Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Seriously Good-Looking

Let me ask you all a question. What are the odds that an attractive actress or female singer would try to look unattractive in order to gain more credibility? I'm not talking about already established actresses that "go ugly" for meaty roles. For example, when Nicole Kidman wore the fake nose in The Hours, she was already extremely popular due to the overwhelming success of Moulin Rouge and The Others. Similarly, Charlize Theron only took on the role of an aesthetically-challenged murderess in Monster after she had made a name for herself in movies like The Cider House Rules. It is also important to note that anytime a beautiful actress dares to act without makeup or with some type of facial prosthesis, she usually becomes an Oscar contender. It's as if the state of being plain or non-glamorous is the biggest acting challenge of all. And when they go back to their normal, gorgeous selves, the media and general public all breathe a sigh of relief.

I'll rephrase my original question this way - How many female celebrities would play down their looks on a regular basis in an attempt to be taken seriously? If you answered anything but "zero", please tell me where you're getting your crazy ideas from.

The ladies don't do it because it would never work in our society. Women are expected to look as good as possible. As ironic as it may sound, Charlize Theron would have never gotten the chance to play an ugly character if she weren't extremely beautiful. If she actually looked like Aileen Wuornos, she wouldn't even be an actress, unless she made a career out of playing drug addicts and hookers in bit-parts on shows like Law & Order: The Revolving Door Unit. And yes, there are well-known actresses who don't fit the Hollywood definition of beauty, like Meryl Streep. But the difference is that she is what she is. She hasn't tried to enhance or detract from her looks in any way.

The reason I'm pointing this out about women is because I've noticed a trend with male celebrities that bothers me. They do what I just described; they try to downplay their natural good looks so that they'll be noticed purely for their talent.

The best example of this is Johnny Depp, one of the most ridiculously good looking people on the planet. I can understand why he may have balked at using his looks near the beginning of his career. He started out as a dreamboat on 21 Jump Street, a show that I watched religiously. He's never made a secret of the fact that he was unhappy there after the first couple of seasons and that he was miserable being marketed as a "teen idol". He took some quirky movie roles, managed to escape becoming the next Shaun Cassidy and made quite a career for himself. At this point, he has proven that he's one of our generation's best actors time and again. Now, it's one thing if the characters he plays are a bit off-kilter or require a few gold teeth. But why does he still show up at public appearances looking like some weathered, old homeless person? If the guy doesn't want to wear a tuxedo, that's fine. But how about a shirt that looks like it's been washed at least once? And how about picking up a comb, or at least running his fingers through his hair a few times? He knows he's good looking, we know he's good looking, why fight it? It's been 16 years since he put Officer Tommy Hanson behind him. I think we all know he's a good actor by now. We take you seriously Johnny. Honest. We don't hate you because you're beautiful.


I noticed this phenomenon again at a recent show I went to. I went to see Brian Vander Ark, who is the lead singer of The Verve Pipe. Apparently they're still together, but he's doing some solo stuff. I've always been a fan of TVP, but never had the chance to see them live so I figured seeing him would be the next best thing. He's got one hell of a voice. I won't go into great detail about the show because it's really not important to the topic at hand and it was a little disappointing. He still has an amazing voice, but I'm not sure many of the old Verve Pipe songs fit the acoustic setting. Anyway, here was a really attractive man who has a lot of talent, and he schlepped up onstage looking like Johnny Depp's next-box neighbor. All he was missing was a stick with a bandana on the end to carry his harmonica and a change of underwear in. I just kept looking at him thinking, "what the hell happened?" I've heard him speak of the music industry in a few interviews, as well as within the lyrics of some of his songs, with the contempt that you might imagine any artist would feel who had been embraced and then erased by the biz. I can understand if he's frustrated as far as how to position himself, and I can understand if he's tired of trying to appeal to the public's eyes rather than their ears. But to get tired of looking like someone who bathes or shaves once in a while? Does he suddenly think that looking like a hobo will propel him into superstardom? Or is he pretending that he doesn't care about all that anymore? I almost feel like that whole "I'm not trying" look is more phony than all the mousse and leather pants. I didn't go there to look at him, I went there to hear him sing. But his rumpled appearance actually distracted me more than if he had looked as good as he naturally does.

In the end, these efforts to look unattractive don't really work anyway. These men can look dirty, slovenly or just plain weird, but their faces are essentially the same. If they're truly hot, no matter what they do to themselves to try to cover it up, we still all know what's underneath. And if we're all still buying tickets to their movies or paying for their CDs, it obviously makes no difference. So why do they hide what God gave them? In a time when Extreme Makeover is touted as an answer to everyone's problems, this kind of thing seems like spitting in the face of anyone who's ever been held back by their looks. If it's for real, then fine. But I get the feeling that the whole "no image" thing is the image, and I think that's silly.

17 comments:

The Zombie Lama said...

I think you hit it on the head - it's not so much they do it to downplay their talent any, but more to do with what's "trendy".

The entertainment industry makes me sick. Or maybe I'm just jealous, I dunno...

Doggie Extraordinaire's Mom said...

Frankly, even when Johnny Depp is looking haggard and unkempt, he's still smoking hot! Not many people can pull that off and I think it has more to do with charisma than good looks.

Also, it's a matter of personal taste. LONG ago, I was watching The Perfect Storm with a guy I was dating back then. He said something about the disparity of looks between the men and women, but what he meant was that Diane Lane looked damn good, while George Clooney and Marky Mark didn't. I had to disagree. Strongly! The facial hair, grungy clothes, etc., all were attractive on them, contrary to what my date saw. Maybe it is the charisma factor. Maybe some people are just gorgeous no matter how "down" they're dressed.

Teri said...

the odds are zero. Because everyone knows that unattractive women don't get taken seriously. "Oh look, she's ugly AND dumb because she's ugly."

Bonanza Jellybean said...

Actually, actresses go up for Oscar when they play hookers too, so the key is to be an ugly hooker, right?

Neo said...

Becky - I was talking about something along these lines today at my job. How people are with talent vs looks.

Do you think Britney "oh my privacy," Spears would have hit if she was a dog?

Doubt it!

Lee Ann said...

You are right! If the women were really as ugly as the one's they are portraying, they wouldn't be actresses at all. I don't get it with the men. If you are that good looking, you don't really have to try so hard to maintain your good looks (they probably don't have to try as hard as when you try not to look too good).

An80sNut said...

I do have to say that you never see the reverse. You never see a haggard looking actor/actress or musician suddenly change their imgage by shaving, cutting their hair, getting a facial and a manicure. It's always the other way. I can see their reason for it though. It's tough to keep on top in the looks department when you have Joan Rivers watching each event you go to and rating how you are dressing. I think that I'd try to go in a plastic bag if I could.

BeckEye said...

Librarian, I agree with that point and mentioned it in the last paragraph. If a guy is good looking he can wear all the tattered clothes he wants and grow bizarre facial hair patterns, but he's still essentially going to look good. So why do they bother trying to hide it?

Hey folks, don't get me wrong...I'm not a fan of heavily moussed-up men. I like the messy hair look, for sure. And there's nothing wrong with the lumberjack/outdoorsman look. That's hot. But "hobo chic" is NOT.

Homer Jay said...

Wait, so when my wife chews me out for leaving the house looking like a bum, I can just tell her I'm down playing my natural good looks so the pre-school teachers will take me seriously? Excellent. I'll never shave again.

Alice said...

i always sort of resent those "oscars due to uglifying yourself because for the LOVE OF GOD that must have been harder to do than any acting in the world." i mean, don't get me wrong, i thought charlize did a damn good job in monster, but you're very right that it's just the act of "uglifying" that seems to garner an oscar nod, not necessarily the performance...

pia said...

Oh god I feel exactly the same way about Johnny Depp. Yes I watched 21 Jump Street for him, and always feel cheated when he looks ugly for a role

The Everglades said...

Yeah, you are right. We'll see what happens when Depp gets older than 65. Look at Burt Reynolds and Robert Redford. They've both had their faces pulled back in an effort to still look slick and handsome. And now they look scary. I think, as far as contemporary actors are concerned, you are spot on. I wish we could fast forward 20 years to see what 60 year old's Pitt and Depp will look like, and furthermore, what they will have done to their faces.

Blake

--josh-- said...

These guys are not trying to look un-beautiful. Disheveled is every bit the fashion statement that heroin chic once was. Johnny Depp isn't just disheveled; he's fucking perfectly disheveled. THat's probably a D&G bandana around his unwashed hair.

Bar Bar A said...

Yep - you hit the nail on the head again as Zombie said.

Oh Johnny D....how I love thee, even when you look crappeeee.

One thing about beautiful women that I have been noticing more is the Plastic Fake Look. True beauties (like Nicole and Charlize, etc) need make-up artists/hair stylists but they don't need plastic surgeons.

P.S. Will you do a post about fake boobs? Last night I was at a concert and just for fun was checking out all the chicks to see which ones had breast implants. Fake boobs are so OUT...why would you want fake boobs if everyone knows there fake? I don't get it.

Heather said...

I think as a sociaty we have "movie stars" and we have "actors". Ben Affleck is a movie star. Matt Damon is an actor. Tom Cruise is a movie star. Kevin Spacey is an actor. Once you get on that movie star path it's very hard to move over to the actor path and usually the only way to do it is to downplay your looks.

Johnny Depp is gorgeous. Always has been, always will be. But if he had allowed himself to follow the path they were trying to put him on as the pretty boy pin up he would be nowhere today. He would have fallen by the wayside like so many others of that species because we don't allow them out of that box. He is now considered one of the greatest actors of our generation. I'll take him looking like crap in order to see him act any day.

m00nsh1ne said...

Notice too that after the women are all done being ugly for their movies they work like hell to be gorgeous again! Example: Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones.

Anonymous said...

In one of Toni Collettes early films 'Murial's Wedding', she played an unnattractive, overweight girl. She was not very well known in Hollywood back then, yet she has still made a big name for herself. She has more recently had roles in major movies such as 'The Sixth Sense' and 'Little Miss Sunshine', so there are most definitely exceptions.

 

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