Lately there has been an abundance of pathetic scripts and basic plots that makes me question how certain films get the green light.
When I go to a movie theatre I like to leave my worries at home, behind with my textbooks and all notions of school. However, like every human, I have my limits and at times the theme of “dumb blonde” or “sexual object” just gets annoying.
A few days ago I learned about the premiere of The Other Woman in Westwood and decided to give the wonderful Regency Bruin Theatre and the blockbuster hit a try.
I expected a silly, feel good movie with a few cringe-worthy moments, but also a few laughs. However, while I did enjoy watching the doltish playful moments and the “oh my god why would my husband cheat on me with someone like YOU” reactions, for the most part, the film was superficial.
The Other Woman is about a wife and a mistress conspiring against the two-timing a-hole that screwed them both over. When the high-profile lawyer Carly Whitten (played by Cameron Diaz) finds out that she has slept with Kate’s (Leslie Mann) husband, the two women team up to take down their adulterer. In the process of trying to bring down Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the women realize that he is cheating on them with yet another woman, a hot blonde named Amber (Kate Upton).
The two actresses immediately get jealous over Mark’s third love interest as she is youthful, beautiful, and has boobs that are hard to compete with.
However, the role of Amber, the young, “sexy,” well-endowed model, was not only superficial but also painful to watch.
Amber was a ditsy character first introduced in a slow-motion bikini-clad beach scene. I know, cliché right? Carly and Kate are both described as smart and witty characters but the script makes it seem that physical beauty, or in this case Kate Upton’s boobs, are more valuable to “the man” than what other women have to offer.
TV Tropes defines the Dumb Blonde Stereotype as,
“The stereotypical assumption that blondes are dumb. Perhaps no more than a Foil to the Brainy Brunette, but can also appear as The Fool, The Ditz, or even the Brainless Beauty… to a sweet, wholesome blonde whose lack of interest in education only shows she is more concerned about people.”
While Amber was not a foil to a brainy brunette, she did fall under quite a few of the defined conventions of the “dumb blonde.” The Other Woman not only externalizes Upton’s body, focusing on her boobs in almost every scene, but it also made clear that her character is as dumb as a rock.
There is a scene where Diaz, Mann, and Upton are together and Diaz says,
“When you put the lawyer, the wife, and the boobs together, you have the perfect killing machine.”
There is a level of respectability in being a lawyer or a wife. As a lawyer, an individual has chosen a career route and has established a form of identity. As a wife, there is a responsibility and a sense of pride and institution.
However, by referring to Amber as “the boobs” the script implies that individuals like Amber bring nothing more than their bodies as a form of mediocre individuality.
The role given to Kate Upton highlights the ignorant qualities that are associated with blondes. Instead of focusing on the humanistic positive aspects of blondes, the script uses Upton as a tool and dehumanizes her.
It is ironic that Cameron Diaz is a blonde but unlike Amber’s character, she is seen as an intellectual and progressive character. It is almost as if the script is implying that there are only two types of blondes, the educated and successful blonde like Diaz and the dumb, good for nothing blonde like Upton.
Personally, I believe that Kate Upton should not have taken a role where women and their intelligence is determined by their hair color. By taking the role of Amber, Upton is enabling ignorance and fueling the stereotypes of blondes.
However, there are a plethora of actresses who have worked hard to change the perceptions of blondes. These progressive actresses develop their roles in a way that exemplify their talents and traits instead of degrading them.
Unlike Upton, Marilyn Monroe is for the most part accredited with a positive adoption of the dumb blonde archetype as a means to fashion comic effect for her viewers.
Monroe was recognized as a natural beauty whose best friend could have easily been a camera lens. This strong talented woman was able to take the roles given to her and acted them in a way where her talents were epitomized.
Unfortunately, even though she is a strong talented and good example of the blonde archetype, Marilyn Monroe was labeled as a bimbo: an over sexualized victim of fame and glamour.
Women who play the dumb blonde archetype quickly become characterized negatively, especially when they climb the ladder of success.
Marilyn Monroe was intelligent; she knew her business and made her own decisions. Instead of being noticed as a sexual object, she should have been recognized for her bravery in regards to changing the status quo and doing whatever she desired with her own body – as she had every right to do so.
Sarah Churchwell, a writer and professor in the UK states that “The dumb blonde was a role” and Monroe “was an actress, for heaven’s sake!”
Churchwell’s frustration does not go unnoticed. Individuals have a way of critiquing successful attractive women by depicting them with traits and attributes that they in actuality do not have.
Monroe had an acting sensibility; she was able to take direction and create movie-magic but also had control of her sexual and personal life. Churchwell is right to be frustrated by individuals who fail to see the difference in playing a dumb blonde character role and being a strong free-willed individual.
Reese Witherspoon is another actress who develops the roles she plays to be seen in a positive light.Witherspoon played the dumb blonde role but gave the archetype a form of integrity as seen in her film Legally Blonde.
Legally Blonde follows the story of Elle Woods, who is seen as a sweet, love-struck, pink-loving blonde. While Elle is a playful gal who learns to woo men with her sorority secret “Bend and Snap,” she finds her way to Harvard Law School and not only tarnishes the stereotypes of blondes “lacking education” but proves to everyone that she is a character to be reckoned with.
Personally, I see Legally Blonde as a film that attempted to heal the misconceptions of blondes being dumb, and a way to describe women who appear “ditzy” or “brainless” as hidden gems who are more valuable than they may appear.
The role of Amber in The Other Woman was not as memorable as similar archetypal roles and did not leave as positive of a lasting effect.
Unlike roles given to Monroe and Witherspoon, where the dumb-blonde role plays to their strengths and are left as memorable characters, Upton’s role of Amber is demeaning and a ploy to attract those audiences members that admire sexualizing women instead of focusing on acting and talent, a truly sad pejorative for an actress.