The list of sexist expectations placed on women reads long, and, unsurprisingly, extends into fictional representations.
In Hollywood, for instance, central female characters are often limited by youth or dress size, lack complexity and be overly sexualised – all of which are issues that male actors seem to be rarely affected by.
And Blake Lively has pointed out yet another expectation women find themselves subject to much more than men – how ‘likeable’ they seem.
Lively plays a blind woman, who, while living in Bangkok with her husband (Jason Clarke), undergoes an operation which returns her sight. Judging from the trailer, what is initially a wondrous gift soon forces the couple to look at the much-changed dynamics of their relationship now that Clarke is no longer leading Lively through life.
The film, which debuted at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, looks to be a dark and gripping psychological drama. Speaking about what drew her to the project, Lively explains to the podcast’s co-host Josh Duboff that she struggles with the limited characters offered to women in Hollywood.
One example of this is, Lively says, the “note from a studio which is the woman has to be likeable” – something she says she’s “never heard them say” about a man.
Lively continues to flawlessly illustrate how men often play unlikeable characters, or “assholes” to put it more concisely, but audiences are expected to overlook it because of they come off as “charming”.
Using her own husband, Deadpool’s Ryan Reynolds, as an example, Lively says: “I mean, my husband plays assholes [but], you go, ‘He’s so charming.’ Because he is likable [...] or you look at Harrison Ford as Han Solo and he’s like, ‘Get over here, sweetheart,’ and you just sort of [think], ‘Whoo, it’s so exciting and romantic and titillating.’
“It’s because he’s charming and he’s loving and he’s not some sexist asshole [...] but, you don’t see that and think, ‘Oh, that guy’s not likable.’”
It’s a problem that transcends Hollywood, with women often termed ‘bossy’ or ‘cold’ where men are ‘assertive’ or ‘straightforward’, and women suspected of crimes or even simply witness to them seemingly often subject to more scrutiny of their personality, appearance and actions than men.
Lively also discusses the language and tone male characters are at liberty to use, concluding that women are rarely given lines that would be seen as pushing boundaries for fear that the audience wouldn’t find her “likeable”.
She drew on her most recent film, The Rhythm Section, for further proof. She points out that despite playing a heroin-addicted prostitute, there’s still a need to make the character attractive and appealing to the man in the film and the audience watching.
Lively adds: “I play a heroin-addicted prostitute. Going back to the likeable thing […] you always see that thing in movies where if a woman is a prostitute or a sex worker, you always think, ‘I don’t want the guys to be grossed out by her,’” she said. “We have to still make her kind of sexy. Tragically sexy, but you know, music video.
“If you drive down skid row that’s not what you see,” she continued. “So it’s really important to us to show a woman who society has written off, and society has forgotten about.”
The award-winning actor has spoken before on issues that affect women more than men, having called out the unfair pressures on new mums to lose weight, thanked the Spice Girls for inspiring the world with girl power and of course, shutting down sexist questions on the red carpet.