I have always kind of liked Katherine Heigl. Maybe it’s because I think she has pretty good comedic chops, maybe it’s because she is (a little bit) curvier than many of her counterparts, maybe it’s because I spent an inordinate amount of time watching Grey’s Anatomy on DVD whilst trying to distract myself from a breakup. Whatever the reason, my fondness for her has led me to give her decidedly douche-y taste in film roles a pass for some time now. No longer.
Heigl has played stereotype after offensive stereotype during her brief blockbuster career, and upon seeing a trailer for Killers last night I decided enough was enough. Someone needs to give Heigl a wake-up call and it looks like it’s gonna be this blog, because right now her acting career is on a one-way trip to Douche City. Time to turn it around, sister!
Let’s take this Tour de Douchebaggery in chronological order and look at Heigl’s four biggest film roles, shall we? As ever, we’ll be focusing on the representations of women to be found here. And in the beginning there was…
Knocked Up, 2007
So Heigl’s character (Allison Scott) works at E!, but when she has unprotected sex with a stranger at a bar (played by Seth Rogen), she decides to have the baby and after a rocky pregnancy she and Rogen’s character end up together in parenthood bliss. I have to admit, though this film was problematic for many obvious reasons (unprotected sex, no mention of abortion, a bikini-waxed vulva during the birth scene, weird plot holes–not just referring to genitalia there, zing!) this is probably Heigl’s best film role. She stands up for herself, demands that her partner take responsibility for his own actions, and at least attempts to show a nuanced view of a woman dealing with an unexpected pregnancy (minus the lack of either a condom or an abortion debate). It’s all downhill from here, folks. Behold:
27 Dresses, 2008
In this formulaic rom-com, Heigl plays Jane, a woman who is always the bridesmaid but never the bride. Her problem is that she selflessly works for others to be happy without ever focusing on herself! Only a man with a wedding ring can get her out of that pickle! This role reinforces every stereotype in the straight-cis-rom-com book: women are obsessed with marriage, women who focus on their careers can never be happy, younger sisters and best friends always have hinges on their heels, men who are rude usually turn out to be soulmate material, a perfect wedding equals a perfect marriage, and so on. Not exactly a giant leap for womankind. But wait! It gets worse…
The Ugly Truth, 2009
This is one of the only films that has ever caused me to have a physical hate reaction. I practically vomited from frustration while attempting to watch it. Katherine Heigl is Abby Richter, a television producer who has a somewhat feminist outlook on life (which of course is accompanied by unbelievable anal-retentiveness, because that’s how we feminists roll y’all) at the start of the film. As the plot moves forward, she meets Gerard Butler (btw, why is that dude famous?) a colossal asshole who introduces her to the world of vapid misogyny. At first she’s angry, but then she takes his advice and learns to compromise her every value and belief for the reward of male attention. They end up together at the film’s conclusion, natch. (OK, time for the barf bag. And don’t put it away yet…)
In fairness, this film isn’t out until next month so we just have the trailer to go on when examining Heigl’s character for traces of douche. Judging from these three minutes, her character Jen is an insecure stereotype–uptight, alone, and carrying a bottle of Maalox around a hotel with her parents (who, played by Tom Selleck and Catherine O’Hara, appear to be the only bright spot in this tired turd). Formulaic, derivative plot aside, Jen embodies the desperate single woman who needs a man to teach her how to loosen up. In this case, she appears to literally kill at least one other woman for the pleasure of being with him. (Still got that barf bag handy?)
So Katherine Heigl, if you’re reading this (and I’m sure you are because I know deep down you’re a feminist who wants to do better for herself and ladykind in general), cut the crap. How about instead of taking film roles that fulfill every misogynistic stereotype in the book, you use your considerable chops to play a different kind of character? One who respects herself and doesn’t need a man to solve all her problems? One who has female friends and maybe even an adorable dog? (Hey, something’s got to get the butts in the seats, folks.) Because based on your film career so far (and your upcoming role in something called Is He The One) you won’t be earning any accolades from feminist film lovers any time soon. Not unless you count this Douchebag Decree, that is.