Monday, April 13, 2009

Through the Opera Glasses - 12 - Actors' Sexualization Versus Talent














When I work on my manuscripts, I often search out photos of actors whom I've 'cast' as my characters. It's quickly apparent that many actresses have highly sexualized photos available, whether or not their professional personas tend more toward intelligent film roles.

The same is not true for actors.

In a completely random search of the web, I was easily able to find these sexy shots of actresses whose work I really admire. With the exception of Meryl Streep! I had to really root around for the picture posted here.


Cate Blanchett















Jennifer Connelly















Julianne Moore
















Meryl Streep
















Emma Thompson















Kate Winslet










Actors are open to experience and exploration by nature, and many of these actresses and actors have appeared nude or partly nude for film roles. I wasn't looking for stills of those scenes - I was looking for photo shoots which portrayed actresses and actors as highly-sexualized.

As you can see, actors whom I regard as very talented and on the same level in their craft as the actresses above are not portrayed as sexily as their female counterparts. Here are the sexiest shots I could find for these actors:


Gael Garcia Bernal















Russell Crowe
















Johnny Depp
















Viggo Mortensen
















Clive Owen
















Mark Ruffalo













I've been wondering about this discrepancy for awhile now.

Do actresses still feel the need for validation through their physical appearance, regardless of their degree of talent?

Or do talented actresses have to be merely cerebral, or can't they be sexy, too?

Are incredibly attractive actors trying to downplay their sexuality? Do they equate sexiness with a perception that they won't be taken seriously?

What do you think?

Travis says that's a great word...sexualization.

Kelly theorizes that most women like the smoldering sexuality that is often found in the expression more than the amount of clothing found on (or off) men's bodies.

Anne warns that for actors being too good looking seems to limit their careers - they end up on soap operas.

Mike figures that actors and actresses define who they are by what they do. When they don't do it anymore, what are they?

Leanna reflects that, as an actress, the phenomenon of the dominant male gaze perpetuates a continually cyclical model and I am stuck in the midst of it.

16 comments:

Travis said...

Good questions! And that's a great word...sexualization.

Kelly Boyce said...

I think the difference is that the women are sexualized in the way men find women sexy (at least according to Hollywood) and that the men are portrayed in a way that women find men sexy. Most women like the smoldering sexuality that is often found in the expression more than the amount of clothing found on (or off) their bodies. That's my theory anyway. :)

Anne MacFarlane said...

I think for actresses, portraying themselves in a sexual way goes hand in hand with the need for actresses to be youthful. Sexy=Young. Once she's past that stage the career dries up. Not for every actress but for a lot of them, no matter how talented.

For actors being too good looking seems to limit their careers - they end up on soap operas.

Mike M said...

In people like these the only problem is they let ego drive their existance. That is a problem becasue they define who they are by what they do. When they don't do it anymore, what are they?

Julia Smith said...

Travis - any word with 'sex' in it has to be attractive.

Kelly - do you know how many pictures of the men I passed up that I thought were unbelievably sexy, when all they were doing was looking into the camera?

Anne - let's hope the baby boomers extend the youth=sexy equation into a mature woman category.

Mike - one of my favorite ballet dancers said that very thing in his retirement year (retirement for him being in his early 40's!) If he didn't dance, who was he?

Bobbi said...

I was doing great reading this post until I got to the photo of Johnny Depp - then I melted into the couch!

Hubba-hubba!!

sheila said...

Eweee, I thought that was Glen Close! (Cate B.) WOW.

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Hey Julia! Returning the favor, thank you for your compliments at my blog!

This is a great post.
I, as an actress, find this phenomenon both disturbing and fascinating. But the "Lens" of the dominant male gaze and patriarchy has always been focused on women on the opposite end of that lens, in a way that perpetuates itself. It seems to be a continually cyclical model and I am stuck in the midst of it, having to promote myself as an actress and author. As I'm not comfortable being scantily clad, thank goodness I'm writing historical fantasy and like to dress the part. ;)

Julia Smith said...

Bobbi - And Johnny is showing the least amount of skin!

Sheila - I looked for a sexy Glen Close photo shoot pic and nary a one was to be had.

Leanna - I made a point of twisting the male gaze around in my fourth year film at university. I'm very aware of it and am always looking for more female gaze films to appear. Not many of them around, even now.

Shelley Munro said...

Interesting, Julia. I'd never realized, but you're right. I think there's something in the sexy=young argument when it comes to women.

I have to agree with Bobbi. I gazed at Johnny Depp for a lot longer than the others.

Wylie Kinson said...

Excellent questions/observations, Julia.
I've given this one some thought (but can't make myself coherent ths early in the morning! LOL) so I'll just nod along with Kelly.

All the men seem to be in 'thoughtful' poses,... as if we find intelligence sexy. OMG - can it be? We want our men smart/powerful and our women stupid/sexy?

btw... you could have thrown us a bone and included Daniel Craig in his blue trunks :D

Julia Smith said...

Shelley - Johnny can't help seducing us all!

Wylie - LOL! I'll remember that for next week ;-)

Mojo said...

Sorry... did you say something? I was distracted by that image of Kate Winslet. What comes after OMG in the internet lexicon of abbrevimotions?

What Kelly said. Women are more likely to find guys sexy (or not) regardless of their state of undress. Guys, on the other hand, want skin! And hey, if you've got it, flaunt it right?

Julia Smith said...

Mojo - LOL!

Bri said...

I tended to believe that actors in recent years have moved towards pictures of a more sexual nature, but based on what I have seen here... Maybe not, or they are not moving there as quickly.

Opera Glasses said...

I suppose the perception of sexuality of men and women are perceived differently, which is expressed in the photos.