One of my favourite TV historians is Bettany Hughes. But as a presenter, she gets hit from the opposite angle to actresses, being criticised for (what boils down to) looking too hot, and thus cheapening her subject in some way. On the other hand, Michael Wood, my other favourite TV historian, gets to be the “man who made history sexy.” So why is a historian and history presenter too hot, while if she were a Hollywood actress would be under endless pressure to dye, diet, inject, or cut in order to become “hotter?” Is it just that beauty comes in discrete strata, with women required to tunnel from one to another? Well, obviously yes, but why? What service is Hughes failing to perform here?
She’s blatantly being a person. Moreover, she’s blatantly knowing things and explaining them to the viewer, when she should be unobtrusively in the background – since the background is in this case what would obscure the fact that we’re being taught something worthwhile by a woman. A fictional woman, in most of Hollywood’s output, is there for decoration – that decoration offered as a phony role to cover up the lack of a real one. But you can only do that to a presenter if she’s speaking about something trivial. If she’s presenting a serious subject, and imparting serious knowledge, men critics need some other way not to take her seriously.
Hence – she looks too hot, and cheapens the subject. Alternatively, hence – she distracts from the subject. Or hence – she doesn’t *really* know her subject, she’s just been given words to look hot delivering – back to decoration as denial of her real role. Or hence – well, any number of rationalisations that all come down to concealing the fact that women can say important things.