If you remember the name “Ramin Setoodeh,” it’s probably from his infamous Newsweek article about gay and lesbian actors who can’t play straight roles convincingly. Or perhaps it’s from the story he wrote on how True Blood and Grey’s Anatomy promote negative gay stereotypes. His latest piece for the magazine is “Crazy Chick Flicks,” which hypothesizes that the way for women to win an Oscar is to play someone who is essentially insane. He begins:
If you want to know why Natalie Portman is a shoo-in for the Oscar, here’s one answer. It’s not just that she lost 20 pounds for the role, spent nearly a year practicing ballet, and delivered a performance that made us forget she was once the annoying Queen Amidala. It’s because she played a crazy chick.
He cites Kathy Bates (Misery), Nicole Kidman (The Hours), Angelina Jolie (Girl, Interrupted) and Jessica Lange (Blue Sky) as cases-in-point and says it is largely because crazy women “play equally well with female and male audiences.”
Unfortunately for Ramin, these might be his only proof that playing nuts wins women Academy Awards. If you peruse the list of Best Actress winners, most of them weren’t nuts at all. Most, in fact, were incredibly strong and insightful women. Consider just the last 10 years: Out of the list of winners below, I see only two that could arguably be referred to as insane women.
2000 — Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich)
2001 — Halle Barry (Monster’s Ball)
2002 — Nicole Kidman (The Hours
2003 — Charlize Theron (Monster)
2004 — Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby)
2005 — Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)
2006 — Helen Mirren (The Queen)
2007 — Marion Contillard (La vie en Rose)
2008 — Kate Winslet (The Reader)
2009 — Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
The two women who are arguably battling mental illness were based on real life women: Aileen Wurnos and Virginia Woolf. If you recall these roles, their performances were praised first, and their ability to transform themselves unrecognizable was second. This isn’t so different from the other winners who played real women, like Reese as June Carter Cash or Helen as Queen Elizabeth II. (I’d also like to note that Helen won over Judi Dench who played the obsessive lesbian in Notes on a Scandal.)
Ramin seems to discredit his own argument when he mentions the new film The Roommate, which hits theaters tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong — I love Leighton Meester as much as the next gossip girl, but I don’t think she’s going to win an Oscar for her Single White Female rehash. He also mentions Swimfan, which wasn’t up for any Academy Awards by any stretch of the imagination.
Perhaps Ramin would have done better with a piece on why so many films and reality shows focus on women who appear less than sane (since he decided to namecheck the tabloids’ fascination with Heidi Montag) than how they guarantee an Oscar win. Obviously Ramin is Team Natalie, but she hasn’t won the golden statue yet.