Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dear Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Dear Joseph Gordon-Levitt,

Congratulations on your latest movie!

You said something really stupid recently.

"Pretty girls aren't usually funny."

I wonder how you expected Emily Blunt, the "pretty girl" in question, to reply to that.  Your comment was intended as a compliment, I assume.  Did you want her to laugh?  To thank you?

What you told Emily Blunt is, "I'm surprised that you're so funny!  I really expected you to be humorless, witless, and dull, like most good-looking women, but you actually have a sense of humor!  Wow, you're really different from other pretty girls.  It must be great to be so special!"

This is not a genuine compliment.  It's an insult.  A compliment would be, "You're very funny."  Or, "You're very pretty."  Or, "You're funny and pretty."  If you said it in a way that makes being pretty a good thing, and being funny a good thing, independent of each other and not in relation to anyone else, that would be best.

If it's rare for a woman to be both pretty and funny, what does that mean?

If we define pretty as "equipped with a set of natural features aesthetically pleasing to the current culture," then that's genetics.  You're saying that people with a certain set of natural, physical traits share a certain personality trait.  That's usually a bad road to travel.  See racism for many egregious examples.

If we define pretty as "well-groomed and hip to current aesthetic trends," then that's a matter of taking care with her appearance and following fashion.  People who put effort into their appearance tend not to be funny?  Because they're so busy checking up on style trends that they aren't interested in honing their wit?  Is this true only of "pretty girls" or of other kinds of people as well, like men?

Good-looking people are dull?  Boring?  Assholes?  Pretty girls look great but have no personality to speak of?  Pretty girls are decorative?  Self-absorbed?

Being pretty takes a lot of work.  More for some than for others, but there's a lot of cost and effort and knowledge which goes into it.  It can be absorbing, and because all of that energy goes into one's own appearance, it comes across as self-absorbing.  Why would women go to all of that trouble?  Why would women put so much energy into their appearance?  Perhaps because the patriarchy demands it of them and punishes them if they don't.

And so they do it.  And get called self-absorbed, self-centered, vapid, dull, witless, humorless, lacking in personality.  Pretty girls aren't usually funny.

Pretty girls lack personality.  Do you know what women with "too much" personality are called?  Bitches.  Do you know what ugly women are called?  Cows, dogs, ugly bitches.  Do you know what funny women are called?  Nonexistent.  Article after article, male comedian after male comedian, will tell you that women aren't funny.  Women aren't naturally funny.  Women are lousy comedians.

Funny women are exceptions to the rule.  Exceptional women.  Like pretty-and-funny girls, they're the special exceptions which prove the rule.

When you compliment an exceptional woman, you're putting down all other women.  You're saying something rude and noxious about all other women.  And you expect her to nod and smile and agree that she's not like those other women, those petty or mean or stupid or vapid or humorless or slutty or prudish or terrible other women.

That's a lousy thing to ask of someone.  That's a lousy view to hold of an entire half of humanity.  That's misogynistic bullshit.  Don't say that shit and expect us all to laugh and smile and enjoy the compliment.  It's not a compliment, it's a goddamned insult to all of the women she knows, all of the women in the room, all of the women in the world.

What was your point?  That ugly women are funny?  That funny women are ugly?  That no women are funny?

For the record, Emily Blunt is 29.  She's not a "girl."

Please understand that someone's appearance and someone's personality are separate, independent things.  People can be pretty and funny, or pretty and dull, or ugly and funny, or ugly and dull, or handsome and compassionate, or lovely and mean, or any combination of traits.  This is true of all people, and so it is true of women.  It is also true of girls, because women and girls are people, and people come in many, many varieties.

Good luck in your career, and please be more aware of the many attractive, funny women around you.  There are a lot of them.

With love,
Frank Lee


  1. This just made me punch the air and say "YES!" Thank you!

    1. Thank you! Glad to have been of service!