Aspirationally Pretty…Reality VS Illusion

Mariska Hargitay plays a NY detective

Mariska Hargitay plays a NY detective in Law & Order: SVU

I have a friend who is an executive at a television network. As Hollywood goes, it is a very important job. She looks at hundreds of scripts, hears countless pitches for ideas for series, and is involved in all the shows that get on the air for her network. What she thinks and feels about a project, a writer, an actor, or an actress matters.

Rosanne Russo, criminal profiler at the FBI

Rosanne Russo, is a criminal profiler at the FBI

At one point, while talking with her, she used the term “aspirationally pretty.” I had never heard that term and asked her what it meant. She told me that aspirationally pretty basically meant attainable…attainable to us, the audience. We, the public, need to be able to feel like we can be like those women we see. If they are too beautiful, they would be out of our reach. That wouldn’t be good. They have to be pretty, but not too pretty. But, and make no mistake about this, they have to be pretty.

For some reason, this just bugs me. Why can’t we be presented with real? What is so wrong with that? Is the difference between what is real and what is polished up for television and film that horrible? And, ultimately, aren’t we then perpetuating the falsehood of real vs “Hollywood real” that, in my opinion, is harming girls and women?

I worked for years in Chicago theater. I was with a company called the Remains Theater Ensemble. I worked with some of the most amazing actors ever. When my theater company disbanded, many of the actors went on to join Steppenwolf Theater.

Amy Morton in August: Osage County

Amy Morton in August: Osage County, the play

Many of those friends were in the play, August: Osage County. They originated the roles that are now being played by Hollywood actors in the movie version. Not one actor or actress from the original Chicago cast of the play is in the film. This makes me wonder why. Is it because the famous people needed to play those roles so people would go and see it? The play was a huge hit and never lacked for audiences.

Or is it that we need to see Hollywood versions of real people? Like Julia Roberts. Or Meryl Streep. Or Ewan McGregor. The pretty people.

Julia Roberts in August: Osage County, the movie

Julia Roberts in August: Osage County, the movie

Like I said, it just really bugs me. Buying into Hollywood reality is so disturbing and ultimately we miss out on so much.

And, in many ways, it brings up that age old voice telling me I’m on the outside looking in. Looking in at the more beautiful versions of people – the Hollywood versions – the aspirationally pretty ones.


  • Jamie Rose