By Susan Lilley
Nah, super-starlet Jennifer Lawrence does not have leukemia, nor is she on a Lindsay Lohan-style spiral into shame and infamy. She will never lapse into empty Kardashian fame, because unlike anyone in that clan, she is prodigiously talented. She is at the top of her game at a ridiculously early age, and is currently a favored nominee for an Academy Award—for the third time! Her second round as Katniss in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” was, according to Manohla Dargis in today’s New York Times, “the first movie with a lone female lead to top an annual box-office chart since ‘The Exorcist’ 40 years earlier.”
And she is still under a quarter-century old.
So what is left for Jennifer Lawrence after winning her industry’s top honors and making more money than most of us make in 10 lifetimes? Plenty! And this is why my prayerful meditations will occasionally include the fate of this unbelievably impressive young woman that I have never met.
I want Jennifer Lawrence to change the world. She can do it. Like other world-class female talents before her, she can help push the boundaries women have lived with forever by just being her own powerful self. But she has to be strong. She has to find a way, as time goes on, to fight the culture’s reduction of female talent to a banal, dehumanizing rating system of how attractive she is to men.
Of course, there is no problem with her sexiness rating right now. But as Tina Fey pointed out in her hilarious and truthful book Bossypants, even a respected and experienced female talent in Hollywood is often evaluated by this or that male decision maker on the basis of whether or not he would fuck her. Never mind that she would be appalled by the very idea. This is how she will be judged and hired. Or not.
The buzz on Jennifer Lawrence is surely all very positive on that all-important fuckability index you find on Redditt and other sites where males of a certain ilk get to be as sexist as they like with the veil of humor or “satire” to protect them. But remember when Debra Winger was pretty high on that unofficial index? If you have seen the documentary on the double standard in Hollywood for aging actors, Searching for Debra Winger, you learned the fate of some of our most talented women. You don’t need a researched documentary to tell you that Michael Douglas will be able to play a romantic lead until he is 120 years old, but even revered female artists find a dearth of roles in their middle years, until the blessed day comes when, if they’re lucky, they cross into dowager countess territory. Or old bat-shit grandma, or ancient crone of the Druid woods.
Sure, some of these really old-lady roles are great, but there is a monstrous gap between starlet and dowager where women simply disappear in mainstream Hollywood depictions of our culture. When you look at the standard of acceptable femaleness projected to us constantly in our media, no wonder we have issues with aging!
Well, this is a familiar complaint, and no sense preaching to the choir who will take the time to read this. But I have high hopes for young, smart, tough women like Jennifer Lawrence.
I hope Ms. Lawrence becomes her own movie mogul, along the lines of Drew Barrymore and Goldie Hawn. I hope she becomes more powerful with age and even less classifiable than she is now. I hope she ignores this culture’s efforts to value her solely on sexual salability. And I hope she continues to find new ways to kick ass for many decades to come. Go, Jennifer Lawrence.