Fireside Chat #14 (Spring ’06)

MODERN MOVIES PART II: BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE

A gorgeous brunette 30-year-old puts on a pair of glasses in front of the mirror. “You’re hideous,” she whispers to herself. When she shows up for high school that day, she trips in front of Dash Handsome, captain of the football team, and someone throws a sandwich at her. “Oh,” the audience says, “This high-schooler a social outcast. We’re not supposed to think she’s good-looking.” But she is.

This example is further proof of my thesis that movies are better than they’ve ever been: Beautiful people get every role nowadays.

You’d think that it would be a downer when gorgeous people make themselves look unattractive for their roles, but when Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron play ugly women, they get paid millions and win awards.

While it’s true that casting agents could have found a much cheaper ugly woman for the role of Virginia Woolf just by going to the park or Burger King, there’s no fun in that. If it is heroic for an average woman to risk her life to save her child from a burning house, surely it is even more heroic for a sexy woman to wear a prosthetic nose.

Actual ugly people are a harsh reminder of the world that we try to escape by going to the movies. This is something that the BBC has never quite grasped, and it may have something to do with why we pounded the British so hard in the American Revolution.

This trend has extended to animation.

Back in the day, cartoon characters were played by “voice actors,” potentially ugly nobodies with a talent for tailoring their voice to a character instead of the other way around. If you ignore the Silver Rule of Remakes and watch “Snow White,” you’ll be disgusted then bored when you don’t recognize the voice of a single dwarf.

When Disney cast Robin Williams as the hilarious genie in Aladdin, the floodgates opened up for Pixar and Dreamworks (Pixar’s idiot kid brother) to bring star appeal to a previously starless business.

“Shrek” may be the most remarkable example. You put the voice of Cameron Diaz in the mouth of a gross green ogre and somehow the ogre is easier to look at because we recognize the voice of a beautiful woman. We even become a little attracted to the ogre. That is, um, other people might, not me. (Cough.) Anyway, the result is, we pay Cameron Diaz millions of dollars and it has nothing to do with her dime-a-dozen voice and everything to do with her smokin’-hot bod.

Mel Gibson is “The Man Without a Face” but it’s okay because in real life his face is both intact and chiseled. Andy Serkis should count his lucky stars for having made it into the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. If Ben Stiller had played Gollum, he’d have won an Oscar for it.

As a movie star gets closer and closer to that perfect Platonic human form, we don’t care whether she’s in geometry class or teaching it. We’re just happy to get the chance to gaze at and listen to her for a couple of hours of our boring, homely lives.

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