my left eye, curving along the edge of the eye socket. It’s been there about 30 years and faded a lot, only really showing up if I get flushed. It’s also somewhat camouflaged because I wear glasses now.

    During my teen years it bothered me, but I finally came to the realization there really wasn’t any way to cover it, so I might as well just accept it because it could have been a lot worse. According to the doctor’s, an inch to the right and I could have been blinded. Yeah, I’ll take the fourteen stiches and a scar, please and thank you.

    My scar is so minor in comparison to Redman’s, but I honestly didn’t realize she had such scarring from what I’ve watched of New Tricks. I think unless someone draws attention to scars, it’s relatively easy to overlook. Makeup usually makes them look worse and draws attention to it (been there). Try to cover it up with clothing and have someone catch a glimpse, and they’d wonder how bad it really is since you’re covering it up.

    Hollywood has issues with anyone appearing “different” unless they’re supposed to for the part. Have a tat? Well, your character is clean cut and therefore doesn’t, so cover it up. Don’t have a tat? Your character is a scumbag, so go spend some time in the makeup chair getting some fake ones applied. Scars seem to fall into the same category; you only need them if it fits the character, never mind that scars can happen to anyone and it’s almost a rarity to not have a tat in some age groups.

  6. Fiona says

    James Marsters, who played Spike in Buffy, has a small scar above his left eyebrow. When the makeup artists for the show noticed it, they decided on a whim to exaggerate it, since it fit the character. This strikes me as a really cool approach. Wish it were a more common practice to build aspects of what makes an actor different into the character they play. So often women are cast as “insert young vixen X” or “insert evil mother Y”, without any thought given to how different individuals can bring something unique to a role.

    • Robin says

      Richard Dean Anderson has a similar eyebrow scar. If memory serves, he got it while scuba diving between seasons of SG-1, so the makeup folks had to cover it up for a few episodes until the writers could find a reason to write in a similar injury for the character.

      Personally, I think scars are just as interesting on fictional characters as they are on the actors who play them. Yet both examples we’ve come up with are men. Men get to wear their battle scars proudly, while women are expected to cover them up. ::sigh::

      • R says

        It is not true! This scar was made by shave only for show.

        From RDA’s website:

        From: CAZASIMPSON
        I have a question that’s been bugging me for a while. How did you get that scar across your eyebrow?
        Caron

        Richard Dean Anderson:
        It’s part of what we established in the character. We have to maintain it because it will grow over, and believe me, it’s a pain in the butt to be walking around with this bareness there. It was one of those elements of movies and television that has always driven me crazy. Like MacGyver, for instance, if we showed him naked at any point, he would be nothing but one big scar, because he was always getting cut or ripped or shot or whatever, beat up, bruised, and yet by the end of the series, he didn’t have a mark on him. It was one of those things. So, I can’t remember the episode, but I got hit in the eye or slugged or something, and we established a big bandage and the whole thing, and I told Jan [Newman, make-up artist], you know, this would leave a mark. Let’s run with this. Let’s keep it in there as part of what defines O’Neill. And so that’s all it is. It’s just a character thing. In fact what I try to do is to suggest that any time O’Neill has to be beat up, that he always holds his left eye. He always takes the first shot, and every monster that he fights is right handed, so he takes the shot to the left eye. [laughing]

        [Asked if the scar might have originated from a genuine injury from hockey, for example, he continued:]

        Richard Dean Anderson:
        No, I’ve got those on the top of my head, and one down here [indicating the bottom of his chin]. I’ve had that since I was a kid. I took the rear end of a skate blade right up through the bottom of my chin… and bled! Wylie and I were trying to count how many scars Daddy had at one point. I think it was 70 or something like that. She started wanting to see them all. She’s got two already. Like I say that with pride! [laughing]

  7. Patrick McGraw says

    Warhammer Online has plenty of facial scar options for female characters. The ones for Witch Hunters are particularly gruesome, including a missing eye with no eyepatch worn. I wish more games would offer options like that.

  8. says

    A few years ago I was in a near-fatal car accident. It gave me a scar across my forehead, starting in about the center and moving horizontally into the hairline. I also have numerous smaller scars on my arm, from wrist to elbow, from throwing up my arm to protect my face. I was happy to get them, especially the forehead one. Symbolically because I like the metaphor of being outwardly marked by such an important event and aesthetically because I think it enhances my looks rather than detracts from them.

    A few months after the accident, a relative died. I don’t usually wear makeup, but my acne breaks out when I’m stressed and I wanted to look nice for the funeral. I was in the makeup department, using my walker, when a saleswoman asked if I needed help. I said, “Yes, I’m looking for something to cover up my acne.” She stared at my forehead for a moment, then picked out a jar of makeup and started showing me how it worked by covering up one of the smaller scars on my arm. I couldn’t figure out why a scar was a better stand-in for acne than my freckles, but hey, she was the professional. Then she said, “And you also wanted something for the acne?”

    I was speechless. I never said anything about covering up my scar. I never would have; I think it looks great. She didn’t mishear “acne” as “scar” either because she knew I wanted help for the acne. Somehow, she inserted a second, entirely disconnected problem into my sentence. She saw a scar and assumed it was a problem for me, and not only a problem, but a problem more important than the one I actually asked for help with. Maybe my walker was a factor but I think the majority of it is simply that I was a woman asking for make-up, therefore I must want to cover up all my flaws and look like a porcelain doll.

  9. Jr says

    Men who want beautiful flawless women : what do the men look like?
    Men have such a double standard. They can have a beer belly, back hair, balding, over weight, yet think they are a gift to women. Ha

  10. Hugh Webster says

    Apart from the fact that I enjoy “New Tricks” very much, I have to say that I think you are very brave to carry your scare through your acting career. Incidentally, I burned my fingers when very young, not much more than two. Being a curious little boy, I grabbed a “thing” that Mum had just pulled out of the fire. Mum immediately grabbed my hand and pushed it into a pot of honey that was on our breakfast table, my burn didn’t even blister !
    Best wishes, Hugh Webster.

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