We’ve complained almost every month recently about the Glamour covers with words faux-scribbled all over the cover; in all cases it competes with the cover subject. But who better to get Glamour to wipe off its virtual whiteboard (at least partially) than The Lady Witherspoon, a former Woman of the Year and perpetual reminder that working your ass off — be it modeling your own fashion line, starting your own media company, producing your own projects, or acting in them and other people’s — is, gasp, not a crime. I don’t know why that necessitates wearing a bathing suit, but honestly, somehow it manages to be beside the point: The massive faux-fur coat sits on her by design like a queen’s robes, and I really enjoy the plotty facial expression. Initially I worried it came across like she was unsure of something, but then I looked again, and there’s a defiant mischief in her face. She could be mentally writing a book pitch or planning whose balls to kick into next week or wondering how to greenlight more Progressive ads with Susan Lucci, and all of that is fine by me. It’s obviously intended to cast her as a conqueror, charting her next move. She’s Cersei without the cruelty; Dany without the dragons. (Or, in either case, the incest.) The scribbles bother me less used sparingly, and Reese is dominant enough on the cover that no weird font can bring her down.
Women have always gotten pushback for having opinions — and actors in general, too; there’s a weird line of ownership between the character on the page, the character as played, and how one influences the other — and Reese came up during a time when the rumor mills were especially fond of tossing around words like “difficult” or “particular” or “aggressive” or “anal” at any female performer who had the gall to expect the people around her would do their jobs professionally and well. One thing I’ve always respected and liked about Reese is that she fed on that rather than fighting it, even winking sassily at her reputation by naming her first production company Type A. She turned a chauvinist’s insult into her greatest strength, and her path to this place — she can pick, she can choose, she can create, she can proffer — feels very much governed by, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”
Her cover essay is all about ambition, a word she used to much applause in her 2015 Women of the Year speech, which was tremendous (we were there and I remember at the time thinking that her intellect is for real), and encouraging us all to embrace it and not tolerate people who treat it like a dirty word or something unbecoming in women. It’s a good piece, although I wish it dug a little deeper into what sound like genuine struggles to be taken seriously. This was the best tidbit, but I wanted more:
Some people are realizing that projects with female leads are big-time moneymaking commodities, but I’ve also had studio heads say to me, “We don’t want to make biopics about women,” or more simply, “We’re not interested in female-driven material.” (My first go-round as a producer with Gone Girl? Every studio passed but one. When the book hit number one on the best-seller lists, it was a different story.)
My only concern — and this is neither a criticism of her nor of Glamour — is that it’s preaching to the choir. The Glamour reader most likely champions ambition in women already. Theirs are the hearts and spirits to bolster, but not the minds that need to change. That’s also borne out by the excerpt above, and by this, which mirrors a complaint we’ve made in the past:
When any movie with a group of women starring in it doesn’t make heaps of money, the studio takeaway is that those types of films “aren’t working.” But the truth is not every movie works. It happens. If the director is a woman, she gets personally penalized too. It is definitely easier for a male director with a few flops under his belt to get another job directing; that’s not the case for women. Shouldn’t female filmmakers get as many shots as men do?
So while this article definitely belongs in Glamour because of the inspirational, buck-up-and-soldier-on good it can do, it also makes me wonder where else it could’ve reached more of the people who are still putting up walls. Who are intractable and archaic in their thinking. I don’t even know. Variety? GQ? Penthouse, if we’re being depressing about it? But that’s also being gendered. Yes, these roadblocks are largely male, but not entirely. Ambition doesn’t have a gender, and neither does sexism; chauvinism is not solely the province of the bewanged, especially if the job in question is rooted in sexist metrics. Clawing out of the morass, or even noticing you’re stuck in it, can be a challenge. So, studio employees, do us a favor and stick a dozen copies in the executive bathrooms. Male and female. Just in case.