Fri Aug 24, 2012, 12:19 PM
MadrasT (5,676 posts)
The Atlantic: "Why Do So Many Pretty Female Comedians Pretend They're Ugly?"
Excerpt from the article:
Diller's reign as the frumpish, clumsy queen of the underbrag was groundbreaking on many levels. She did, after all, prove that women with bad hair, bad cooking, and loud mouths could be America's sweethearts, too. She was an iconoclast, a refreshing antidote to the June Cleavers and Harriet Nelsons that had been dominating pop culture in the years prior. But Diller's trademark brand of hapless, self-deprecating, ugly-girl humor was based an invented set of shortcomings she didn't actually have. Which highlights a weird glitch in the system that still plagues women in comedy today: Why can't funny women be hot? Or accomplished? Or smart? Why do so many women with these otherwise highly valued traits have to downplay them to get laughs?
Diller was one of the first to disguise her sex appeal for the sake of her comedy, but she wasn't by any means one of the last. Many beloved female humorists, both now and in the past, have made the deliberate choice to highlight their un-sexiness in the interest of being funny.
And there's a disturbingly simple explanation for that. "You can't have people look at you and listen to you at the same time," says Gina Barreca, a professor of English literature and feminist theory at the University of Connecticut, with a laugh.
According to Barreca, young, attractive female comics in the stand-up industry have always been targets of sexualized heckling. Even today, "They still have people screaming at them, 'Take your clothes off!,'" she says, "or "'Shut up and show me your tits!'" Realizing this, Diller cleverly diverted masculine attention away from her looks by making herself ugly. "She took herself out of the sexual marketplace," Barreca explains.
Wow can I ever relate to that.
"She took herself out of the sexual marketplace."
It pisses me off that we have to do that -- underplay femininity and almost shun it -- in order to be seen ANY OTHER WAY.
Barreca says there's a line in the sand for women: On one side, there's too funny to be sexy, and on the other, there's too sexy to be funny. And trying to straddle that line, she says, doesn't often end well. For instance: If Fey had arched up against that laundry cart in full come-hither mode, or if Playboy had published those photos of Diller, she says, there would have been cognitive dissonance. "Women couldn't be attractive and smart, or attractive and funny," she says. "Attractive and anything else, really."
"Women couldn't be"... as if that's past tense. Seems to me that women still can't be attractive and anything else, really. If you package yourself as "attractive female", it's always, always about the looks first. Anything else that matters about you becomes secondary.
Link to article: Why Do So Many Pretty Female Comedians Pretend They're Ugly?
The whole article is worth a read. Lots of stuff about Phyllis Diller I didn't know. And a lot about Tina Fey to bring in the more modern perspective. (It hasn't really changed.)
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