WHY GOOD GIRLS GO BAD, BUT RARELY THE REVERSE
First impressions can go a long, long way-- typecast actresses could
tell you all about it. Last week, scantily clad Emma Watson appeared on
the cover of British GQ in attempt to break her good girl Hermione
image. She is just one of the many cautious actresses on Hollywood's not
explicit yet implied list of categorized actresses.
goes one way or another; goody-good or badass. Whichever the role, if
performed successfully and impressionably, the actress will become a big
hit in her designated playing field. Whether it be a romantic lead, a
melodramatic character or an action hero, the actress will rake in more
offers to play the same type of role.
The typecast spell is more
daunting on actresses involved with long-lasting movie sequels, or even
worse, TV series. The situation is bittersweet; the more episodes, the
more publicity and possibility of fame, but also a longer-lasting
impression as the specific character played out.
Emma Watson, it was a reputation that was breakable. Even after seven
Harry Potter sequels as the wholesome Hogwarts student, she had no
problem landing diverse roles. Her effort to broaden her range was
apparent in Perks of Being a Wallflower, where she played a
free-spirited high school senior who had a history of dating bad guys.
22-year-old actress told the May issue of British GQ that she is
attracted to playing wilder roles at the moment because she never wants
to be forced to play the same character. This explains her most recent
decision to play the tattooed, pole-dancing rebel in The Bling Ring.
Watson said that she hated the character, but it gave her “a whole new
insight into what my job, or my role as an actress, could be.”
isn't the only one trying to prove herself as versatile. Anne Hathaway
had built a specific persona after The Princess Diaries series, but
promptly worked on shedding her pre-conceived reputation. She picked up
striking roles, purposely to mark a multi-faceted career: she played a
raunchy rodeo queen in Brokeback Mountain, a recovering drug addict in
Rachel Getting Married and Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. She saw
success as a "serious" actress, recently winning an Oscar for her
performance as a homeless single mother in Les Miserables.
doesn't seem too difficult for these actresses to break free from the
typecast spell, thanks to the many welcoming opportunities they've
received. But it isn’t all that simple for others. Though good girl
images can easily be altered, the reverse seems to be far more
challenging – and rare.
Some women are stuck in a typecast
because of their appearance; some looks simply don’t fit certain parts.
It makes sense that Megan Fox (Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen,
Transformers, Jennifer’s Body), despite her popularity, has not once
starred as lead of a rom-com. It makes sense because her look isn’t
exactly the quirky girl-next-door. But what about some perfectly
versatile-looking actresses who still end up typecast? They’re paying
their dues for the character that brought them most fame.
Helena Bonham Carter for instance. She played the same obscurely dark
roles in movies like Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd and Fight Club. A
blog post on ScreenJunkies.com described her as an actress who “just
can’t get enough bat-shit craziness crammed into her resume.” Carter
continues to settle – and excel – within her realm of dark Victorian or
witch-like roles that often involve over-the-top disguise, wacky hairdos
and evil cackles. Despite her natural beauty underneath all the
costume-y make-up, she is predominantly remembered as a crazy character.
And working with her husband, gothic film-enthusiast Tim Burton, hasn’t
helped her typecast situation much either.
Phoebe from Friends
is another example. Appearance-wise, Lisa Kudrow is not far off from
tall blonde Katherine Heigl; but somewhere along the 10 seasons of the
hit sitcom, Phoebe was permanently labeled as, well, Phoebe. After the
finale of Friends in 2004, Kudrow set her niche in comedy and indie
films. The times she did appear in blockbuster hits, her character was
never farfetched from Phoebe’s. She’s been the comic relief in movies
such as P.S. I Love You and Easy A, proving her lasting image hard to
Meanwhile, Rachel from Friends saw no limits ahead of
her, after being typecast as the traditional wholesome girl-- the type
that leads rom-coms. Post-Friends, Jennifer Aniston starred in countless
Hollywood films where she demonstrated nothing new. Aniston’s character
was basically identical in all of Along Came Polly, Just Go With It,
Love Happens, He’s Just Not That Into You and box office hits The
Break-up and Marley and Me. Finally, in 2011, she decided to switch it
up a bit in Horrible Bosses where she played a crazy persona for the
It’s interesting how Rachel’s typecast from
Friends did not limit her career as much as it did Phoebe’s. Jennifer
Aniston went off to do an array of films, while Kudrow had less to work
with. Typecasting can be an asset for actresses who are perceived as
classic. These actresses, so long as they have the courage to do so, can
explore more eccentric roles. But for those who start off as
unconventional, typecast is a haunting spell. Not all typecast actresses
will be given an opportunity to redeem their full potential. Not to
mention, impressively breaking the mold isn’t easy when the
pre-determined image is so strong.
Some movie stars would be
better labeled as “character commodities” than real “actresses.” Zooey
DesChanel (Yes Man, 500 Days of Summer) is a prime example because what
she is selling is her catchy, quirky character, not exactly her ability
to act. She’s one of the highest paid actresses on the small screen with
her TV series New Girl, where she plays a role practically identical to
Summer in 500 Days of Summer. For Zooey, her typecast set her apart in
the industry and worked to her advantage, but on the down side, it’s a
wonder how long her career will last as the same character.
contemporary media to the film industry of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey
Hepburn's time, we’d think a lot has changed. But someone as iconic as
DesChanel reminds us that typecast – or personal branding if you’d call
it, -- is still prevalent. In the movie business, most actresses are
inevitably categorized. Most actresses will be forced to embrace their
designated typecast; even the capable and talented actresses, probably
due to a lack of bravery or for the sake of easy approval.
Watson's skimpy attire on the cover of GQ may seem absurd; but it is
her statement as an actress to defy being categorically caged. This
doesn’t make her a better actress than other typecast actresses, but it
does make Watson a more courageous one. She also shows how a good girl
image can be shed, while the reverse is almost unheard of. Watson may
have gone from Harry Potter to GQ easily, but realistically, there will
probably not come a day where Snooki goes from Jersey Shore to Vogue.