Every awards season, women viewers cringe at the insulting, frivolous and inane questions that red carpet entertainment media personnel ask of female nominees like… “Who are you wearing?” “How long did it take you to get ready for tonight?” “How much does your jewellery cost?” “Can you show us your mani?” “What’s in your clutch?”
The past couple of years, a few efforts have been made to resist this kind of vapid questioning. First, actresses themselves have been calling out the interviewers and camera operators for asking them these silly questions that focus primarily on their appearance instead of the work they’ve been nominated for, or outright refusing to answer or participate (this post from Mic gives a great little round-up of famous women who have been pushing back). Second, feminist activists have been pushing interviewers to ask better, more interesting and meaningful questions of female nominees via the hashtag #AskHerMore (see what happens when you ask actresses intelligent and thoughtful questions). And third, some entertainment outlets are having their interviewers ask male nominees the same trivial, appearance-based questions to point out how ridiculous these moments really are (watch a confused Eddie Redmayne twirl for Buzzfeed UK at the BAFTAs earlier this month).
So, red carpet entertainment media personnel, instead of asking the talented women who are nominated for the world’s most coveted acting prize dumb questions about their clothes, hair, and nails, how about asking thoughtful, intelligent questions like the ones below?
1. “How did you research and prepare for this role?”
From hiring language experts to perfect accents and foreign languages, to interviewing authors or family members of the real-life people they’re playing, to embedding themselves in the kinds of situations their characters are living, actors do a ton of work to get ready for a part. Why not ask actresses about the behind-the-scenes work they do to prepare–beyond their fitness and diet regimes?
2. “What was most challenging about playing this role?”
Actors work really hard to get their characters just right. They immerse themselves in learning about the person they’re playing, and the process of transforming themselves on screen can be very taxing for some. Viewers would love to learn more about that, right?
3. “What did you learn, personally, from playing this character?”
Actors often learn a lot about themselves, their art, and the world around them through the work they do. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to find out how playing a character transformed an actor? What did Reese Witherspoon learn from playing Cheryl Strayed? What did Julianne Moore learn about unconditional love, family and losing oneself from her role in Still Alice? Inquiring minds want to know.
4. “How can we cultivate even better roles for women in film?”
A more pointed and controversial question, but I sure would be interested to talk about why a lot of women in film are still getting secondary roles, with many young and beautiful women forced to play love interests to male protagonists. Many women nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress this year (Julianne Moore, Marion Cotillard, Laura Dern, Keira Knightley, and Emma Stone come to mind) have managed to find interesting, complex characters to play, and often end up playing these kinds of characters again and again. How do they manage it? Why aren’t there more roles like these? What can be done to combat sexism in Hollywood?
5. “Of all the roles for which other actors are nominated tonight, which would you have loved to play yourself?”
Everyone has a touch of professional envy going on, and I doubt actors are any different. I often imagine how other actors would have performed a great role, and I’d love to hear them open up and share which roles they thought were most interesting and complex and challenging, whether male or female.
Fingers crossed that interviewers on the red carpet will #AskHerMore interesting, meaningful, and thoughtful questions this Sunday night instead of the usual stupid questions that nobody actually gives a crap about! Happy #Oscars2015!