When the story is written of how Hollywood flipped off heterosexual women, Exhibit A will be Brad Pitt’s beard. Remember when he started appearing in public with the icky nesting material and debris in his facial hair? That benign eccentricity signaled the beginning of A-list actors masquerading as homeless men.
Skeevy celebrities with greasy, uncombed hair are everywhere. It’s probably shooting fish in a barrel to put Joaquin Phoenix on the list, but how about (in addition to Pitt) Mickey Rourke, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey, Russells Crowe and Brand, Antonio Banderas, Mel Gibson, Viggo Mortensen, Nick Nolte, Ashton Kutcher, Benicio Del Toro, Colin Farrell, Christian Bale, and — it pains me to say — Leo DiCaprio? You know there’s a problem when your average Oscar nominee and Gimli from Middle-earth are basically interchangeable.
And then we come to Johnny Depp. His metamorphosis from handsome heartthrob to hobo is virtually unparalleled. Dude, we’ve given you a Gilbert Grape pass for, what, 15 years? We’ve made peace with the dress-up costumes and the black eyeliner (even though it seems like a lot of “look” for routine day use). But your appearance at the Dark Shadows premiere was just a bridge too far. You need to cut the cord with your enabler, Tim Burton, take a bath and see a hairstylist and make a romantic comedy with Rachel McAdams.
It all seems a little scandalous when you consider the punishing standards to which we subject women in the industry. Consider Halle Berry, Jane Fonda, Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, Reese Witherspoon. If Gwyneth Paltrow gets any leaner and more golden, she might turn into pixie dust.
Tabloids do a brisk business in humiliating celebrity women when they go to seed, but Alec Baldwin’s career positively skyrocketed when he packed on the pounds. Imagine if Titanic were being cast in 2012. Does anyone honestly think the lushly beautiful 21-year-old Kate Winslet would have a chance at the role? No, but her 30-something bronzed and pared-down doppelgänger might. As Tina Fey memorably noted in Bossypants, there is no margin for error. Every woman is expected to have “hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.”
It really makes a girl weep. It’s true there are some stubborn holdouts who clean up nicely. Matt Damon and Colin Firth have raised the mean. Ryan Gosling is mostly adorable. Robert Pattinson skirts dangerously close to “Idaho survivalist” in his off-hours, but he’s freshened up his act a lot recently. And George Clooney carries masculine elegance, Atlas-style, on those beautiful lapelled shoulders. But the exceptions only prove the rule.
So, the million-dollar question, gentlemen: Are you playing a deep game here? Are you actively trying to repel your heterosexual female fan base with these stumblebum shenanigans? It sure feels intentional, which makes me wonder if you’ve forgotten the actor’s basic social contract: you get to make unfathomable amounts of money without having to work terribly hard in exchange for indulging a few of our measly fantasies, one of which is that you bathe regularly and don’t smell like barnyard animals. (And while we’re on the subject, thanks for the shout-out on not using deodorant for 20 years, Matthew McConaughey!) Interestingly, African-American actors are doggedly resisting this trend — maybe it’s just the white men at the top of the heap who get to playact like bums.
So all you Hollywood guys with your ratty ski caps and ZZ Top pretensions, remember what Spidey said: “With great power comes great responsibility.” The bar is pretty low. How about starting with a clean shirt and a shave?