Gwyneth’s got my goat. That’s not to say she – with her multi-hyphenated, branded lifestyle - doesn’t usually get on my nerves, but this last week, she’s irked me more than ever. The source of my irritation? An advert she stars in for Max Factor, which gas been released just in time for gifting and party season.
Gwynnie was chosen as the new face of the brand last month. Apparently because she ‘epitomises the changing face of make-up’. Global creative-design director Pat McGrath will create seven looks based on Gwyneth’s many personalities, which will be showcased throughout the year, and the first character is ‘the writer’.
As ‘the writer’, Gwyneth complements her flawless complexion and barely-there eye make-up with loose blonde waves, a white blazer, skinny jeans and some draped jewellery. The images show her surrounded by piles of paper – laughable in itself – but it’s the behind-the-scenes video that was, for me, a step too far. According to Gywneth:
The writer persona is me going into town for a lunch or into London for a meeting or going to a friend's house for dinner…me when I'm most myself, doing something creative, having a look that says, confidence, creativity but still very much who I am.
That’s not an accurate description of the lifestyle of any of the writers I know. Most are over-worked and badly paid, and do the job for love, not finance. Many (myself included) juggle writing with other roles to pay the bills, and work from home in rabbit-ear onesies, a dressing gown or someone else’s sweater. Gwyneth’s ‘description’ of a writers lifestyle (lunch and meetings?) is unrealistic and borderline patronising, considering her limited literary credentials – she has other talents worth celebrating, but I’m not convinced her ‘writer’ persona should be one of them.
Gwyneth is an Oscar-winning actress, so I'm surprised she's willing to buy into such an unrealistic and contrived characterisation. She doesn't rock up to the set of Iron Man and pretend to be Pepper Potts, it's a character she's developed and inhabits, owns - nothing like the 'writer' persona. Keep the script but swap the books for a beret and easel, and voila! Gwyneth 'the artist'. A football and a fast car, and hey, Gwyneth 'the footballer', unlikely but in my mind no less unrealistic.
Gwyneth’s comments also play into the ‘Carrie-effect’. I have, and will always have, love for Sex and the City, but Carrie-as-writer was just unrealistic. It’s unlikely that Ms Bradshaw would have been able to afford to live alone in an apartment in central Manhattan off the fruits of one weekly column. She made writing look so effortless and easy, creating a whole new breed of wannabe journalists who were in it for the lifestyle and not the love. The negative introspection Carrie induces is also another bug bear. I can't count the number of times I've questioned my success and inadequacies because my life doesn't contain a walk-in wardrobe and designer handbags aplenty. If she has it, why can't I? Well for starters, because she's a fictional TV character, borrowed from Candace Bushnell and repackaged for the masses by Darren Star and HBO.
My boyfriend's niece, an impressionable 14-year old recently discovered SATC, and came to me to say she wanted to write too, ‘because your life must be so cool’. Yes I love my job and yes, I get to do amazing things and meet interesting people, but I ate beans on toast three times last week, work seven day weeks and survive on minimal sleep to meet a multitude of deadlines – something that Carrie and Gwyneth make no mention of. When I listed the realities rather than the fantasies, she began to reconsider. Taking away her dream wasn’t my intention; I just wanted to know that she understood that the path to journalism wasn’t paved with Louboutins and martini glasses, but dedication and hardwork.
Of course, TV series and beauty advertising sell aspirational dreams and idealised images of perfection; this inevitably results in over-used clichés and stereotyped characters. The idea behind the advert isn’t flawed – many women seek versatile products that can create multiple looks – but surely Max Factor could have devised less insulting personas for Gwyneth, or found an actual writer to front this segment of campaign.
Gwynnie’s a one-stop Hollywood shop with global A-list appeal and no doubt comes with a proven return for her appearance fee, but I’d respect the brand more if it did something creative, shook off the celebrity and marketed positive ‘ambassadors’ with real jobs. More than anything, I'd like to be treated with a little intelligence, but all too often, beauty is only skin deep.