The moderator of Scarface reunion panel asked Michelle Pfeiffer about her weight while shooting the film in which she plays a cocaine addict. While the three-time Oscar nominee was taken aback by this question, the audience at Tribeca Film Festival’s panel discussion wasn’t having any of this sexism and booed the moderator.
The infamous moment at tonight’s #Scarface reunion panel where #MichellePfeiffer was asked by the moderator (who apparently is “the father of a daughter”) how much she weighed during filming, which was followed by a mixture of confusion and disdain from the audience. #Tribeca2018 pic.twitter.com/xQUQ6FJqtC
— Mark Espinosa (@SportsGuy515) April 20, 2018
If a woman of Pfeiffer’s calibre has to sit and wait for her turn to speak, being the only woman on the panel, and then answer questions about her body weight instead of her craft, what hopes can other women have?
The most empowering thing to come out here was how the audience booed off this sexist query. Many asked the moderator, why was discussing Michelle’s weight during the filming of Scarface so important.
You cannot disguise sexism as “father’s concern”
Jesse Kornbluth had tried to guise his question as that of fatherly concern about body image. He said, “As the father of a daughter, I’m concerned with body image. (During) the preparation for this film, what did you weigh?”
Even if Kornbluth’s concern was genuine, and it was essential for him to discuss this topic, he could not have put it on top of other questions. Pfeiffer won a lot of critical acclaim for her performance as a cocaine addict in the film. Yes, losing weight was a part of her preparation for the role. But certainly, it was not the only thing which made Pfeiffer’s portrayal so memorable. Also, Kornbluth could have phrased his question more appropriately, so that it didn’t come across as sexist and demeaning to Pfeiffer’s skills.
Casual sexism in interviewing female actors
When Indie Wire approached Kornbluth to comment on the reaction to his question, he said, “It is true that a gentleman should never ask a woman about her weight. But that was not my question. It is a comment on the knee-jerk political correctness of our time that no one would be shocked if you asked Robert De Niro about the weight gain required for his role in ‘Raging Bull’ but you get booed — not by many, but by a vocal few — for asking Michelle Pfeiffer about the physical two-dimensionality required for her to play a cocaine freak in “Scarface.”
Kornbluth reduced a Golden Globe Award-winning actor’s opinion on acting to a mere aspect of physical transformation.
It cuts a bad impression of the moderator here, and no amount of explanation can gloss over this fact. Are Pfeiffer’s acting skills not impressive in his opinion, to ask her questions on other aspects of acting, than physical preparation? Or did the moderator feel that the only thing memorable about her role was the “physical two-dimensionality” of her character?
Kornbluth’s question is one of the many sexist ones, which are posed to female actors around the world. They have to answer more questions regarding their weight gain/loss, clothes and their hair more than their psychological investment in their craft. Most female actors are as capable as their male counterparts. But perhaps moderators and interviewers like Kornbluth fail to see that. This speaks more about their mentality than the skill of the likes of Pfeiffer. She has proved her mettle time and again and won the respect of her audience. And it shows in the way the audience booed off Kornbluth.
Photo Credit: Gold Derby
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.