It's Time to Change How We Write About Female Celebrities

July 8, 2016

Margot Robbie laughing at fuckboi interviewers in this month's Vanity Fair photographed by Patrick Demarchelier

They're people, not fantasies.

No doubt you've heard about the frenzy surrounding the recent Vanity Fair issue; specifically, the interview with cover star Margot Robbie. Since her breakout performance in 2013's The Wolf of Wall Street, she's captivated the world with both her talent and beauty, and with two more blockbusters coming out this summer (that would be The Legend of Tarzan and Suicide Squad) it's clear that Robbie is a sought-after celeb. And yes, I'm pretty sure everyone with eyes can agree that she's a knockout.

Look, I get it. I write about fashion and beauty all day, every day. I care about looks and I like beautiful things and beautiful people. Margot Robbie is one of those people. But even when I'm doing write-ups on celebrity style and red carpet recaps, I work really hard to applaud the talents and personalities of the women wearing the dresses instead of just commenting on the dresses themselves.

Unfortunately, Vanity Fair writer Rich Cohen can't seem to move beyond the looks, and his cover story on Margot Robbie comes off as condescending, misogynistic, and deeply unimaginative. Essentially, the whole piece is a trainwreck.

Patrick Demarchelier for Vanity Fair
Truth be told, if I met Margot Robbie for a lunchtime interview I'd probably freak out too. She's so pretty and cool, I'd scream internally as I'd wait for her to arrive. But by now I've had my fair share of celebrity interactions (ugh, typical LA, amiright?) and really, even if they're beautiful and famous, they're just normal people. You'd think a Vanity Fair writer would be a bit more blassé about being starstruck by now, and yet Cohen writes his profile on Margot Robbie as if he's a 16-year-old boy watching his first R-rated movie, with all the literary sophistication of a teenager too. The thirst could not be more real.

And so Cohen does what any annoyingly awestruck male writer would do to a beautiful woman: he romanticizes Robbie in the most condescending ways, complimenting her looks while simultaneously not-so-subtly bringing her down. "She is blonde but dark at the roots," he writes, suggesting that Robbie's possibly-dyed hair somehow detracts from her beauty, and also assuming that we aren't looking at pictures alongside her at the moment we read the article??? Later on he grills Robbie on her sex scenes, because of course. Other than some questions about getting rid of her accent for roles, there's little talk of Robbie's talents. Just sex and a very dull recap of Robbie's career so far. The article ends with Cohen comparing Robbie to Audrey Hepburn walking away, as in, her ass looks similar to Hepburn's. Classy.

Along with an incoherent rambling about how Australia is "just like America, only different" (seriously, this is a major thesis of Cohen's, and he seems to believe Australia is some distant planet from the past and not, you know, a totally normal country that just happens to be far away?) and some of the most atrocious professional writing I've seen in a long time—seriously, the writing is so dull and unsophisticated, I'm almost more offended by the writing skill of Cohen's than how he speaks of Robbie...almost...the whole piece reeks of immaturity and and unsophistication. I want to read about Robbie's many upcoming film roles, what it was like taking on beloved characters from fiction, what her hobbies are, not some man's creepy musings on her.

Patrick Demarchelier for Vanity Fair
I'm glad this article is getting the flack that it deserves, because it's unfortunately a pretty standard cover story on a female celebrity, and I'm rather sick of it. I've always been an avid magazine reader, but it's always irked me how celebrities are written about, women in particular. There's a weird way in which they are treated as both ethereal goddesses and down-to-earth chill girls, a contradictory mythologizing of women that in the end is just no good.

Writers always talk about the weird quirks of celebrities, their facial expressions, what they eat. I get it, they're trying to make the reader feel like they're sitting there at the lunch table at the new restaurant on Melrose with the starlet, establish a feigned kinship, but I'm telling you, knowing that Emma Roberts orders her cobb salad with dressing on the side but extra bacon* does not do anything to make me feel closely bonded to her. *I don't know if that's how Emma Roberts actually prefers her cobb salads or if she even eats cobb salads.*

This type of image-fashioning may have worked back in the day when the media crafted the personalities of celebrities, but now with social media celebrities are more than capable of controlling their own image. We know a lot about Taylor Swift's personality through her Instagrams and Tumblr account. I don't need some reporter to tell me how she baked a cake for her friend in an effort to make me understand Swift is a nice girl because I already saw it two months ago when Swift tweeted it. I want to hear Taylor talk about something we don't know! I want Margot Robbie to share what it was like to take on the role of Harley Quinn and what acting choices she made! I want Emma Roberts to tell me her favorite Chanel Oberlin lines and if she's ever going to reprise that character because Chanel Oberlin is like, the best. Give me their stories, not just their descriptions.

What's funny is that Cohen actually mentions the media's tendency to turn famous people into narrow archetypes, as if by mentioning this commonality he is above it, while really the whole time he does the exact same thing and attempts to place Robbie in the typical box of "beautiful but not completely unattainable celebrity" so that Cohen can oogle at Robbie while at the same time deluding himself into thinking he even has a shot with her. Sorry, Rich, but fat chance. And now we've all got you "pegged" as a massive creep. Bye.

What do you think about how interviewers write about female celebrities? I want to hear your thoughts!


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