I will never knock Reese Witherspoon’s business acumen or hustle – her pivot from lukewarm rom-coms (they seriously don’t make them like they used to) to multimedia producer, actress, and dealmaker has been a resounding success. And with that, Reese has broadened her spectrum outside of Hollywood, supporting #TimesUp, March for Our Lives and being vocal about the gender pay gap. At the same time, she has grown Draper James, her down-home lifestyle brand that focuses on Southern-themed products and feminine clothing (lots of fit-and-flare dresses, no cuffed sweatpants).
One of her next ventures is a book, Whiskey in a Teacup. I think it’s supposed to be a nod to a certain type of steely femininity. Pretty but gritty. When I think of Reese and whiskey, though, I think of this.
Four years ago, Reese was arrested for disorderly conduct (being a drunk asshole). Four years is a long time in the collective pop culture memory. Lots of celebrities have DUIs, and Reese wasn’t even driving. I’m not suggesting it should have ended her career. But now, because many of us were ignorant to the scope and the reality of the problem before, watching her get out of a car, while being clearly intoxicated, takes on a bit of a different shape. It was nighttime. She was in Atlanta and had been told not to get out of the car. She forcefully walked up to the officer while he was dealing with her husband. Why did the office treat her with professionalism and patience? It wasn’t because she was Reese Witherspoon – I truly don’t think he knew who she was. But it’s impossible to dismiss the privilege of her behaviour. And wonder what the consequences would have been if it had been… someone who didn’t look like she and Jim Toth do.
That’s what I think about when she mentions whiskey and her teacup. I know that’s not her intention, because she’s in a pink dress on the cover and talks about hot rollers in the promo video (why are celebrities so intent on trying to make us think they do their own hair and makeup?). She promises lots of insight into her heritage, and how it informs her décor, family traditions, food choices – Reese is still a Tennessee girl, just living in Pacific Palisades.
In a way, she has masterfully rearranged her place in the celebrity eco-system, creating a layered approach to her fans. Reese has power, and she knows that her peers know she has power, as a dealmaker. But she doesn’t necessarily need all of her fans to know, or care, what she does behind the scenes. This book seems like a project tailor-made for the Minivan Majority—those who loved her in Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama, but don’t really care about film rights or producer credits. These are the ones who will cheer her when she touts Ask Her More, and don’t balk when she constantly wears her own clothing line to promote her projects. Like a good politician, Reese is continually checking in on this core, keeping them happy and making sure they don’t feel left behind.
But through this book, will we really learn more about Reese? Probably not. Gwyneth has given, and continues to give, a lot of her personal life to goop. Kate Hudson’s “Pretty” series is basically completely in line with everything we know about Kate Hudson. But I don’t think that’s the point of Reese’s lifestyle site – it isn’t to “know” her, but to emulate her. She’s like a manners mentor. Reese is showing women how to be the teacup they want to see in the world.