Movie Mix

Hollywood: Not a Good Place for Women With Opinions

Katherine Heigl regularly speaks up about sexism in Hollywood. For that, she is labeled ungrateful and her career has been declared dead.
What is it about beautiful, opinionated women that makes all of Hollywood (especially the media) want to scream? I guess I shouldn't be surprised, it's not like berating women for speaking up is a new practice. If memory serves me correctly, both Jane Fonda and Barbra Streisand got handed a very large can of whooping ass for expressing their personal and political opinions. In Hollywood, you can be a do good political persona a la Angelina Jolie, but having an opinion that might call Hollywood on the carpet, that's a no no.

The person in the center of the current "everyone in Hollywood hates me" storm is Katherine Heigl, star of Grey's Anatomy and 27 Dresses. You might recall that earlier this year she had the gaul to say that Knocked Up was sexist (which it was), and for that honesty she was labeled ungrateful and her film career was declared dead. It's a good thing her fans didn't get that message because the gross of 27 Dresses was $76 million in the U.S. and almost $160 million worldwide.

Recently, she had the nerve to decline to submit herself for Emmy consideration and publicly mentioned that she felt her storyline this past season was unworthy of recognition (another truth.)

Everyone pounced calling her ungrateful (again) and adding that she wants out of her TV contract to make movies. Rumors surfaced (everywhere) that the writers and producers were upset and that the set was full of tension. Many a site began the Izzie death watch. The venom that was displayed was way over the top. People didn't just want her to get fired (for giving an opinion no less) -- they wanted her character to die. That's the lesson a woman gets for speaking out about something that honestly is not really important at all -- an Emmy award nomination -- yet people want to punish her in such a profound way. Extrapolating this into real life, if a woman gets punished for speaking out about something as trivial as an award nomination, imagine the message the rest of us get about speaking out about issues like equal pay, choice, rape ... you get the picture. The message is to shut up and take what you got and don't make waves cause you will be punished. Sound familiar?

It took a while but finally one of her co-stars Chandra Wilson (Dr. Bailey) found her voice and explained to us lay people about the Emmy nomination process. You really need have had a spectacular episode to submit. Some years you have one, some you don't, and if you don't you shouldn't bother submitting.

I didn't find another person in print defending Heigl until I read Mark Harris' column in EW. Harris is the author of the critically acclaimed Pictures at a Revolution. I meant to give him some props for his earlier column that took it to the Hollywood suits for their pathetic realization that women do go to the movies after the success of Sex and the City. Please check out the story: Hollywood 'Shocker': Women Go To Movies.

But his defense of Heigl and women in Hollywood is fantastic. I'm still shocked that there are so few people willing to stand up for this woman? Where are the other Hollywood actresses?
Could there be a worse career move for an actress than telling the truth?
Little has changed, except the coarseness with which celebrities can now be discussed -- and the rules actresses must obey. Among them: Have a ''positive body image,'' but also a killer body. Stay within the two-pound weight range that will not reveal you as either anorexic or a pig. Age gracefully, but never get older. Don't have wrinkles, but don't use Botox. Be modest, but when you win an award, weep as if a gold statuette is a personalized gift from heaven. If you get pregnant, be prepared to let a dozen news outlets act as your ob-gyn. Express concern about your carbon footprint, but don't be ''political.'' Talk about how living a normal life is important to you, but smile while every aspect of it is scrutinized.
I like Heigl because there seems to be a person in there, one who occasionally says things that people can't stand. (And really, if she'd said, ''Actually, I do think my material should get me an Emmy nomination,'' would that sound better?) I like the fact that she busted Isaiah Washington for homophobia when everyone behind the scenes at Grey's Anatomy was busy staring into space. I like the fact that she gently tweaked Judd Apatow for the slight gender imbalance in Knocked Up. I like the fact that her first thought after winning an Emmy wasn't ''How can I get another one?'' And I like the fact that her mouth -- which is not even slightly ugly -- is connected to her brain. "Katherine Heigl's 'Grey' Matter: What's the Problem?" (EW)
The treatment of Katherine Heigl should be a lesson to all women, and not just in Hollywood. We need to stand up and support each other.
Melissa Silverstein is the writer and editor of Women & Hollywood.