The Perils Of Being The Best Actress
Many of you have written asking for commentary on the Michelle Williams GQ cover and interview. The story made headlines everywhere yesterday. This is most likely what you saw:
Michelle Williams talks about and cries over Heath Ledger.
It wasn’t totally misleading, no. That did indeed happen. Most of you who’ve written to me did not have kind words about Williams in this piece, particularly since you would have only read the excerpted sections and not the entire article for its flow.
I’m not saying your criticisms are wrong. Not at all. But I encourage you to read the entire article at GQ first. Because I wonder if your reaction would have been less...intense... if you’d gone there first and received her words as they were as part of a whole conversation, between two people, one of whom was tasked, admittedly, from the very beginning, to get her to an emotional place and then elicit from her an emotional response on the subject of Heath Ledger. And the journalist, he admits as much in his writing. Most of the time we only hear the answer. When you read a quick headline on a website, you don’t often know what the question was.
He actually asked her where she was when she heard about Heath being dead.
I mean...few people could actually go there, you know?
And he did. And I don’t blame him. And please don’t come here pretending that you do. Because if you’re reading this site regularly, you know YOU WANTED TO KNOW. I want to know. I want to know EVERYTHING. It’s a sick twisted thing, isn’t it? I want to know if she threw herself on the ground and sobbed. I want to know their last conversation. I want to know their final email. I want to know what she said to him in her heart at his funeral. I want to know how she expressed her anger at his selfishness. I want to know how often she pulled out their pictures, videos, memories. If that information were available, I would drown in it, compulsively, gorge in the morbid tragedy of another person’s suffering, and then, possibly, curiosity satisfied, I’d lift up my ugly head and call her a famewhore.
After all, that was the headline that attracted me. Wasn’t that the headline that attracted you?
Michelle Williams talks about and cries over Heath Ledger.
We rushed to click.
And what did she actually say?
Well, she describes, briefly, in very non-specific, eyerolly airy fairy supernatural terms how they were drawn together. She also discusses how hard it was to focus after his death, how she coped with the paparazzi, with the prying. And she reveals her worries about her daughter - what Matilda will miss for losing her father so young.
Then came this question, the most probing one of them all:
Do you think there was a part of you that imagined the two of you would somehow end up together?
I won’t excerpt her answers. Because I really want you to read them in their intended context, especially in this case, not of a Jessica Biel complaining about being too pretty, or a Rooney Mara aloofing up her own ass, but of a woman who had a child with a man who drugged himself to death in front of the whole world. I love Michelle. I am a Michelle apologist. I don’t think we can know what it must be like to look at your daughter and see your dead lover in her face every single day. I don’t think it’s fair that we put a time limit on her grief just because “they weren’t even together anymore”. Really??? Not even me, a piece of sh-t gossip bitch who deserves a daily flogging, not even I can draw on that as an argument against. When grief becomes an obstacle to a coworker, when others have to compensate for your grief-driven shortcomings, when you don’t show up for work and someone has to do extra because you’re busy grieving, when someone goes overtime because your grief is a priority, then, maybe, I’d be more onside with those who attack her on the basis of “she doesn’t have to be so sad, they had already broken up when he died!” Pretty sure that doesn’t apply in this case. That I can defend.
Let me explain what I cannot defend:
She cries a lot. I had a hard time with that but it’s not the worst. And I don’t have a hard time with what she really said about Heath Ledger, her exact words. She was led there. The question for me is how why she AGREED TO BE LED THERE. It’s the timing. As it often is, it’s not the what, but the when.
A GQ interview is not a 4 minute junket interview on a day when 40 outlets try and get a sound bite. It’s understood that GQ interviews, Vanity Fair, Esquire, sometimes Vogue, depending on the writer, require more of a commitment, with the expectation that there will be some revelations. You will note that she spent 3 days with the journalist, and not just in an office either. They drove around, they had coffee, and this was no surprise to her. It’s not like he kidnapped her and put a tape recorder between her breasts and forced her to start talking. You spend that much time with a reporter, you have to expect the inevitable. Her publicist knows this, her manager knows this, and Harvey Weinsten, oh he knows it very, very well.
These are the perils of being the Best Actress.
It happened to Natalie Portman last year. When she dragged her baby bump around every red carpet and lectured us on the magic of her creation. It happened to Reese Witherspoon, holding together her dead marriage, frauding out a perfect life with a suddenly noticeable Tennessee twang in exchange for the right to call herself an Oscar-winner.
It’s now happening to Michelle Williams, who led with the daughter as part of a campaign strategy positioning her like she’s the poster mother for Single Mothers on stage at the Golden Globes, reminding us that, yes, yes, I deserve to be Best Actress because my daughter is the most important person in my life. Welcome to my personal life!
We grew to hate Reese. We grew to hate Natalie. Are we growing to hate Michelle?
That’s what you sacrifice for Oscar. For the ones who are just at around 30, and all three of them hover around 30, this is what you lose.
What’s interesting too though is why we don’t hate as hard on the men. With such rage and contempt. Something to discuss when I am Dean of the Faculty of Celebrity Studies.
I encourage you to click here for the full GQ article featuring Michelle Williams.