By Amna Kapur:
Are we more than what we look like? While the answer may be a definite yes for someone like me or you, those in the limelight may beg to differ. Celebrities are constantly judged for what and who they are wearing even more so, one could say, than what they do. A fashion faux-pas is a debacle and repeating an outfit is of the same likes as a criminal act. Now, award shows and festivals have become a battleground for reporters and critics to sit on the sidelines and cheer or jeer at. At the recent Cannes Film Festival, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan tried her hand at a something ‘different’ and received no end of criticism for it.
Celebrities are persistently under scrutiny by the media for their clothing and make-up choices. Bachchan, 42, wore a purple lipstick to the Cannes Film Festival 2016, only to get an outbreak of hate from social media users as well as the media. Though she had attended to promote her upcoming movie ‘Sarabjit‘, there was no mention of the same with reporters failing to look past her dress and ‘bold’ lip statement. The twitterati took to Rai’s case. “Aishwarya’s lips all over. But can’t blame the trolls. Looks like she ate a lot of Jaamuns before going to the red carpet,” a user said. Another asked, “Did Aishwarya kiss a smurf this time before she walked the red carpet at Cannes?” All this rage simply because of a lipstick colour here was unprecedented. I do agree that it is understandable to discuss fashion choices but for the first thing to show up when searching Aishwarya Rai on Google to be her ‘fashion faux-pas’ is quite pathetic.
What is even more saddening than the constant judging of ‘looks and dresses’ is the calibre of questions asked at red carpets. Reporters seemingly believe that women can answer questions no more challenging than “who are you wearing” and “what is it”. While it is true that a lot celebrities put in effort to stun at carpets and that putting in such effort deserves a few minutes of discussion, it is equally important to talk about the celebrities and their work. Everyone cares to an extent what they look like, but there is more to a person than just the surface. Little girls and boys around the world will not be inspired to do something great by hearing their role model talk about what designer they’re wearing. What will make a difference is sharing opinions and views on current events, giving advice, and talking about change. Questions geared towards women tend to be narrow and sexist and we see evidence of this with Amy Poehler’s #SmartGirlsAsk having to be especially orchestrated.
Smart Girls is a campaign started by Parks and Recreation star Amy Poehler to encourage media reporters to ask more meaningful questions to celebrities on the red carpet. The organisation has teamed up with Twitter and the television academy to let Twitter users ask thought-provoking and stimulating questions that go beyond designer credits. The program was put into action at the Emmys this year and was a huge success.
Then why is it that reporters stick to entirely un-intellectual interviews especially with female celebrities? Perhaps because some are sexist and do not believe women are capable of more. Or maybe it’s because it is simply less time-consuming than to think of more interesting questions and the answer is straightforward. Or it is possibly because this is what viewers and readers want to know about. Trolling celebrities is a favoured past-time of a majority of Internet users who prefer scandalous comments made by an eminent personality to knowing about what advice they would give. Either way, it is evident something needs to be done and it is heartening to see celebrities like Amy Poehler take this initiative into their own hands and using their influence for good.