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July 30, 2017 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Anne Helen Petersen on Charlize Theron: Theron still labors to get people to talk about what she’s reading, her craft, or her politics, instead of what she ate to gain weight or what she’s doing in her life... Theron has said that she’s “very attracted to characters who don’t necessarily make it easy to be loved.” But she’s only been able to refuse niceness, onscreen and off, because of her beauty: It’s the capital she keeps cashing in order to get interesting roles that will de-emphasize, or at least trouble, the privileges that attend being a thin, white, straight woman in today’s society."

Anne Helen Petersen on writing about Charlize Theron: "I spent the last two weeks deep in the archives of Charlize Theron, reading every interview and profile, reviewing her social media, and watching as many films from her past as I could — some of them weird, some of them deeply forgettable, some of them masterpieces, like Young Adult, which is so pitch-perfect in its evocation of late 2000s self-obsession and pretty girl privilege. These deep dives (a word I don't love, but what else describes them? Extensive explorations of a star's career and ideological meaning?) are one of my favorite things to do. In academia we call these "star studies," and it's a very easy format that requires a deceptive amount of time to complete. It seems increasingly important to "show our work" as journalists, or at the very least be diligent in explaining the tactics/understandings that journalists take for granted (see: anonymous sourcing). Most of this imperative to "show your work" applies to political journalism, but I think it also extends to online writing as a whole.
posted by ChuraChura (20 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Atomic Blonde is fucking awesome, and I want a future full of Charlize Theron producing more things like it. I also want an exercise class where they teach you to do all that shit. I don't even care that that's hilarious (and I think an actual parody in Bob's Burgers). TEACH ME TO DO ALL THE THINGS.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:41 PM on July 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

Love Anne-Helen Petersen and this article and I have just subscribed to her TinyLetter newsletter.
posted by mogget at 6:45 PM on July 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

The TinyLetter this week has a behind-the-scenes on how she writes these articles.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:53 PM on July 30, 2017

This was a really interesting article! Thanks for posting. A few fave lines:

She embraced what she herself called her “bitch phase” — playing deeply unlikable characters, villains, and literal ice queens. “I’m owning that market for myself now,” she told The Scotsman in 2012. “What a legacy to leave behind: 'she played all the bitches.'”


It’s Theron’s beauty that has afforded her the ability to refuse such dichotomies — and, like other broads before her, retexture the parameters of female stardom.
posted by aka burlap at 7:35 PM on July 30, 2017

(The TinyLetter is the second link in the post)
posted by ChuraChura at 7:39 PM on July 30, 2017 [5 favorites]

AHP is a really, really interesting character. For those of you unfamiliar, she left academia for the celebrity beat at Buzzfeed -- as in, that's her chosen platform. She's behind the Celebrity Gossip Academic Style Facebook account, and oh by the way her book Too Fat Too Slutty Too Loud just came out. And she lives in Montana. That is all. If I weren't on my phone I'd put more links in.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:08 PM on July 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

See, I've never thought Theron was particularly beautiful, at least not in the interesting way that movie stars are. But she's a star because of her ice queen demeanor. She's not likeable at all (on film, I'm sure she's perfectly nice in person), that's not something she fighting, it's her niche.
posted by fshgrl at 8:58 PM on July 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's late and I can't read all of this until tomorrow morning but I doubt the takeaway will be that Theron is the wrong kind of beautiful, but in a bitchy way.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:41 AM on July 31, 2017 [6 favorites]

Haven't seen her in anything other than "That Thing You Do" and (unmentioned in the article) "Cider House Rules", and bits of "Italian Job" the eight million times it's shown on AMC, but I've long put her in the strong, smart acting camp with Davis, Bacall, and Hepburn. I'm disappointed that for some that's code for "bitch", because I've always taken it as "damn good at what she does". Similar actor not in that category? Scarlett Johansson.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 3:11 AM on July 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

I liked the article, and it ends on an interesting note about inclusion -- as she transitions from acting to producing, what roles will she create and what doors will she open? She sounds very self-aware about the issues involved; it will be interesting to see how she answers that over the coming years.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:47 AM on July 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

She's not likeable at al

posted by schadenfrau at 5:49 AM on July 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'm pretty sure "likeable" doesn't have anything to do with talent or artistry. Nor, for that matter, does "cool." This seems to be a thing that is taken for granted about men. I look forward to the day when women are allowed to be neither and create characters that are neither on screen, on stage and on the page.
posted by thivaia at 6:01 AM on July 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was unaware of Anne Helen Petersen before this, and these two articles sent me in search of more. I like what she does a lot, so thanks for the introduction, ChuraChura.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:38 AM on July 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

Excellent links, thanks for the post. I just want to emphasize a line that was elided in the pull-quote above:
Today, Theron still labors to get people to talk about what she’s reading, her craft, or her politics, instead of what she ate to gain weight or what she’s doing in her private life. She continues to fight the idea that the private lives of female stars are not only public property, but take precedence over whatever they do onscreen. For that, she’s been labeled a bitch, a diva, and an ice queen.
For not wanting to talk about her private life. I agree with GhostintheMachine above: I wish we could all just talk about her strong, smart acting and skip all the "bitch" stuff, because it's basically sexist bullshit.
posted by languagehat at 7:16 AM on July 31, 2017 [10 favorites]

First thing I saw Theron in was Monster. Suitably impressed.
posted by flabdablet at 8:59 AM on July 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

Theron seemed charming enough during her recent interview on The Late Show.

Nthing Monster... and the callback in Arrested Development.
posted by porpoise at 3:51 PM on July 31, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was struck by a recent Atomic Blond review where the reviewers said the movie wasn't good because Theron wasn't "warm" enough.

Ever since then I've been marveling every now and then at how covertly sexist that is. Is Batman "warm"? Is James Bond "warm". Is Jason Bourne "warm"? Most action heros aren't "warm". They're tough and cool and badass and capable. Fuck "warm".
posted by Deoridhe at 12:05 PM on August 1, 2017 [12 favorites]

Just saw Atomic Blonde. And no, she was not "warm." What a dumbass thing to say. She kicked massive ass and it was all around pretty great and she was great in that role. There were lots of things to like about that movie.
posted by amanda at 9:12 PM on August 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

Highly recommend her episode of "Between Two Ferns." She's the perfect blend of warm and bitchy.
posted by punchee at 7:21 AM on August 3, 2017

I was struck by a recent Atomic Blond review where the reviewers said the movie wasn't good because Theron wasn't "warm" enough.

That's idiotic, I agree. She's not a Julia Roberts type actress who just smiles a d charms everyone. She's got that toughness and cool blonde thing going on and all her best roles play off that.

When I say she's not likeable on film, she's not for a movie star. You have people like Cameron Diaz who are SO likeable onscreen that they have a hard time getting roles that aren't playing to that. Then you have the stunningly good looking Angelina Jolies who cannot successfully play a normal looking person believably. Everyone has their thing and Theron's is tough, cool blond for the most part.
posted by fshgrl at 5:07 PM on August 3, 2017

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