Sunday, January 28, 2007

I'm No Actor

And I never would be. I could take an acting class and act. But I still wouldn't be an actor.

I'd be an actress.

I'd also never be a comedian. I'd be a comedienne.

I'm watching the SAG awards and it opened with AA style confessions from a selection of talent, each ending with "I am [your name here] and I am an actor." Of the several women who shared stories of their thespian roots, only one, Shirley Jones, said "I am an actrees." Even Jada Pinkett Smith, who said from her first production of Wizard of Oz at age 3, she wanted only to be an "actress" said "I am an actor."

Here's my beef: I get that female thespians are seeking Hollywood parity and have decided that a good way to help that struggle is to reclassify themselves with their male peers. But that reasoning is predicated on a belief that identifying something as feminine - or just female - in nature makes it per se inferior. Why is an actress less than an actor? Why is the term actor more worthy of respect than the word actress? The chances of rising to positions of power in Hollywood - on screen - don't seem as gender-dependent as in other fields (like comedy, which I'll get to in a minute). Off-camera, sure, that glass ceiling may be cracking, but it's still there. But studio executive doesn't come in gender-specific variations (not like we call people studio executors and executrixes - is that how that is made plural? whatever). So what gives? Be a damn actress if you want to be. Or be an actor - but not because you think the word will entitle you to increased respect. If they want to get you down, the lack of "-ress" won't stop them.

Now, for comedians/comediennes, the distinction may have a substantive as well as an illustrative usage. The same argument applies from above: presuming that using the feminine version of the word decreases its value or respectability is offensive nonsense. However, when it comes to funny, men get more respect. They get more stand-up specials. They get more HBO specials. They get to be correspondants on the Daily Show more often. Guys are cooler, funnier. Of course they aren't really cooler or funnier, but they are allowed to be and are reinforced as such much more often. This is why a mediocre talent like Sarah Silverman gets a show and an abundance of ink spilled over her (oh, and I totally mean that in a vulgar way, because that's what they do) in Entertainment Weekly. Well, to be more specific, Sarah Silverman gets it because she's *pretty* and funny - and usually only fat or ugly girls get to be that funny.

(That's a gross generalization - there are many gorgeous comediennes, but I still have a point.)

I digress.

The message here: actress isn't a slur. Neither is comedienne. I'd rather be either than an actor or comedian.

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