Confession: I don’t watch movies. In fact, I hate movies. Whenever anyone asks me if I want to watch a movie, my immediate response is to punch that person in the face. Maybe you think I’m exaggerating. The beau has had his nose broken five times.
All this is to say I don’t know much about movies, or the celebrities who are cast in them. Or celebrities in general, really. Which naturally leads us, as it does, to the one celebrity I seem to be marginally conscious of: Brooklyn Decker. It’s appalling to think that there was once a time in the not-so-distant past when I did not know a person named Brooklyn Decker even existed! Fortunately, the intense kinship I felt with her during the brief half hour I thought her name was Lyn Decker has forever seared her name indelibly into my squishy grey matter. This has helped, too:
I know what you’re thinking: that cover? Again? Seriously? This is the third time you’ve slapped that thing up on your blog. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were fishing for new male readers. What gives, man?
What gives? I finally read that article, man. In Esquire. The one about Brooklyn Decker.
And guys, it’s bad.
Here’s the premise. Our author-hero, Tom Chiarella, goes over to Brooklyn’s apartment in Brooklyn (meta!), New York, where they talk and she cooks him a chicken dinner. Mr. Chiarella — do you think I can just call him Tom? Do you think he’d mind? — then attempts to summarize her physicality and personality in just under 3,100 words. He attempts to get a handle on Who Brooklyn Is. To allow the reader to step into his shoes and experience Brooklyn for himself. Tom is selfless like that — only the Lord’s work will do for Tom.
Along the way Tom makes a variety of statements that I found… interesting. I found them so interesting that I actually dug out a highlighter and spent the better part of an hour bathing large swaths of text in yellow. For the sake of brevity, I’ve limited the quotes to the following selections. Should you desire to read the entire article, here’s the full text.
Light of heart and unexpectant, she gives the impression that being present is easy, that passing time talking with a man she doesn’t know is exactly what she wants to do on a Friday night in New York. She makes her little salad. What do I like? What do I not like? She even seems a little curious about my preferences. I’m cool with whatever, I say. I can handle anything she dishes up. But Brooklyn doesn’t cook like that. She doesn’t want to disappoint. She just wants me to like it. There is no protest or resistance in her voice. It’s just something she can do.
Oh, hello stranger! I am only too happy to acquiesce to your needs. Please tell me what your needs are! I am here for them. No, no. Really! I wouldn’t want to disappoint.
At twenty-two she married Andy Roddick, the only appealing American tennis player with gonads. Young, right? She was then merely a swimsuit model and may in fact be only that now: known for her frame, for her confident carriage in body paint, for the slope of the back of her legs, for eyes that issue the command Get over here. And the breasts, ah, yes, always the breasts. It’d be foolish, and a little dishonest, to mention her history of swimsuit modeling, to allude to the Sports Illustrated cover and to the myriad catalogs of her image on the Internet without mentioning her breasts. They are not much evident tonight, here in the kitchen. She plays smaller in her own space, in a sweater and jeans like a lonely college girl, the kind who keeps her body a secret. But there they are. Have a look. She does not mind — she can’t. Fill in your own simile. Just don’t make her less than her whole in so doing.
Less… than her whole of what? According to Tom, her whole appears to be limited to a smattering of body parts. It’s okay though, she’s merely a swimsuit model. She cannot mind if she does not have one.
And here, let me say: When a beautiful woman thanks you, voice all low with modest surprise and whispering tonal modulation, it gets a man past a lot of impossibility. For a minute, it seems as though she might really value the sentiment, which ups the ante on whatever is said next. What I do is I start talking — explaining and over-explaining what I thought of the rough cut of the film I just saw, as if my opinion mattered. About there, Brooklyn Decker starts the cutting of the avocado. She listens.
“The problem is, your character is likable and the people in the movie treat her in the most unethical way. They just kind of use her.”
Brooklyn looks right at me then. She can establish — and hold — a gaze without much effort. “So you hurt for her then?”
Not exactly. She was being conned. But I find myself nodding. My obligations to her beauty have become overwhelming. “Yeah.”
“That means I did a good job, right?”
“Good job” is something you tell a kid at soccer practice. And rhetorical questions, asked by a woman whose hair is the kind of blond that feels like the mother of everything blond, are generally not worth answering. But yes, good job, for what that’s worth.
Sounds like not much! Also, beautiful women make men lie. Men really have no choice in the matter, you see. Are you guys taking notes? Also, what does the mother of everything blond look like? Barbara Eden, do you think?
Okay. I can maybe ignore the fact that it’s poorly written, but I can’t forgive the patronizing tone. The ultimate takeaway, here, is that Brooklyn Decker isn’t actually a human. She is simply an empty vessel for a male reader to fill with his own collection of concepts about idealized womanhood: childlike, caring, demure, sexy, approachable, warm, attentive, quiet, domestically inclined, eager to please.
In other words, not a real woman at all.
Time out. I could have ended this post here, and I almost did. But something bothered me each time I scanned through these words. Some voice inside me kept asking: “So?”
So what? It’s a fantasy version of a woman written for men who are in the mood to fantasize. Is there anything wrong with that, really?
Well… here’s the thing. Let’s flip this script. Let’s say I’m a heterosexual woman writing about a heterosexual man. A male swimsuit model. He’s merely a swimsuit model, known for his frame. Let’s say he even makes me dinner. He cuts the avocados just like Brooklyn did. So I write the same piece, only plugging in the variables with classically masculine concepts of manhood — strength, confidence, virility, problem-solving, aggression, and so on. Does my final article read anything like the above?
No. Not even close. Why? Because a fantasy man is idealized for knowing how to serve himself, and a fantasy woman is idealized for knowing how to serve a man. In order to write that same piece, I’d have to truly believe I was superior to my interview subject.
There’s not a word in that damn article that suggests Tom has one ounce of genuine respect for or interest in Brooklyn, outside of What Brooklyn Can Do For Tom.
As a woman, I can’t help but have a problem with that.
So, Mr. Chiarella, if I could somehow establish — and hold — a gaze with you through the internet, I would. And once I had gazed at you just long enough to have you feeling a little unsettled, I’d tell you this:
Good job, for what that’s worth.