I was reading an AV Club blog post today that was sort of brilliant in many ways. Mainly, it (amzingly!) coherently pulled together two fairly common arguments going on in the IMDB comment area of the Dark Knight Page. I’m sort of in awe that the AV Club was able to pull this together from a mess of comments made by people who usually seem to be mentally imbalanced in some way (or just excessively insipid), but that because they because they did do such a great job pulling this together, they were able to have a little bit of analysis!
Anyway, the first argument was about the Joker’s questionable sex appeal to women, though very, very interesting, the second argument caught my attention a bit more. Namely, it was about how Maggie Gylllenhall’s looks are questionably not up to par, according to some people, to play Rachel Dawes in this movie. The hostility directed at Maggie Gyllenhall from some of the commenters is a little frightening, and also quite absurd, ranging from comments like “[It looks like] her face is falling off her head” to the nuanced “Maggie Barf Bags.” That doesn’t even make any fucking sense.
This reminded me of an piece I read last week by Sadie Stein of Jezebel, about “the SJP Divide.” In it, Stein examines the hostility directed at Sarah Jessica Parker’s looks. More specifically, she concludes the following:
After all, women react to her the same way we traditionally do to a conventionally beautiful woman, and this is very confusing to men. In a sense, we are defying them, creating a new ideal of sexiness that has nothing to do with male gratification…and this is obscurely insulting. If we disagree about what is fundamentally sexy, this becomes threatening, because the subtext of all sexiness is male attraction. To women, Sarah Jessica Parker is the actress who has shown women can be attractive without being conventially “pretty”. To men, this distinction doesn’t exist.
Though I can’t necessarily say that Maggie Gyllenhall is regarded in quite the same way as Sarah Jessica Parker, I think the hostility towards her from men is similar. It’s like this knee-jerk reaction to punish someone who doesn’t look, to paraphrase an IMDB commentator, like she just fell off the Barbie truck. And yes, I think most men (not all, but the majority, and definitely in a sort of status quo sense of the word) definitely find that threatening. It throws off their world order, in a sense. I think in their view, if Maggie Gyllenhall is cast as the love interest in the biggest male fantasy movie this year, and Sarah Jessica Parker is, arguably, the very embodiment biggest female fantasy movie of the year, it may just mean that women could possibly stop obsessing over conforming to a traditional beauty standard, and focus on other things…like how they’re second class citizens in relation to men.
Just a thought.