I frequently complain about the double beauty standard of film and TV: men are cast mainly for talent, while women are cast primarily for how close they come to looking like a supermodel. Even in a show about families who go to PTA meetings, Mom looks like Cindy Crawford after an expensive makeover and Dad looks like that guy at the end of your block who needs to wear a shirt when he hoses his porch off. Even creepier, the double standard follows us all the way down to the kids: even a four-year-old girl needs to look like Jean-Benet Ramsey dolled up for a beauty pageant (are we playing to the pedophilia market, here, or what?) but the boy can look like a dweeb.
This presentation reinforces certain bad ideas that are already too prevalent in our culture. That women are less talented and skilled than men (there are, in fact, a lot of highly talented and skilled actresses out there – they just don’t look like supermodels). That we women coast through life manipulating men with our looks, until our looks dry up, at which point it’s our just desserts to be discarded like a used tissue. That women trade sexual favors for great jobs and promotions (studies have proven that – surprise! – men don’t really give promotions to women who give blowjobs; seems to be a respect issue, imagine that). It’s a bit of a reach, but I can even argue that the beauty standard reinforces the idea that it’s okay to pay women 78 cents to a man’s dollar for the same work: I mean, we women have the wondrous option of marrying some poor scab and making him support us! Aren’t we lucky? How dare we complain about the status quo!
It’s interesting to note that unusually good-looking male actors and musicians tend to be ridiculed at least as harshly as women. In those cases, I suspect jealousy is involved, as there’s a very specific pattern involved: guy takes girl to movie, girl drools at actor, suddenly guy “realizes” actor is stupid, lacking in talent, and homosexual. Of course, I always point out that if the girlfriend likes stupid, untalented, gay men, what does that say about the boyfriend?
Also interesting to note: hot guys do not run the US, and I suspect they don’t run other countries either, but I’ll stick to what I know. Look at Congress. Look at the White House. This is because if wives drooled at the president’s hotness, voting hubbies everywhere would suddenly “realize” the president is stupid, lacking in talent, and homosexual.
And that brings us to where things really get ugly. According to the status quo, beautiful is the best thing a woman can aspire to be. If the best thing she can be is something that renders even men dismissable, it’s pretty obvious the “keep women in their place” glass ceiling is still alive and well. And now we have a whole generation of young women buying into it, heart and soul: they’re so desperate for entitlement, a sense of not being dismissable, that they’ve embraced their patriarchy-granted “entitlement” to get their breasts enlarged and give blow jobs to strangers as feminist progress.
Which reinforces the idea that there’s no reason for a female character to grace the screen, except to turn on men.