Songs for the Struggling Artist


No applause for the Ladies
June 7, 2014, 5:54 pm
Filed under: feminism | Tags: , , , ,

The Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast (which I love) will sometimes have two of its lead actors (Marc Evan Jackson and Paul F. Tompkins) answer questions from listeners. In an episode I heard not too long ago, they discussed something that I cannot stop thinking about.

Thrilling Adventure Hour often features well-known guest stars from TV and Film. Apparently, when they enter, the audience tends to applaud but it never applauds for the women the way it does for the men. Both Tompkins and Jackson were confused and distressed by this fact. They wondered: Is it that the women aren’t as beloved? Or is it just that the audience doesn’t recognize them?

I don’t have an answer, obviously. In addition to not having ever seen a live performance of this particular show, the psychology of an audience will always be a mystery. But I can’t help turning over the problem. Are women on TV and film less recognizable? Or said in another way: Are women on screen more alike than not?

Certainly, given the extreme standards of beauty in the Industry, women tend to fit into a very narrow band of physical appearance. There is less variety in body type, in shape, in bone structure even. And when there IS variety, make-up, hair and stylists do a great deal of work to even that distinctiveness out.

The actors that appear on Thrilling Adventure Hour don’t tend to be mega stars. Many of them are featured players on TV shows. You’d love them from Firefly or Freaks and Geeks, not from a movie blockbuster – and at this level, men are in a position to be distinctive character actors. They can look any which way. Every man can look different.

Women, however, are styled (and chosen) to be objects in pretty much every scenario. And as objects are often seen as interchangeable, they can be more forgettable, perhaps. So when a man from someone’s favorite TV show shows up, the audience applauds wildly, thrilled to see their old friend. They can be fat, thin, FBI types, Doctor types, Garbage Man types, whatever. And when a woman shows up, it’s not clear which TV show she was the girlfriend or wife on and thereby draws less applause. She might be familiar but not immediately recognizable.

Is this what’s going on at Thrilling Adventure Hour? I have no idea. But I don’t think the adulation for men and tepid applause for women is unique to that show. And I think it is really worth thinking about.

And, of course, I’d like to see the crowds go crazy with applause for the ladies, too.

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