Guest post by Rachel O (yeah, she’ll be a regular contributor very, very soon):
Despite the fact that’s she been acting since the age of 10, Ellen Page’s career didn’t take off until 2007, when she starred in Juno. Juno was an indie film that got huge, and Ellen Page became a well-known name. Her roles both pre- and post- Juno, have proven good women’s roles aren’t just as “hookers, victims, and doormats” as Shirley McClaine once said. She’s played everything from a young girl who turns the tables on an online perv in Hard Candy, to a kick-ass high school roller derby girl in Whip It.
While Juno raised some questions about its message, and inspired a lot of pro-choice/pro-life debates, I found the film undeniably Pro-Choice. It showed pro-choice isn’t just about having abortions – it’s about having options – whether it’s to have a baby, give it up for adoption, or get an abortion. When asked about the two opposing interpretations of the film, Ellen said in an interview just a week ago,
“I am a feminist and I am totally pro-choice, but what’s funny is when you say that people assume that you are pro-abortion. I don’t love abortion but I want women to be able to choose and I don’t want white dudes in an office being able to make laws on things like this. I mean what are we going to do – go back to clothes hangers?”
Page doesn’t just speak about women’s issues in terms of politics, she addresses the way women are handled in her business – Hollywood. It made headlines last year when the head of Warner Bros. announced they would no longer allow women to be the lead of their films, because women couldn’t bring in box office bucks. Whenever a woman-dominated cast does less-than-stellar at the box office, it is usually dissected. What happened? What went wrong? What does this mean for women in Hollywood and the roles actresses will get? Page has experienced this first hand. Whip It was a huge hit with critics, but only managed to bring in $4 million opening weekend. As if the above quote isn’t enough to make you love her instantly, when asked about what Hollywood is like for women,
“I think it’s a total drag. I’ve been lucky to get interesting parts but there are still not that many out there for women. And everybody is so critical of women. If there’s a movie starring a man that tanks, then I don’t see an article about the fact that the movie starred a man and that must be why it bombed. Then a film comes out where a woman is in the lead, or a movie comes out where a bunch of girls are roller derbying, and it doesn’t make much money and you see articles about how women can’t carry a film.”
As if that’s not bad enough, women in the media business are expected to look a certain way, and shamed, ridiculed, denigrated when they don’t. Even women who promise to be beyond the pressure give in and sell out. Personally, I think Page is gorgeous, but tabloids and gossip blogs aren’t about embracing beauty and making women feel good about themselves. Page admits she’s not beyond this pressure herself.
“I hate to admit it but, yeah. I definitely feel more of a sense of personal insecurity. I really try and smarten up when I feel that way but sometimes it does get to me. The fact is, young girls are bombarded by advertisements and magazines full of delusional expectations that encourage people to like themselves less and then they want to buy more things. It is really sad and it encourages the consumerist cycle. Boys used to have it slightly easier but I think they are now getting more of the same kind of pressure. Look at all the guys in junior high who think they should have a six-pack.”
It’s a little sad that reading an interview like this is such a big deal, because so few people in Hollywood are willing to express themselves in this way, and say these things in a public forum. Having just recently become media literate myself, it’s awesome to hear an actress I admire speak about such widespread but underreported issues. This summer, Ellen will be starring in Christopher Nolan’s new film, Inception. I feel confident the film, and her role in it, will be nothing short of amazing.