Apparently there are two options for female actors in Hollywood: be thin and therefore successful, like Nicole Kidman, or be a character actress. At least, that’s what Amber Tamblyn’s agent told her years ago.
The 35-year-old actress recounted the incident in a conversation with the New York Times’ Jodi Kantor on Tuesday. She said that after the success of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, she was told to lose weight. “I think at that point,” Tamblyn said, “I was 128 pounds, and I’m 5’7″. I remember my agent saying to me, and she was a woman, ‘You have a real choice here. You can either be Nicole Kidman or you can be a character actress.'”
Tamblyn was about 21 years old at the time. “So if you look at that and use that as an example and imagine that for over two decades, forms of that from when you’re a child to all the way up, it does something to you,” she added.
The Two and a Half Men star used the Kidman comparison as an example of one of the violating experiences she faced in the industry. “They were always different forms of being shut out of conversations or being boxed out of different places in which I know my voice should exist or being told under certain circumstances I had to look a certain way or I was going to fail,” she told Kantor.
This isn’t the first time Tamblyn has openly discussed Hollywood’s beauty standard. In an opinion piece for the New York Times in January titled “Redefining the Red Carpet,” the actress recalled a director telling her, through an interpreter no less, to shed pounds and hire a trainer before a film.
“He said the film studio would provide a trainer and a meal plan for me and it would be great if I could lose roughly five pounds before we began shooting,” she wrote. “It took me years to find the humor in being asked to lose such a relatively minimal number of pounds through an interpreter. I was 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighed just 120 pounds. I remember this number precisely because five pounds lighter would make me 115 pounds, which is the number I ended up achieving after I spent two weeks eating only the deli meat off Subway sandwiches and skipping dinners altogether.”
The piece helped explain why actresses came together to wear black on the red carpet at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards as the kickoff for the #TimesUp movement — an organization she co-founded. Perhaps that’s why her debut novel Any Man is controversial.
Any Man is about a violent serial rapist — who is a woman — on the loose.
“I started to think about ways to resensitize people and the world at large to the conversation. But the initial seed of the book actually had nothing to do with that as much as it had to do with: What would it be like to create a female antagonist who was truly ugly in the worst possible sense and who was predatory and had no consequences in the same way predatory men often do not experience consequences?” she told the Washington Post. “That’s why the #MeToo movement is so revolutionary, because it’s actually said, yes, there are consequences for your actions.”
She can see why some might be upset.
“I think that some women might feel as if they’ve barely had a chance to tell their own story and hold space for that,” she said. “And that this might feel like one of their own — one of the most vocal people supporting women’s rights to tell their stories publicly is now focusing on the feelings and the experiences of men. So I can understand if that might upset people, but I think we need to hold space for all difficult conversations about who is really affected by sexual assault. I think we’re ready for it. Without the eruption of the movement, this book would not have been able to be received in the way that I hope it will be, because people are ready to have those conversations.”
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