Growing up in the greater Los Angeles suburbs, where the influence of Hollywood is only a short drive away, most girls grow up with a sense of how to make oneself likeable, attractive (in appearance and personality) more importantly, likeable to people that matter. Or in a word commonly used by Hollywood producers to describe a sexually desirable woman: ‘fuckable’. Through subliminal and conscious messaging, girls from a very young age instinctively know what is attractive and what isn’t. Even people who don’t aspire to be in the Hollywood scene are heavily influenced by Hollywood’s sense of aesthetics, beauty and taste.
The actress Heather Matarazzo wrote a witty and poignant piece called ‘What the Fuck is Fuckable?’ She is relating an incident which happened to her when she was 19 years old. She was part of the development a film for two years, when they finally secured the financing for the film and two weeks before shooting was to begin, the director of the film met her a West Hollywood Starbucks to tell her that she was being let go from the lead role. He said it was the decision of the producers and not him, when she asked why, the director told her, “They say you are not fuckable”. Boom. The reality of how business is run in Hollywood hit her square in the face. It didn’t matter she was connected to this project for two years, spent many unpaid hours toiling to get the script right, calling thousands of people to get on board with her project, did countless waitressing shifts to cover the bills so she can make the film that she wanted to make. She was dismissed with a ‘you are not fuckable’ and was given a smaller role in the film instead. She didn’t have the heart to walk away from something she has worked on for two years, something she was passionate about, so she swallowed her pride and took the smaller role.
Being ‘fuckable’ in Hollywood is a commodity. Growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles area where I am far enough away from the glitz of Hollywood but still close enough to encounter it should I wish to immerse myself in the Hollywood scene, I can fully appreciate what it’s like to be told ‘you are not fuckable’. Heather Matarazzo describes her feelings as:
…ugly, disgusting, loser, failure, DISGUSTING…. That was the biggest word. It made me feel as though people wondered why I should even be taking up space. “Who the fuck are you to be taking up space on this planet you unfuckable fucking fuck?”
Hollywood has convinced most of America on how important it is to be fuckable, regardless of your profession or age. And being fuckable isn’t as obvious as it seems. It’s more than just your looks, body type and age. It’s an embodiment of a certain lifestyle, of having a certain x-factor. I have spent a good part of my youth, though I must say most of it unconsciously to remain relevant in my mind. It was not for any particular man out there, but I wanted to be relevant in my own eyes. So I was always trim, developed tastes for the right kinds of food and drink and adopted a fashion sense that was my own (I wore all black and I still do), it wasn’t that imaginative, but it was easy and it looked good on me and it suited my personality) and I wanted to be seen as smart so I read a lot. I wanted to know about everything so I educated myself by reading everything. I was different from most homebred California girls because I wasn’t naturally chipper and blond. I was opposite of the sunny California girl. I was blunt to a fault, sarcastic, caustic, self-deprecating and largely indifferent to what others thought of me. I honed this to perfection and it’s not too different from my nature. My version of being fuckable was to not be like every other girl out there.
Being fuckable loosely means a woman (girl) is generally sexually desired by others, mainly the opposite sex. There is something about her that elevates her from the ‘friend’ category to the fuckable category. And it doesn’t always hinge on looks, weight, height and body type. Some would argue the curvy actress Rebel Wilson is fuckable because of the sheer force of her personality but the stick thin actress with an Oscar nomination under her belt Anna Kendrick probably wouldn’t be considered fuckable. Besides being white, thin, sweet natured and good enough actress, there is no x-factor there, she blends in with the walls. Hilary Swank despite being the youngest actress to earn two lead actress Oscars, her career never took off in the stratosphere a la Julia Roberts or Scarlett Johansson fashion. Why? Because she’s not fuckable and she lacks natural movie star charisma (another factor in being fuckable). Her two Oscar wins were a combination of good acting, luck and clever campaigning by the studios. Arguably one of the greatest actresses of our time Dame Judi Dench spent the best years of her career toiling on the London stage instead of the more lucrative television or film, when asked why she didn’t venture into television and film sooner, she said when she was young, producers told her she wasn’t fuckable. Being a conservative Quaker girl, she didn’t quite know what that meant, she was after all, happily married. So she shrugged her shoulders and went back on stage to do her outstanding work. The American audiences didn’t discover her until ‘Mrs. Brown’. What a loss for the world.
My feelings about Hollywood changed with age. When I was in my early twenties, the glitz was too overwhelming for me and I knew I was never the Hollywood type nor did I wish to become one. I consumed too many carbs. I don’t like gyms or any crowded spaces with sweaty people. I didn’t wear industrial quantities of war paint and I never mastered the art of brown nosing, which is so necessary to get your foot in anywhere. I wasn’t willing to do anything to be noticed and I quite liked myself as I am and didn’t see the need to change. I ventured to Hollywood mostly to shop, meet up with friends, try new restaurants and on occasion people watch (or more like freak watch). I never watched a single movie in Hollywood or attended a movie premier as a fan.
In my thirties, my perception about Hollywood changed, I went there less frequently because I moved out of Los Angeles county when I got married. If I went to Hollywood it was usually for work assignment, job interviews or to try out new restaurants with family and friends. With the recent organic and clean eating food craze, Hollywood has adeptly rebranded itself at selling to us what is now considered fuckable. All those juice bars, organic restaurants, vegan restaurants, pilates studios, yoga studios, fancy membership only gyms, SoulCycle studios that are dotted on every street in the Hollywood area is telling people how to be fuckable now. It means you need to adopt (at least superficially) a clean living lifestyle. The Lindsay Lohan days of falling out of clubs drunk and your nether regions on full display are over. That is passe. Nightclub partying is still the cool thing to do, but to fall out of clubs drunk with your makeup smeared and you’ve got two friends propping you up as you stumble to your waiting car is no longer cool.
To be considered fuckable now, you need to be active in any one of the approved modes of physical activity (gym, yoga, pilates or SoulCycle), you need to eat organic, take up juicing and run 5 miles a day. What’s even better is if you do a magazine spread about it and how when you made an about face to your diet and lifestyle, career opportunities opened up for you too. Even the unapologetically plus-size actress Melissa McCarthy has recently dropped a huge amount of weight, she did so by adopting a healthier lifestyle. She knows she will never be the leading actress in a major blockbuster production, but if she wants to remain employed and get out of the funny, fat, best-friend rut, she needed to rebrand herself to be more fuckable and in her case, it is appearing to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Being removed from Los Angeles for awhile, I can appreciate the allure of Hollywood with a fresh set of eyes. It’s not just the glitz and glamour of the movie stars and the movie business, it’s the whole package they are selling. The eat good, drink good, feel good so good things will come to you philosophy has young people from everywhere coming in droves. The idea that if you rebrand yourself from the cornfed and milk-fed midwestern girl to a healthy eating, green-juicing and yoga loving California girl, you will have new career opportunities open to you. Especially with reality television shows all over the airwaves right now, anyone who is willing to be the most outrageous and obnoxious versions of themselves can be rich and famous, even if just for 15 minutes.
Many starlets and movie star wannabes now want to be seen coming out of green juice bars, healthy restaurants or gyms, not so much from the trendiest clubs and if they were coming out of clubs, they are to be photographed as being sober, freshed faced (even at 1 am) and all their makeup still applied. To make it seem all they did all night was sip on water.
Many accuse Hollywood of perpetuating or instigating racism, sexism, lookism, elitism, but do they really? Hollywood is first and foremost a moneymaking enterprise. Investors and studios spend millions of dollars making films not ‘art’, you can go to a museum for art. The aim is to make more money than they invested to make the film. Hollywood films simply reflect, magnify and exaggerate what they know to already be true in society. For example: fat, opinionated and outspoken women are generally disliked and reviled. This is not new, it’s been this way since antiquity. If you, as a woman, have the temerity to be fat and not do anything about it, you best learn when to keep your mouth shut and your opinions to yourself because no one wants to hear from a fat woman. The treatment of Rosie O’Donnell is very telling of this phenomenon. When she had her own talk show, she was the funny, sweet, jovial aunt next door, always ready to poke fun at herself, at the expense of herself. When she left her talk show and begun to speak her own opinions in her natural loud-mouthed manner, she became universally reviled as the fat woman with the loud mouth. So much so when Donald Trump openly bullied and fat shamed her, almost no one came to her defense, not even her boss Barbara Walters.
One the show ‘Empire’, actress Gabourey Sidibe was in a steamy sex scene with a slim, fit, young and handsome record producer on an open rooftop, audiences were revolted and were not afraid to express it. How dare a black fat girl have sex in the open with a slim and fit handsome man? Sidibe’s love scene immediately became a meme on twitter the next day. Jokes insulting her weight came quick and swift and they mostly ran along the lines of, someone like him would never want to be with someone like her. Gabourey Sidibe spoke up for herself and told the haters to get lost, but not many others did, especially producers or directors. If the genders were reversed, if the man was overweight but rich and holds a powerful position, and the girl is young, thin and attractive, no one would bat an eyelid. It would be considered as normal.
It is my observation that too many people ascribe too many ideals to Hollywood and the power it holds. Many expect Hollywood filmmakers to show tolerance for all types of people, to give equal opportunities to everyone, to be inclusive of everyone and everything. People expect Hollywood to lead by example because of the supposed power it holds. Hollywood’s so-called ‘power’ comes from the movie audience. It only has power if people queue up to purchase a ticket and watch a movie. Hollywood is a moneymaking enterprise, its goal is to turn a profit and it can only turn a profit if it produces what audiences wants to see, hence now we have a parade of mediocre comic book prequels and sequels.
What Hollywood’s idea of being desirable is what society generally agrees to be desirable as well. If we start with children in elementary and middle school, the popular boys are the boys who are athletic and show physical prowess in sports, the popular girls are usually the skinny pretty girls with no discernable academic or athletic talent. The children who actually accomplish at school what they are meant to accomplish and that is academic excellence, those kids are called ‘nerds’ or ‘social losers’. Of course the perfect combination is brains and athletic ability, but that is rare. Academically gifted boys are seen as nerds and social losers and academically gifted girls are seen as not fuckable, not attractive. We all have seen the smart girl dumb herself down to get the attention of the boy she likes or to get in with the cool and popular girls. Society doesn’t like smart girls and it starts young, in elementary school. Smart girls are consistently bullied, denigrated and beaten down until they lose all self-esteem and join the stupid herd.
The same is true in Hollywood. The Hollywood establishment, which mostly consists of men, don’t like women who are outspoken and demanding their fair pay and respect. Angelina Jolie was called a ‘spoiled brat’ by the top brass at Sony, for demanding the best resources be assigned to her movie. If she had been a man, she wouldn’t have been called a spoiled brat, she would have been applauded for demanding the best.
The trends in Hollywood is really a microcosm and exaggeration of the trends in society. Hollywood aims to copy and replicate what’s cool to sell tickets, not the other way around. If society decided that fat girls are more attractive and interesting than thin girls, all the curvy actresses in Hollywood will get all the plum roles. If society decided to celebrate the nice guy who finished last and in the end also got the girl by his nice and assuming manner, macho male roles in movies will be replaced by the unassuming Mr. Nice Guy.