Back when Blake Lively was trying to make Preserve happen, I wrote about her genteel treatment of Antebellum South and the way she reduced and glamourized a very problematic era. At the time, she got a ton of blowback from the article but she was still in her lifestyle bubble, convinced she was pushing forward with a groundbreaking venture.
Now that Preserve is far enough in the rear view that no one brings it up, Blake is espousing feminism. Genuine awakening, as this new Glamour article posits, or a subtle brand pivot? Let’s talk about it.
She’s promoting her new movie (about a blind woman who regains her sight and has issues in her marriage), but I’m much more interested in the news that she’s developing Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret. Liane is the author of Big Little Lies (which we all know about) and her latest book, Truly Madly Guilty made it to Reese Witherpoon’s bookclub. Liane and Reese clearly have a great working relationship. So Blake working on The Husband’s Secret activates the smutty sensors a bit, no? Like, did Reese pass on the book? It’s interesting that Liane’s most famous work is tied to another actress and Blake didn’t acknowledge it. When the interview brings up Reese, I heard crickets. Here’s what Blake says after being asked if she agrees with Reese about women fighting for equal pay:
“I think it helps a lot. Nobody’s going to fight for you as much as you fight for yourself. That said, I know a lot of great men—directors, producers, studio heads—looking to tell stories about women, some because they’re drawn to those stories, some because they’re husbands or fathers and want to see the women in their life represented more accurately, and some just because they look at the numbers.”
It’s the “husbands and fathers argument” that is often evoked in conversations about feminism. It’s saying, “I care about women because I have a mother/daughter/wife.” Instead of just caring because of women = humans, it has to be qualified. And this idea, that attachment to a man makes you more worthy of care and attention and human rights, is exactly what feminism is pushing back against.
Of course there’s a lot of talk about loving Ryan, her work in stopping sex trafficking, her family life, and choosing interesting roles, but I want to zero in on what she says about her daughter, James, because this is about Blake’s feminist reawakening.
“We’re all born feeling perfect until somebody tells us we’re not. So there’s nothing I can teach my daughter [James]. She already has all of it. The only thing I can do is protect what she already feels.”
I think she’s referring to James having everything inside her that she needs for self-esteem and self-worth, but if you take it in the literal sense, James (and many other children of celebrities) literally have it all: financial stability, access, education, rarified experiences. On top of that, James is born to beautiful and rich white parents – she’s not ahead in the race, she’s running on an entirely different track. Even the rah-rah feminism that is marketed today is going to further help women like Blake and, down the road, their daughters.
Blake will be applauded for having this conversation, she will be lauded for saying women should get paid the same as men. And it all feels very 2017 – doing the bare minimum passes for not being Trumpian. In talking about how the election affected her, Blake said, “It made me more aware, more conscious, more sensitive. Not just of sexism but of discrimination in all areas—class, gender, race. I had realized that there were problems [before].” She was aware of discrimination before 2016 – whew. Now she’s more aware and conscious because that’s all she has to be: aware. She doesn’t need to live it. It hasn’t ever touched her and it never will.
This is why she can “pop off” at a Variety lunch with her shiny new feminism. Let me ask you this: could Taraji P Henson or Kerry Washington or Tracee Ellis-Ross (three incredibly fashionable black women) “pop off” on a red carpet? What would the reaction be? Would there be headlines lauding them, or calling them “angry”? How would the outlet for whom the reporter was working react?
At the time, Lainey (quoting Duana) said, “She doesn’t know what she’s reacting to. Just that she’s supposed to/allowed to be indignant and ‘important’”.
This is what this interview feels like (except in a very friendly tone). Blake knows this feminism wave and branding will help her because there’ll be more female-led projects and, with very little effort, she can capitalize on it.