Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Following up...

Following up on my last post ... I just spent a weekend watching Disney Channel with my little sister and it really got me thinking about a lot of things.

First of all, there are some really positive images of young girls on TV these days when it comes to children's programming. Ok, so I haven't really been watching a ton of kids' shows besides stuff on Disney since that's what my sister likes, but from what I've heard, those are the shows that are all the rage for that age group right now. And what I have seen has been good. First of all, there is Hannah Montana, which is arguably the most popular show and which I mentioned in my last post. In my opinion, from what I've seen, it is very positive. The main character Miley, who "moonlights" as Hannah Montana, is a really good kid. Each show seems to showcase some type of lesson about being honest, fair, accepting, etc. And when she transforms into Hannah, she seems to be okay as well. Sure the outfits she wears are really sparkly and everything, but she doesn't seem to be sexualized like many of the young pop stars.

I think back to Britney Spears, who was only slightly older than Miley Cyrus when she released her first album. Her first single "Baby One More Time" was accompanied by a music video of her dressed as a sexy schoolgirl, an image that is still well-known today. Although people claim that she went from wholesome to hypersexual, I would argue that she was never wholesome. This picture of her is from a 1998 tour she did with NSync, when she was only 16. Compare it with the photo of Cyrus, who is nearly 15 herself. Christina Aguilera, also close in age to Cyrus when she released her self-titled first album, gave us "Genie in a Bottle" where she proclaimed, "My body's saying let's go" and "you gotta rub me the right way" and where she rolled around sexily on a beach. Currently the singer Rihanna is a big hit with her single "Umbrella." The music video for this song involves her dancing around in some skin-tight, leather number that leaves little to the imagination. She is all of nineteen. Next to cases like this, Cyrus is like a breath of clean air -- even if that air has been purified by commercialized Disney pop. Her lyrics and dancing are clean while her outfits actually cover her body. I know I probably sound like I'm about 80 years old, but there is something extremely unsettling about seeing eight-year-olds imitating hypersexualized teen pop sensations. There is a reason why kids are engaging in sexual activities at younger and younger ages. The "tween" generation is in desperate need of alternative images. And luckily there are a few to go around.

In addition to Hannah Montana, another popular Disney show is The Suite Life of Zack & Cody. This show is about twin boys living in an upscale Boston hotel with their single mother, who works there as the headlining singer. The show also follows the lives of other employees of the Tipton Hotel, such as candy salesgirl Maddie Fitzpatrick (played by Ashley Tisdale) and the owner's daughter London Tipton (Brenda Song). While London is rich and beautiful, she is also not very smart. Maddie, her best friend, is portrayed as very hard-working, intelligent and outspoken. She cares a lot about environmental issues and aspires to attend law school. She is also the sensitive and caring character. Throughout the media's history, strong and intelligent women have often been shown as cold or ruthless or socially awkward. Maddie, rather, is shown as the character that girls should strive to be like.

Here is a clip from an episode where Maddie has to act as London's brains in order to help her impress a National Merit Scholar.

Another Disney phenomenon has been High School Musical, a Disney Channel original movie released in 2006, with 7.7 million viewers tuning in to its U.S. premiere. This movie also does a lot for positive images of girls on television. The leading female character, Gabriella, is sweet and pretty albeit somewhat shy. She is extremely intelligent, having won numerous scholastic competitions in the past. In the movie she is part of the scholastic decathlon. During one scene, other members of the decathlon are trying to convince her to forget about Troy (the male protagonist of the film). Her friend, Taylor, says to her, "Our culture worshipped the aggressor throughout the ages and we end up with spoiled, overpaid, bonehead athletes who contribute little to civilization other than slam dunks and touchdowns" then reminds her, "But the path of the mind, the path we're on, ours is the path that has brought us these people" and proceeds to show her images of Eleanor Roosevelt, Frida Kahlo, Sandra Day O'Connor, Madame Curie, Jane Goodall and Oprah Winfrey. She states that the side of education and accomplishment is the future of civilization. And all of this coming from a cute young girl (who they later show having a romantic interest for one of the other leading male characters) and not some evil, castrating bitch. In fact the entire movie itself is about nonconformity with lots of gender deviations -- the male lead, Troy (Zac Efron) is afraid for his basketball pals to discover his hidden desire to be in the high school musical while Ryan, the guy who is usually the male lead in all the musical productions is caricaturaly stylish and effeminate. In the song "Stick to the Status Quo", various students reveal secrets, such as one basketball player who bakes and dreams of making the perfect creme brulee.

Back to Hannah Montana, one can see all of this reflected there as well. Firstof all, education is put as a top priority in various episodes. In one, Miley's father tells her that her European tour will be canceled if she doesn't get her grades up. In another one, she is not allowed to go out all weekend because she must study for midterms. Her best friend Lilly defies gender norms by being great at sports, a skateboarding champion and hanging out with the guys. In one episode, Miley tries to get Lilly to act more "like a girl" in order to impress a guy. In the end, the guy reveals that he liked the old Lilly much better, showing that there are lots of different ways that one can "be a girl." Their other best friend, Oliver, is often doing girl stuff with them and while he sometimes frets about his masculinity being threatened, he shows that he can be a normal guy and also do "girl stuff" with his friends. Miley's dad, who is raising his kids on his own, cooks, gives his daughter advice, talks about what hair products he uses and after he and his son go work out one day to be more "manly" they quickly cave and go bathe with floral scented bath soap.

Beyond Disney Channel, there are other examples as well, such as the one I mentioned in my last post -- Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series. As I said, Hermione is depicted as not the smartest girl in the school but the smartest student. She is also able to apply her intelligence and logic in dangerous situations, she stands up for others and what she believes in and she remains extraordinarily courageous throughout the series. If one goes through and reads the seven books, the trio's success would probably never happen without Hermione's cool wit.

But the problem is that while many of these images are available to young girls, their positive influence does not seem to be lasting nor does it seem to be universal. One only needs to step into a store such as Libby Lu which is like Hannah Montana on crack, with little girls doing runway shows with belly-baring outfits and headsets. I nearly passed out the first time I went into that store ... I would be ashamed to bring my little girl to a party at a place like that. It is not children's programming that is teaching young girls how to dress, dance and act provocatively. It is artists and shows that should be aimed towards older teenagers and adults, which for some reason seem to have a greater impression on youth. Furthermore, there is still an incredible drop in self-esteem for girls around the age of 10 or 11, when they begin to perform less well in school and feel less comfortable acting like an individual.

I think there are a few reasons for this. First of all, networks such as Disney channel are on cable. Network television does not have as much positive programming in my opinion. There is PBS, but unfortunately perhaps due to rapidly decreasing funding, the shows on PBS are aimed mostly towards preschool and early primary school children. Secondly, the target age for shows such as these seems to be shrinking. Kids as young as 9 or 10 are watching shows with mature content, which I think is inappropriate. Parents need to take more responsibility in monitoring what it is that their kids are watching. Devices such as Tivo are finally creating this possibility, so I think it is time for adults to really step up. Twelve or thirteen years old is not mature and not anywhere near adulthood. There is no reason why girls that age shouldn't be able to still watch shows such as those on Disney. But for many, these shows seem too juvenile and instead they're watching some crap like The Next Pussycat Doll which touts itself as empowering to young women but which is really females trying to see who can act like the biggest sex symbol.

It also doesn't help that adults don't give much credit to anything that is clean and not laden with sex. Kids and teenagers listen to the radio a lot. I know that I listened to it a whole lot more when I was younger than I do now as an adult. And what is on the radio? Songs with lots of adult content. If the radio is for everyone to listen to, they should include songs that everyone can listen to. I was just reading a Washington Post article recently that discussed how although Miley Cyrus has had two albums debut as #1 in the U.S., her songs have gotten no play on the radio. The article also cites other acts such as The Cheetah Girls and Aly & AJ, whose CDs have been reaching platinum and multi-platinum levels but have been locked out of the Top 40. They also mentioned the High School Musical soundtrack, which was the best-selling album of 2006 (sales hitting the 4-million mark) but got no radio play. One radio consultant said that many stations, which target the 18-34 age group, don't want to alienate their older listeners. However, there are plenty of other young artists finding radio play, such as Rihanna (age 19) and Sean Kingston (age 17) and of course in the past artists such as Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Avril Lavigne, Mandy Moore and Hanson were all teenagers, too. Listening to the songs themselves, the only difference between an early era Britney song and a Miley song is in the lyrics -- Cyrus' being cleaner. One music executive notes that they Disney artists would have found radio play 40 years ago, but that there is no room for them today. This is unfortunate because many young teens will listen to the Top 40 to see what music is "cool" or "in" at the moment. Perhaps this is one reason why they are led astray. I don't really listen to the radio, so I certainly wouldn't mind if some of these artists were thrown into the mix. And adults should be able to deal with it, since there are plenty of crap songs aimed towards adults as it is. If adults interests determine everything that is played, then it is no wonder that kids are striving to become like adults faster and faster.

I think it really says something about society when I start to feel like I'm some type of old-fashioned prude by saying that 10-year-olds shouldn't be imitating the latest sex icon. I don't think that kids should be sheltered; actually, I think that we should be more open with our kids about sexuality. But I think that something went terribly wrong -- kids should understand about their bodies and sexuality and other facts of life, but they are still children and they should not be emulating adults. Sex and sexuality shouldn't be made taboo, but they also should not be "reclaimed" by children. It is one thing for a little girl to be taught to love and understand her body and another thing for her to be taught that it is alright to objectify herself. I do not feel bad saying that.

And now that I think I have beat this topic to death, you can rest assured that I will try not to mention young girls and media influences/portrayals anymore. It's that damn feminist in me!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hope for Hollywood's Future

In a celebrity world full of false idols and poor role models for young girls, it is always refreshing to see a rising star that actually reflects positive values and authentic talent. Having a six-year-old sister and working with lots of young girls over the years, I have become especially conscious of the fact that there are few great role models out there. Sure, there are some talented female performers, but talent is not enough. The questions to ask: are there strong female role models in TV and movies for young girls to see? Are the actors playing these characters people that also reflect the values of their roles within their own lives? Well, there certainly aren't enough of the former and rarely can one find both the former and the latter.

Even though it lately seems like there are an exceptionally high number of very young female celebrities getting negative attention for partying, substance abuse, eating disorders and the like, it also seems that there are a rising number of promising young stars. I just recently read a blog entry about Emma Watson, the young star of the Harry Potter films, which inspired me to delve into this topic. There was a brief period of time where Emma was getting some negative press for her supposed "diva" like antics, which included her taking a bit longer than her co-stars to sign on for the last two Harry Potter projects. Reports claimed that she was "tired of being known as that girl from Harry Potter" and that she wanted to move on to different projects. Other reports stated that it took a couple extra million dollars to "lure" her back.

But now Watson seems to be everywhere, and there is no trace of the diva-like image that was painted of her only months ago. Instead, she is being praised as someone appearing "intent on carving a career of substance" and giving the "promise of a brilliant woman primed to emerge from the girl we've watched grow up these last six years." And sure enough, Emma speaks with a maturity and determination that reminds us that not all child-stars are doomed to follow the path of Lindsay Lohan. Discussing her final holdout on the last two HP movies, Watson explains that it was her commitment to her education and not professional maneuvering: "I didn't sign the contracts sort of immediately because I needed some time to just figure out, actually, the logistics of ... making two Harry Potter films and combining that with my school timetable. I really want to go to university. I really wanted to continue what I was doing, and I didn't want to give either one up. And so I was really in this kind of difficult position. And it just took a bit of time just to block out how I was going to make that work."

On her character Hermione, Watson says, "There are too many stupid girls in the media ... Hermione's not scared to be clever. I think sometimes really smart girls dumb themselves down a bit, and that's bad ... I'm a bit of a feminist. I'm very competitive and challenging ... When I was 9 or 10, I would get really upset when they tried to make me look geeky, but now I absolutely love it. I find it's so much pressure to be beautiful. Hermione doesn't care what she looks like. She's a complete tomboy."
Speaking of Hermione, let's give a big thanks to J.K. Rowling (author of Harry Potter) for creating such a fantastic female character. True, she could have made the book Haley Potter or something, but even though the hero is not female, Hermione truly represents the brains behind all the Harry Potter adventure. As I heard one person put it, she represents the "cosmic force." She's not only the smartest kid in the book, she also does not shy away from danger. In the 5th book it was Hermione that took the first steps to organize the illegal student organization Dumbledore's Army. It's awesome to see little girls worldwide looking up to her.

But back to Emma -- as for the benefits of fame and fortune, she proclaims that although she has made enough money to never work again (and all at the ripe old age of 17), she "would never want that." According to Emma, learning keeps her motivated and her education keeps her "in touch with reality." As for her future, the young actress has expressed interest in the theater and now perhaps modeling, as word on the street is proclaiming her as the new face of Chanel. One thing is sure, this is a young woman that I would not mind my baby sister looking up to.

Here is a clip of Emma playing the famous Hermione in 2005's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire followed by a very recent interview on David Letterman

The Disney Channel must thank its lucky stars for the day it decided to sign this young woman to play the lead role in their television series about a normal girl leading a double life as a teen pop sensation. Since Hannah Montana first aired last year, it has quickly become Disney's most popular show. And its leading lady (or should I say girl?) has become a household name among every family with girls over the age of 5. Following in the footsteps of such former child stars as Britney Spears (The Mickey Mouse Club), Lindsay Lohan (The Parent Trap) and Hilary Duff (Lizzie McGuire), Miley Cyrus has become part of the Disney franchise. But the promise of this young actress and singer is unlike anything that has come before. Her show premiered in March 2006 to the highest ratings in the Disney Channel's history (with 5.4 million viewers) and is the No. 1 cable show among the 6-14 ("tween") age group. It is No. 2 among all channels, second only to American Idol. In 2006, the Hannah Montana soundtrack debuted as No. 1 on the Billboard Charts and last month the double-disc Hannah Montana 2/ Meet Miley Cyrus CD also debuted at No. 1, beating out Kelly Clarkson's My December. At only 14 years old, Miley is the youngest performer to ever attain that level of success.

And it is not a lack of talent that has gotten her this far. Her dad, singer Billy Ray Cyrus (who also plays her father on the show), compares her comedic acting to a young Lucille Ball and, just like a father, has nothing but praises for her musical talents: "Musically, she is — this is the only time I'm going to brag — she's the real deal musically. I can't wait for you to hear what she's been writing and the songs that come from inside of her. You know the saying she's got an old soul? Well, she's got an old soul, and her old soul's got a lot of soul." And she gets songwriting credits for every "Miley Cyrus" song: "I write all the time. Miley Cyrus wrote every song on that CD. I write in my sleep." Of course, "songwriting" credit can mean a lot of things (I once heard Ashlee Simpson explaining her songwriting contributions by saying that sometimes a "word" or "emotion" would inspire her and then the 'other' songwriters would turn it into actual lyrics and music), but I'll give her the benefit of the doubt for now.

And many of her songs reflect the values that the show seems to promote. Lyrics such as "Who said, who said, I can't be president / I say, I say, you ain't seen nothing yet" , "Don't let anyone tell you that you're not strong enough / Don't give up / There's nothing wrong with just being yourself" or "I know where I stand / I know who I am / ... I know I can change the world" and "I'm unusual not so typical, / Way too smart to be waitin' around / Tai Chi Practicin' / Snowboard champion / I could fix a flat on your car" may not be complex or highly developed, but they send a very positive message "girl power" message out to youth. I remember cringing when a group of elementary age girls that I was working with started singing from memory the words to Justin Timberlake's "Bringing Sexy Back." These songs are ones that parents can feel okay about their kids singing along to. And the show itself always attaches positive lessons to the episodes, such as one in which Miley attempts to make her best friend act more like a "girl", only to have that plan backfire on her. Those of you who, like me, grew up in the 80s and 90s may be reminded of classic shows such as Punky Brewster.

Of course success does not always a role model make. It is more than her achievements that makes her someone that her target audience can look up to. Like Emma Watson, it is a head set firmly on her shoulders that gives her promise for the future. Jason Earles, 29, who plays her older brother on the show, says that Miley, "could be awful if she wanted to. But she's not. She's about as sweet a person as you could want." And with solid values and strong family relationships, it seems hopeful that the young Cyrus will not follow in the footsteps of other former Disney tweens. As Miley herself says, she thinks about the bad paths she could go down, but doesn't worry that it will happen to her, saying that her music and her family keep her focused -- and hopefully the millions of little girls like my sister that think she's the coolest thing in the world.

Below view a couple clips of Miley as Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana and an interview of Miley Cyrus on ABC News:

Long before Hannah Montana was even a twinkle in the Disney Channel's eye, another young woman was making her mark on this kid's network. Raven Symoné's name has been known in the world of television ever since she was cast as Olivia on The Cosby Show at the age of 3. But it was her leading role on Disney's longest running show That's So Raven that made her a well-known figure amongst young girls everywhere. The show, about a teenager with psychic abilities, first aired in 2003. It was later nominated for an Emmy for "Outstanding Children's Program." Also in 2003, the then 17-year-old performer starred in the Disney Original Movie The Cheetah Girls. That film was followed up in 2006 with The Cheetah Girls 2, the channel's 2nd most-viewed film to date, of which Raven was also an executive producer.

Now 21 years of age, Raven Symoné projects an image of success, maturity and modesty -- no small feat for someone that has been in the business for nearly her entire life. Despite her success as a singer, songwriter and actress, she chooses to maintain a low-profile, managing to avoid the controversy and publicity that so often surrounds former child-stars. Today she owns her own production company That's So Productions and has over the years been awarded with 6 NAACP Image Awards.

In a world overwhelmed with stick-thin, barbie-blonde celebrities, Raven has always stood out to me as a positive image for all young girls, but especially for girls of color. There are too few opportunities for young women of color to see themselves positively reflected in the media. That's So Raven brought a diverse cast of stars to the Disney screen while The Cheetah Girls, with three out of the four main characters being young women of color, has helped to change the face of role models for kids.

Below you can view a clip from That's So Raven and an interview on Regis and Kelly.

If I were to choose an actress to epitomize a role model for young women, I would have to pick Natalie Portman. At 26 years of age, she is several years older than the others mentioned in this post and she represents a future that I would wish upon all of them. Like these other actresses, Natalie has been in the business from a young age, "discovered" at the age of 12 and shortly afterwards cast in the film The Professional. Since then Natalie has acted in many films such as the recent Star Wars trilogy, V for Vendetta, Garden State and Closer (for which she received an Oscar nomination). She has also acted on stage in productions such as The Diary of Anne Frank on Broadway.

But it is what Portman has accomplished in addition to all this that makes her someone that all young women can look up to. Education has always been of utmost importance to her; she has even been reported saying, "I'd rather be smart than be a movie star." In high school she wrote a paper on "The Enzymatic Production of Hydrogen" which was submitted to the Intel Science Talent Search. She attended Harvard beginning in 1999 and graduated in 2003 with a degree in Psychology. During her time at Harvard she was a research assistant, coauthoring two research papers which were published in professional scientific journals. Born in Jerusalem, she also speaks fluent Hebrew and has studied French, Japanese, German and Arabic. In 2005 she worked on her graduated studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She appeared as a guest lecturer in 2006 at Columbia University's course Terrorism and Counter-terrorism.

Natalie has also devoted herself to many different social and political causes. She has been a vegetarian since the age of 8 and has advocated for various environmental causes. In 2004 she publicly campaigned for John Kerry's presidential campaign, traveling the country and speaking to various groups. She has traveled as an Ambassador of Hope for the organization FINCA, an organization that promotes micro-lending to help finance women-owned businesses in poor countries. She has appeared on the PBS program Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria to discuss microfinance. Said Zakaria, "I am generally wary of celebrities with fashionable causes ... she really knew her stuff."

She has also kept herself away from scandal and left little for celebrity bloggers and gossip columnists to say about her, showing that fame and deviant behavior need not go hand in hand. Natalie can give hope to future generations of up-and-coming young women in Hollywood, proving that the life of an actress can in fact be positive, multi-dimensional and inspiring.

Watch a scene of Natalie in the film Garden State opposite Zach Braff and afterwards see an interview of her on David Letterman.

Of course these rising stars are only three among many other very talented young women. I hope that we continue to see even more girls like this emerge in the future. It is my sincere wish that the futures of these young women will be as promising as they seem, and that there will continue to be others that follow in their footsteps and provide a similar hope to those of us who don't want to see our seven-year-olds imitating Beyonce and Shakira.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sweet Success!

I always feel slightly ambivalent when artists that I like gain widespread success. On the one hand, I am happy that they have earned the recognition that they deserve (and that I have apparently recognized their talent before the mainstream). On the other hand, I feel somewhat of a sense of loss when that person suddenly belongs to a much larger world than that of the struggling independent artist -- venues are suddenly larger and less intimate, tickets must be purchased well in advance, and for some reason they seem less special when millions of people know them rather than just hundreds.

But luckily I can say that my feelings of happiness win out and I always seem to get somewhat of a thrill hearing the song of one of these artists on TV or radio, knowing that I was listening to them way back when. Such is the case with the dynamic Canadian duo -- twin musicians, Tegan and Sara. I first discovered the sisters back in 2003 when I was still in high school, although by then they had already released three CDs. At that time the two were playing largely to indie queer crowds. It was after the release of their fourth album, So Jealous (2004) (named one of the 50 best albums of that year by Rolling Stone), that Tegan and Sara began to be more well-known. I saw them play at a packed Madison venue in July 2005, they appeared on Showtime's The L Word in 2006 and suddenly their songs began popping up on television shows, most notably Grey's Anatomy, which featured at least 8 different Tegan & Sara songs on various episodes. Their fifth album is now due for release at the end of this month and they are playing sold-out shows across Canada and the U.S. this summer and fall.

I can't even begin to say how happy I am to see these two succeed. At 26 years old, the twins have been rockin' it since high school. They are not only extremely talented musicians and songwriters, they are also spirited individuals. To "know" them is to love them. Their shows are fun and interactive, with the two sharing various anecdotes and humor with the audience. The two are also openly gay, but prefer to keep the focus away from their sexuality and on the whole Tegan & Sara "package." As Tegan explains in an interview, they don't want to treat their sexuality as a mandate or cause it to restrict what audience they seem accessible to. But they also feel and accept the responsibility that comes along with being gay women in the media. In an interview with Spinner on "out" musicians, Tegan explains, "Our fan base is getting really young, and it's important to me to make sure that we're spreading a very honest message. I'm glad there's no part of us that has been reluctant to share who we are. There's still so much homophobia, sexism and racism in younger generations, and yet these kids love us anyway. I think we have a very progressive message."

Now, seven years after the release of their first album, Under Feet Like Ours, they will release their album The Con at the end of July, coupled with a DVD. If you haven't heard them yet, check them out! I'm sure that they will only continue to rise.

Here's a little interview of the two from a couple years ago where they talk about their fans and about being on tour

Here they are doing a live performance of the song "Not Tonight" from their third album If It Was You (2002)

Finally, here is a kind of silly music video for the song "Speak Slow" from So Jealous (2004)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The R-rated My Little Pony

This is so hilarious. Click the image to see a larger version and read the text.

Courtesy of The Onion. There were other films too -- Furby, Mr. Potato Head and G.I. Joe but this one was by far the most hilarious.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Feminism still too hard a concept for many to grasp...

I was recently alerted to a witty article written by Gloria Steinem entitled In Defense of the 'Chick Flick'. (I will be including some snippets of the article in here. To read the full piece, head on over here.)

She eloquently notes that many films that are considered "chick flicks" are those that include "more dialogue than special effects, more relationships than violence, and relies for its suspense on how people live instead of how they die." She also brings in literature, noting that much of what is considered "great literature" could have fallen into the genre of "chick lit" had it not been written by men. She suggests, "If Anna Karenina had been written by Leah Tolstoy, or The Scarlet Letter by Nancy Hawthorne, or Madame Bovary by Greta Flaubert, or A Doll's House by Henrietta Ibsen, or The Glass Menagerie by (a female) Tennessee Williams, would they have been hailed as universal? Suppose Shakespeare had really been The Dark Lady some people supposed. I bet most of her plays and all of her sonnets would have been dismissed as some Elizabethan version of ye olde "chick lit," only to be resurrected centuries later by stubborn feminist scholars."

Steinem is cheeky when asking readers to adopt the term "prick flick" for any film that glorifies war and violence and that portrays women as objectified sex objects subject to violence. Of course Steinem is not really suggesting that this term be adopted. Her article is meant to be satirical -- to show that gendering movies is unfair, biased and evidence of a society that still has deeply entrenched dualist values when it comes to sex and gender.

The example of literature only serves to further this point -- Steinem alludes to many classic works of literature which could perhaps appeal to more "feminine values" but which are not labeled (and subsequently) dismissed as "chick lit." Her point is that we use the term "chick flick" to dismiss a movie, to show that it doesn't need to be taken seriously as a great work. And the fact that we use a label which is so inherently tied to the "female" side of the spectrum is indicative of much deeper issues than just semantics.

Of course, most of this was lost on most readers of the article over on AlterNet. I read through many of the comments following the article and was appalled by the cruelty and "knee-jerk" reactions which immediately said such things as " does gloria make this junk up as she's sitting on the toilet?", "There are terms altready -- guy flicks, man movies. You don't see people calling chick flicks cun_ flicks so why choose a deliberately offensive term, Ms. Steinem?", " Gotcha, Gloria- male authors get published because they're male regardless of what slop they produce", "This is the kind of article that says 'embittered feminist baby boomer' in loud, capital letters. The author's take on 'prick flicks' vs. 'chick flicks' reveals a certain level of, ah, hatred for men, perhaps?", "Why is literature male dominated? It's not because men are evil and don't allow women to be published, it's because women write garbage such as this article that nobody wants to read."

One reader even suggested that Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) was not even responsible for writing her classic novel: "Oh, and not to mention Mary Shelley, the thinly-educated 17 year old who managed to miraculously write something like Frankenstein after getting married to her famous poet husband Percy Bysshe Shelley who'd do anything for her, and who mysteriously failed to produce anything of comparable value after he died." This reader also said that Alice Walker's writing was mediocre and that her successes should be attributed solely to her sex. Nice.

Many other readers went on about how "offensive" it was that she dared to use the word "prick" -- apparently completely missing her point and failing to notice her satire. God forbid anyone ever say anything offensive alluding to males -- even if it's only in a sarcastic manner. Like the words "pussy" and "cunt" haven't been used in much more offensive (and serious) ways. But then of course, males aren't used to having anything related to their sex be used in a derogatory manner. Many suggested that she should have used the term "guy film" instead. She didn't use that term because no one would have felt offended by it, and she was going for the offensive -- she was going for something that would make people rethink those labels in the first place. Nobody even bothered to wonder why we allow the word "chick" to be synonymous with "woman", when really "chick" is a term that demeans and objectifies women.

Here is what I read in Steinem's article, that many others failed to read:

She wasn't really suggesting that we use the term "prick flick", she was making the point of how it is both unnecessary and offensive to tie a certain type of film to a gender. Many made the point that "chick flicks" are essentially bad movies, which only serves to further Steinem's point that we associate feminine values with poorer quality films that can't be taken seriously. I believe that in Steinem's ideal world, there would be NO "chick flicks" or "prick flicks" -- genres would have nothing to do with gender or sex. But this idea was lost on many, instead giving way to "knee-jerk" reactions to truths that make people -- especially the male sex -- feel uncomfortable. Most feminists do not blame individual men for anything. What women such as Steinem try to show is that there are values deeply embedded within our society and our institutions that gives preference to a certain set of ideas that have been (rightly or wrongly) associated with the masculine. Unfortunately, it seems that many people find it easier to react (cruelly) rather than to critically think about whether there is something still seriously wrong with the way we think.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Analyzing the Hot 100

Last month the magazine Maxim came out with its annual "Hot 100" list, which is a list of the top 100 "hot" female celebrities. The list, which was published in its June "Hot 100" issue was accompanied by a special on VH1, which also aired in May. Maxim, supposedly the best-selling men's lifestyle magazine in the United States, has published a Hot 100 list for eight years now. According to Maxim, the women on the list all have "a tremendous amount of buzz and heat surrounding them, undeniable beauty and a promise of greater things to come over the next year."

Try as I might, I was unable to find out how precisely the magazine comes up with the women on the list. I assume that it is some type of panel of staff members, meant to speak for the men of America. Considering the popularity of the list, I guess the men of America are in more or less agreement with Maxim's choices. (Or at least straight men, aged 18-34 -- the main readership of Maxim). However, the women of America have something different to say.

A website that I like to frequent is AfterEllen.com. Begun in 2002 as a hobby of editor Sarah Warn, the site has since been acquired by Logo, the LGBT cable channel and entertainment source from MTV Networks. AfterEllen contains news, reviews and commentary on lesbian and bisexual women in entertainment and the media. AfterEllen obviously is meant to cater to queer women, but registered users of the site represent a variety of backgrounds. Site content includes reviews of television and film, interviews with musicians, writers, actors, filmmakers, etc. (gay, bisexual or just allies of the community), and more. When Maxim came out with this year's list, I read criticisms of the list across the "blogosphere", but AfterEllen didn't just criticize, it decided to do something.

On May 18th, AfterEllen asked readers to help make their own Hot 100 list. Readers were asked to list 10-25 women that they would put on a hot 100 list. The staff over at AfterEllen tallied the votes (which according to them numbered in the thousands) and created their own list, which was released on June 6th. As the staff proclaimed, the results showed that "Hot" "for lesbians and bisexual women comes in all ages, sizes, colors and styles." Looking at the lists through a feminist lens, I think that the differences speak volumes about the female celebrity culture that is driven by males -- a culture which continues to objectify and infantilize women.

Here are some stats on the two lists: the average age of the women on the AfterEllen list was 34.7 while the average age on Maxim's list was about 8 years younger at 27.3. AfterEllen readers chose 48 women aged 35 and older for their Hot 100 (with the oldest being Catherine Deneuve at 63), while Maxim recognized only 8 (with their oldest being Halle Berry and Salma Hayek at 40). AfterEllen had only 12 women aged 25 and under on their list; Maxim's list contained a staggering 41 women at or below 25 years of age. Various theorists have stated that the ever decreasing weight of women in entertainment can be attributed to a male desire for their women to resemble adolescent girls. In fact, my roommate and I were just recently shocked to see a fashion ad for Marc Jacobs which featured twelve-year-old Dakota Fanning. According to Jacobs, the use of Fanning was intended to help him reach out to a younger market. The ads, however, are featured in fashion magazines such as Elle, intended for older readerships. The fact that a mainstream "Hot 100" list created by men contains only a handful of women over the age of 35 should be no big shocker -- the message being sent to women is that they should try to look as young as possible because they have very little chance of still being considered sexy after the hit the big 4-0. And on top of the age thing -- number 95 on the Maxim list is "Second Life Girl." This is none other than a 3-D "avatar" from an online virtual world. I find this ridiculous and offensive to women everywhere.

But then there's this whole community of folks who are also attracted to women who have a completely different story to tell. Lesbian and bisexual women are saying "Wait -- older women can be and in fact are sexy." They are also realizing that it is more than a pretty face and sexy body that makes a woman hot. Let's look at the #1 on the Maxim list -- Lindsay Lohan. At barely 21 years of age, Lindsay Lohan is already on her second stint in rehab. After some very successful films in her earlier days, she has produced a series of flops and all of her media attention lately has come as a result of her hard partying. Yet she tops the list of women who are supposed to represent a promise of greater things to come in the next year. Well, maybe Maxim figured that she's so far down she really can only improve. Here's a classy picture of Lindsay after a night of partying:

Now let's look at AfterEllen's #1. At 36 years of age, Leisha Hailey is not very well-known outside of the lesbian world. For the past four years she captured the hearts of women everywhere with her dead-on comic-timing and emotional riveting performances as Alice on Showtime's The L Word. She was known in the community before this as well as former girlfriend of musician k.d. lang and as a singer/songwriter in the girl group The Murmurs. With Leisha as number one, women are saying that talent and personality both contribute just as much to a woman's "hotness" as a pretty face and "hot body." Here are some clips featuring Leisha's comedic talents. The first one is from the first episode of Season 3 of The L Word in which Alice has gone a little crazy after her break-up with longtime girlfriend Dana. The second clip also features Kate Moennig (see #17 on AfterEllen's Hot 100) and Mia Kirshner (see #81 on AE's Hot 100) as Jenny (I LOVE Kate's facial expressions in this clip!) The third clip is a compilation of Alice moments from all 4 seasons.

As it turns out, the "lesbian" list has been getting a lot of attention. AfterEllen editor Sarah Warn has a blog entry entitled Straight Men and the AfterEllen.com Hot 100 list which gives some insight into what other people have to say about this. Reactions seem to range from negative to very positive. Here are the comments of one straight, male reader (who was responding to another comment which stated that all the women on the list were "manly"):
"The Maxim guys tended to pick cutely-hot, bubbly, girly girls (seriously, dude, Linsday Lohan won, need I say more?). The AfterEllen list tends to be populated by strong, confident, powerful women. Nothing manly about them, unless you live in Crazy 1950s World where strength and confidence are the exclusive province of men. I do think it's a very interesting litmus test of what people find sexy in women; but then, I also find interesting how many guys are agreeing more with the lesbians' list than the Maxim list."

Here, here! If only women would take the initiative more often in countering the negative, anti-feminist actions taken by the patriarchal media institutions! It seems to be that a lot of the world is interested in what we have to say.

For your interest, here is Maxim's Hot 100 list: (I put the ages of the women in parentheses)

1. Lindsay Lohan (21)
2. Jessica Alba (26)
3. Scarlett Johansson (22)
4. Christina Aguilera (26)
5. Jessica Biel (25)
6. Ali Larter (31)
7. Eva Mendes (33)
8. Rihanna (19)
9. Eva Longoria (32)
10. Fergie (32)
11. Sienna Miller (25)
12. Angelina Jolie (32)
13. Beyonce Knowles (25)
14. Katherine Heigl (28)
15. Avril Lavigne (22)
16. Ashlee Simpson (22)
17. Maria Sharapova (20)
18. Megan Fox (21)
19. Cameron Diaz (34)
20. Keira Knightley (22)
21. Kate Beckinsale (33)
22. Nicole Scherzinger (29)
23. Hilary Duff (19)
24. Sophia Bush (24)
25. Elisha Cuthbert (24)
26. Nelly Furtado (28)
27. Kate Hudson (28)
28. Carmen Electra (35)
29. Sarah Silverman (36)
30. Rebecca Romijn (34)
31. Amy Smart (31)
32. Lacey Chabert (24)
33. Roselyn Sanchez (34)
34. Vanessa Minnillo (26)
35. Jennifer Garner (35)
36. Jaime King (28)
37. Ashley Olsen (21)
38. Shakira (30)
39. Rachel Bilson (25)
40. Moon Bloodgood (31)
41. Jessica Simpson (26)
42. Minka Kelly (27)
43. Kate Mara (24)
44. Rose McGowan (33)
45. Bar Refaeli (22)
46. Kristen Bell (26)
47. Katharine McPhee (23)
48. Mandy Moore (23)
49. Mischa Barton (21)
50. Miss Maxim (Cristina Dumitru) (19)
51. Alessandra Ambrosio (26)
52. Kate Walsh (39)
53. Adriana Lima (26)
54. Missy Peregrym (25)
55. Halle Berry (40)
56. Michele Merkin (30)
57. Tricia Helfer (33)
58. Penelope Cruz (33)
59. Jamie-Lynn Sigler (26)
60. Jessica White (23)
61. Nadine Velazquez (28)
62. Danneel Harris (28)
63. Bianca Kajlich (30)
64. Lena Headey (33)
65. Autumn Reeser (26)
66. Joanna Krupa (26)
67. Gabrielle Union (34)
68. Evangeline Lilly (27)
69. Danica Patrick (25)
70. Stacy Keibler (27)
71. Willa Ford (26)
72. Ciara (21)
73. Mena Suvari (28)
74. Tara Conner (21)
75. April Scott (28)
76. Diora Baird (24)
77. Hilarie Burton (24)
78. Joss Stone (20)
79. Adrianne Palicki (24)
80. Abbie Cornish (24)
81. Emmanuelle Chriqui (29)
82. Dita Von Teese (34)
83. Ivanka Trump (25)
84. Hometown Hottie
85. Kelly Ripa (36)
86. Michelle Trachtenberg (21)
87. Padma Lakshmi (36)
88. Raquel Alessi (30)
89. Haylie Duff (22)
90. Salma Hayek (40)
91. Isla Fisher (31)
92. Mary Elizabeth Winstead (22)
93. Christina Milian (25)
94. Kelly Carlson (31)
95. The Avatars of Second Life (cartoons – no ages)
96. Shanna Moakler (32)
97. Kim Kardashian (25)
98. Yunjin Kim (33)
99. Mia Maestro (29)
100. Noureen DeWulf (23)

Next, you will find in photos, the AfterEllen list in its entirety (because, really, why pass up the opportunity to show off some lovely women?)

The AfterEllen Hot 100 List (and a tribute to strong women in media)

The first twenty on the list are accompanied by "blurbs" that I took from the AfterEllen list. For the next 80 I put in my own short thing just for those of you who aren't acquainted with the women. (Because I, admittedly, did not know who everyone was).

#1 Leisha Hailey, age 36
As Alice on The L Word Leisha gets more beautiful every season, and her acting skills have flourished too. Nobody has better comic timing, but she can also make us cry. And before she became our Sunday-night crush, she Murmur-ed in our ears as a pink-haired rocker who dated k.d. lang. Leisha makes it official: You're even hotter when you're out.

#2 Angelina Jolie, age 32
Ever since she caught our eye as the tattoo-bearing tomboy in Foxfire (1996), Angelina has been an undeniable lesbian favorite. It doesn't hurt that she played gay in Gia and publicly admits to her attraction to women. So what if she's shacked up with Brad Pitt? She's still the hottest bisexual actress — and mom — around.

#3 Kate Winslet, age 31
Kate Winslet is practically perfect. A brilliant actress who picks great roles. A beautiful woman who believes you should never skip dessert. A class act who still fancies a dirty joke. Funny. Smart. English. Just go ahead and swoon now and get it over with already.

#4 Lena Headey, age 33
According to the MTV Movie Awards, she gave a "breakthrough performance" in 300, but we've known since Imagine Me & You that Lena is hot stuff. Is it that slow smile, the sexy walk or the hair that can handle any style? Yes — and let's not forget the accent (there's a reason two British charmers made our top five). Watching Lena take down the bad guys in Fox's The Sarah Connor Chronicles next season will just be icing on the cake.

#5 Sarah Shahi, age 27
With an Iranian father, a Spanish mother and a Texas childhood, The L Word's Sarah Shahi is one of the finest examples (and we do mean finest) of multiculturalism we can think of. Shahi is not only a kick-ass hottie, she can kick your ass — she holds a brown belt in karate. Sarah's mother discouraged body self-consciousness in her daughter early on, saying, "Your boob is the same as your hand." Thanks, Mom.

#6 Jennifer Beals, age 43
The producers of The L Word surely thanked their lucky stars when they snagged Beals for the role of Bette Porter, and we're down on our knees too. She's a flawless beauty who knows how to play a flawed character — and how to rock a power suit.

#7 Tina Fey, age 37
Whether she's behind the "Weekend Update" desk or running the show on 30 Rock, Tina is living proof that funny is sexy. And that smart is sexy. And that cool shoes and glasses are sexy. And that cleavage and great hair and lovely brown eyes are sexy. Oh, forget it: Tina is just living proof of sexy.

#8 Jordana Brewster, age 27
She was born in Panama to a Brazilian Sports Illustrated swimsuit-model mother, and we can only hope Jordana follows in the the family tradition someday. Those teeth, those eyes, that luxurious hair. As the fictitious criminal mastermind Lucy Diamond in Angela Robinson's D.E.B.S., and as a real-life Yale grad, Jordana's beauty is surpassed only by her brains. Or is it the other way around?

#9 Salma Hayek, age 40
She's been a head-turner since she first appeared on film, but Salma solidified her lesbian following when she tangoed with Ashley Judd in Frida. And then she threw some power and business savvy into her bag of tricks, turning a Colombian telenovela into the American prime-time hit Ugly Betty. Speaking of which, how about that eye-popping, button-popping elevator scene? Salma's appeal is global in every sense of the word.

#10 Natalie Portman, age 26
"Discovered" at the age of 12 in a pizza parlor by a Revlon agent, Natalie Portman always knew she wanted more than a modeling career. She's played a quirky girl from New Jersey (Garden State), a queen (Star Wars I, II and III) and a fugitive in an Orwellian state (V for Vendetta) — and in the latter, she even had her head shaved on camera. Bald really is beautiful.

#11 Eliza Dushku, age 26
Her butchy turn as a former gymnast-turned-cheerleader in Bring It On (2000) gave chain wallets a good name, but Eliza's role as Faith on Buffy the Vampire Slayer — with all of her swagger and deadly, seductive skill — firmly cemented her role as a lesbian icon.

#12 Scarlett Johansson, age 22
Her ample curves may invoke the pinup girls of the 1940s, but Johansson's unbridled carnality places her firmly in the 21st century. Whether she's wrecking homes (Match Point), taking it on the run (The Island) or inadvertently breaking hearts (Lost in Translation), she does it all with a slow-burn sexiness that would make Marilyn Monroe proud.

#13 Piper Perabo, age 30
Whether she's falling in love with Lena Headey (No. 4) in Imagine Me & You, or dancing on a bar in Coyote Ugly, Piper embodies the vulnerable but sexy girl next door. It's almost enough to make you forget her disastrous jump off the roof with a falcon in Lost and Delirious.

#14 Kate Walsh, age 39
The 39-year-old redhead first caught our attention playing Sandra Oh's lover in Under the Tuscan Sun, then captured our hearts on Grey's Anatomy as the sexy ex-wife with a heart of gold. Why does she have such a large lesbian fan base? Kate said it best herself: "I guess the chicks just dig me!"

#15 Keira Knightley, age 22
The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise may have made Keira an international star, but the Oscar-nominated British actress was a hit with lesbians long before that. Why? Four words: Bend It Like Beckham.

#16 Jodie Foster, age 44
What makes Jodie Foster so sexy lies beyond the empirical. Sure, she has the great graveled voice, the ice-blue eyes, the sharpened-hatchet cheekbones. But what is so inherently hot about her is her undeniable intelligence. Well, that and the fact that she perhaps was cinema’s cutest little tomboy ever.

#17 Kate Moennig, age 29
From playing a teenage girl pretending to be a boy in Young Americans (2000) to a woman on The L Word who gets all the girls without even trying, Kate makes androgyny cool — and hot, all at the same time.

#18 Elizabeth Mitchell, age 37
Many of us first fell in love with Elizabeth Mitchell in Gia. Who can forget that sexy chain-link fence scene with Angelina Jolie (No. 2)? As if that weren't enough to earn her a lesbian following, she went on to woo Dr. Kerry Weaver on ER — a romance that continues to inspire fan fiction. Her recent turn as the enigmatic Juliet on Lost has reminded us that sometimes blond-haired and blue-eyed can be really badass. And what's sexier than a hearty, infectious laugh?"

#19 Halle Berry, age 40
We don't always get her movie choices (Catwoman? Really?) but Halle brings old Hollywood glamour to even the most bloated of modern blockbusters (Die Another Day, X-Men). So it's no surprise that when she turns up in a decent movie (Monster's Ball), she brings home Oscar gold. Yeah, she's talented, and yeah, she's beautiful. But it's all of that combined with her special brand of vulnerability that makes us sigh …

#20 Simone Lahbib, age 42
As Helen Stewart in the U.K. prison drama Bad Girls Simone Lahbib faced physical threats, infuriating injustices and a fascinating personal journey that included falling in love with lifer Nikki Wade. When Simone says "I want a woman" in her last Bad Girls episode, you believe her — and you rewind it over and over and over. Lahbib went on to star in Monarch of the Glen and Wire in the Blood, but to us, she'll always be the sultry Wing Governor with the swoony Scottish accent, not to mention the cutest gap-toothed grin ever to grace the BBC.

#21 Emily Blunt, age 24
Best known for The Devil Wears Prada and My Summer of Love.

#22 Evangeline Lilly, age 27
Best known for role in TV drama Lost

#23 Erin Daniels, age 33
Best known for role as Dana in seasons 1-3 of The L Word

#24 Michelle Rodriguez, age 28
Most recently known for role in Lost. Also known for films Girlfight, Blue Crush, Resident Evil and The Fast and the Furious.

#25 Mariska Hargitay, age 43
Plays Detective Olivia Benson on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit

#26 Guinevere Turner, age 39
Out lesbian director, producer, writer and actress. Guin Turner has made appearances on The L Word as well as lending her hand as a writer for the series.

#27 Rachel Shelley, age 37
Plays the role of Helena on The L Word

#28 Kate Beckinsale, age 33
Acted in Pearl Harbor and The Aviator among other films.

#29 Mary Louise Parker, age 42
Played role of Ruth in classic film Fried Green Tomatoes. Most recently can be seen as the lead role in Showtime's hit series Weeds.

#30 America Ferrera, age 23
Plays the lead role in hit TV series Ugly Betty

#31 Helen Mirren, age 61
Most recently won an Oscar for her role in The Queen

#32 Lauren Graham, age 40
Best known as Lorelei Gilmore on TV show Gilmore Girls

#33 Carly Pope, age 26
Played role of Sam on now-cancelled teen series Popular. Most recently played role of Garbo on series Dirt.

#34 Portia de Rossi, age 34
In addition to being Ellen's girlfriend, also known for roles on Ally McBeal and Arrested Development.

#35 Gillian Anderson, age 38
Best known for role as Agent Scully on The X Files

#36 Lucy Lawless, age 39
Best known for role as Xena on TV show Xena: Warrior Princess.

#37 Pink, age 27

#38 Jessica Alba, age 26
Played role of Max on TV show Dark Angel. Known for movies Fantastic Four and Sin City

#39 Kristanna Loken, age 27
Most recently played part of Paige on The L Word as well as Jane on series Painkiller Jane. Also known for role in movie Terminator 3.

#40 Clea Duvall, 29
Has acted in a variety of films including Girl, Interrupted, But I'm a Cheerleader, and Zodiac. Also played the role of Sofie on TV series Carnivàle.

#41 Jessica Biel, age 25
Played role of Mary on TV's long-running show Seventh Heaven. Also has acted in films such as The Illusionist and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

#42 Drew Barrymore, age 32
Known for many films including Charlie's Angels, 50 First Dates, The Wedding Singer, Ever After, etc.

#43 Charlize Theron, age 31
Known for films Monster, AEon Flux, The Italian Job, and Cider House Rules.

#44 Rachel Weisz, age 36

Known for films such as The Constant Gardener and Runaway Jury.

#45 Maggie Gyllenhaal, age 29
Acted in films Secretary, Mona Lisa Smile, Happy Endings and more.

#46 Gina Gershon, age 45
Has recently made guest appearances on Ugly Betty. Acted in films such as Face/Off, Bound and Showgirls.

#47 Meryl Streep, age 57
Best known for roles in The Devil Wears Prada, The Hours, Adaptation, The Bridges of Madison County, Sophie's Choice, Kramer vs. Kramer and more.

#48 Cate Blanchett, age 38
Known for roles such as Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth, Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator and most recently for her Oscar-nominating performance in film Notes on a Scandal.

#49 Mandy Musgrave, age 20
Known for her role as the lesbian teenager Ashley Davies on show South of Nowhere. Can also be seen currently on director Angela Robinson's new lesbian noir webseries, Girltrash.

#50 Ellen Degeneres, age 49
Host of TV talk show The Ellen Degeneres Show. Played leading role in TV series Ellen and lent voice to film Finding Nemo.

#51 Famke Janssen, age 41
Best known for appearances in the X-Men films. Has recently made appearances on popular TV show Nip/Tuck.

#52 Naomi Watts, age 38
Known for appearances in films King Kong and I Heart Huckabees.

#53 Olivia Wilde, age 23
Best known for role of Alex (the love interest of Mischa Barton's character Marissa) on teen drama series The O.C.

#54 Penelope Cruz, age 33
Recently known for role in film Volver as well as performances in films Vanilla Sky, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, and other Spanish language films such as Todo Sobre Mi Madre and Abre Los Ojos.

#55 Queen Latifah, age 37
Singer, Covergirl and actress known for roles in films such as Bringing Down the House, Set it Off, Chicago and most recently Hairspray.

#56 Kristen Bell, age 26
Actress known best for leading role in television series Veronica Mars

#57 Maura Tierney, age 42
Actress best known for role as nurse Abby Lockhart in ER.

#58 Rachel McAdams, age 30
Known for roles in films The Notebook, Mean Girls and Wedding Crashers.

#59 Demi Moore, age 44
Known for many movie roles in films such as Ghost, A Few Good Men, and G.I. Jane, and The Scarlet Letter.

#60 Jorja Fox, age 38
Actress played role of Dr. Maggie Doyle in ER and has portrayed a leading character in TV's CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

#61 Catherine Zeta-Jones, age 37
Played opposite Antonio Banderas in The Mask of Zorro, also leading roles in Chicago, Traffic and many other films.

#62 Carmen Electra, age 35
Former Baywatch actress has played parts in many films such as Scary Movie, Starsky & Hutch, Date Movie and Epic Movie.

#63 Renee O'Connor, age 36
Best known for co-starring role in Xena: Warrior Princess.

#64 Sandra Bullock, age 42
Actress known for roles in films such as While You Were Sleeping, Miss Congeniality, and Crash.

#65 Katherine Heigl, age 28
Best known for portrayal of Dr. Izzie Stevens on TV's Grey's Anatomy. Also played role of Isabel Evans on TV series Roswell. Stars in film Knocked Up.

#66 Karina Lombard, age 38
Appeared in Legends of the Fall, but is best known among gay women for her role as the seductress Marina in Season 1 of The L Word.

#67 Jennifer Garner, age 35
Claim to fame is her leading role in TV show Alias.

#68 Monica Bellucci, age 42
This Italian actress has appeared in The Matrix trilogy as well as playing the role of Magdalen in The Passion of the Christ.

#69 Emma Thompson, age 48
Although she can most recently be seen playing Professor Trelawney in the Harry Potter flicks, she has had a long career in film appearing in Howard's End, Mucho Ado About Nothing, Sense & Sensibility, and Love Actually among others.

#70 Sarah Michelle Gellar, age 30
Some may remember her as the manipulative Kendall on All My Children, but SMG's big break came with her seven year stint as the heroine in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

#71 Stockard Channing, age 63
Her lengthy resume includes the role of Rizzo in Grease and the First Lady in the TV series The West Wing.

#72 Lucy Liu, age 38
Lucy Liu is best known for her roles in the TV series Ally McBeal and films such as Charlie's Angels and Kill Bill: Vol. 1.

#73 Rose Rollins, age 29
Not yet well-known outside the lesbian world, this former model joined The L Word cast in the 4th Season playing Tasha Williams. She can also currently be seen alongside Mandy Musgrave (see #49) in the webseries Girltrash.

#74 Alyson Hannigan, age 33
Alyson spent 7 years playing Willow, everyone's favorite Wiccan on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but she is also known for her role as Michelle in the American Pie movies and can currently be seen on the TV show How I Met Your Mother.

#75 Neve Campbell, age 33
Neve Campbell entered the scene playing the role of Julia Salinger in the long-running Party of Five. She is also well-known for her contribution to the Scream films.

#76 Jennifer Connelly, age 36
She won an Oscar for her performance in A Beautiful Mind and has also made contributions to films such as Requiem for a Dream, Little Children, Blood Diamond and the cult-classic The Labyrinth.

#77 Kelly Clarkson, age 25
The first-ever American Idol winner, Kelly has had much success in the music world, especially with her second album Breakaway.

#78 Lauren Lee Smith, age 27
She is best known for her role as Lara, the sous-chef girlfriend in Seasons 1-3 of The L Word.

#79 Lindsay Lohan, age 21
Now known as every celebrity blogger's favorite target, Lohan made her first major appearance as the twins in Disney's remake of The Parent Trap. Other notable films include Mean Girls and Freaky Friday.

#80 Sara Ramirez, age 31
Although she is most widely known for her role as Dr. Callie Torres on Grey's Anatomy, Sara has also appeared several times on Broadway, winning a Tony Award in 2005 for her role in Monty Python's Spamalot.

#81 Mia Kirshner, age 32
She can currently be seen in all four seasons of The L Word as the slightly wacky Jenny Schecter. She also appeared in a number of episodes of 24 as a terrorist and in the film The Black Dahlia as the unfortunate murder victim.

#82 Angie Harmon, age 34
This former Baywatch star appeared for three years as the Assistant District Attorney Abbie Carmichael in Law & Order.

#83 Elisha Cuthbert, age 24
Best known for her role as Kim in the popular TV show 24.

#84 Katee Sackhoff, age 27
Known for her role as Captain Kara "Starbuck" Thrace on TV's Battlestar Galactica.

#85 Stephanie March, age 32
Best known for taking over Angie Harmon's (see #82) job with her role as Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cabot in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

#86 Evan Rachel Wood, age 19
Played the role of Jessie in TV's Once and Again. Also well-known for her role in the films Thirteen, Pretty Persuasion and Running with Scissors.

#87 Michelle Pfeiffer, age 49
Oscar-nominated for roles in films Love Field, The Fabulous Baker Boys and Dangerous Liaisons. She has contributed to various other films such as I Am Sam, What Lies Beneath and the current release Hairspray.

#88 Parker Posey, age 38
Has acted in numerous films such as The House of Yes, Personal Velocity, You've Got Mail and Best in Show.

#89 Michelle Williams, age 26
First known for her role as Jen in Dawson's Creek. She was also nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in the film Brokeback Mountain.

#90 Amber Benson, age 30
Amber is best known for her role as Tara, the stuttering lesbian witch and girlfriend to Willow (see #74) in seasons 4-6 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She has also written, directed, produced and acted in two films Chance and Lovers, Liars and Lunatics. She can currently be seen alongside Mandy Musgrave (see #49) and Rose Rollins (see #73) in Girltrash.

#91 Deanna Casaluce, age 21
This actress can be seen playing the role of Alex on the Canadian television series Degrassi: The Next Generation.

#92 Liv Tyler, age 30
Daughter of rocker Steven Tyler, this actress's resume includes the cult classic Empire Records, Armageddon, and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

#93 Sandra Oh, age 35
Despite a lengthy resume, Sandra Oh's name didn't become well-known until she took on the role of Dr. Cristina Yang on Grey's Anatomy, a role which won her a Golden Globe award in 2006.

#94 Nicole Kidman, age 40
She won an Oscar for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf in The Hours and was nominated for another for Moulin Rouge. She can also be seen in other films such as The Others, Eyes Wide Shut, and Cold Mountain.

#95 Susan Sarandon, age 60
In addition to her political activism, Susan Sarandon has contributed to numerous Hollywood films throughout the years, garnering four Oscar nominations (Atlantic City, Thelma & Louise, Lorenzo's Oil and The Client) and one win for Dead Man Walking.

#96 Jackie Warner, age 38
As a personal trainer, Jackie Warner can be seen on Bravo's reality TV series Work Out.

#97 Allison Janney, age 47
Although she has contributed to such major films as American Beauty and The Hours, Allison Janney is best known for her performance on The West Wing, for which she won 4 Emmys over the years.

#98 Amelie Mauresmo, age 28
This French professional tennis player has won two Grand Slam singles titles and was the former World No. 1. In 1999, at the age of 19, she came out as a lesbian to the international press, securing her position as an inspiration for gay women worldwide.

#99 Carrie-Anne Moss, age 39
Best known for her role in The Matrix films.

#100. Catherine Deneuve, age 63
This French born actress was nominated for an Oscar for her role in the film Indochine. She has lent her talents to numerous French-language films as well as other English films, such as Dancer in the Dark and the cult-classic lesbian vampire film The Hunger, opposite Susan Sarandon (see #95).