On Wednesday, I posted a link on my personal Facebook to a Salon article about the latest pop culture reimagining of Pride and Prejudice. My only comment was “Objection,” which was quickly echoed by female friends liking and commenting on the post, revealing varying depths of anger. One woman put it this way: “This is a national tragedy. There are no words.”
It’s not that we’re not accustomed to the constant adaptation (and borderline-bastardation) of Jane Austen’s most popular novel. Jane fans have tolerated the addition of zombies, 50 Shades-inspired BDSM, Bollywood musical numbers, and – in modern “sequels” – countless adorable Darcy children. It’s not that the series will be on Lifetime and it’s not that it’s set in modern Virginia. It’s not even that the working title is (*shudder*) Darcy’s Town.
The BDSM kind of works, actually.
That shit no longer phases us. My ire – NAY, our ire – was provoked by the reveal of the show’s producer, and inevitably, star:
Jennifer Love Hewitt.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that most women hate Jennifer Love Hewitt. We just do. We also hate a lot of other things more worthy of our disdain: the threat of nuclear war, the redefinition of rape by 1000-year old male politicians, guys who take up two seats on the subway so their masculinity won’t be threatened by the touching of their knees.
A guy friend asked me why we feel this way. Why does the mention of someone so tangentially relevant to our culture get all of my female friends up in arms? What did J. Love ever do to us?
It’s really not about HER. At least, not her as a person. As far as I know, Jennifer Love Hewitt is a decent human being who has never even thought about punching a puppy or making fun of the Special Olympics. It’s not because she’s hot. We like hot ladies. We LOVE hot ladies. And I should have been more specific above. It’s not women at large who have a problem with her – it’s women my age. To ladies in their late 20s/early 30s, J. Love represents a darker time.
When Hewitt graduated from the (generally flawless) series Party of Five, it was the year 2000 and women weren’t exactly ruling the media. Some of our favorites were putting in the work and making strides, however. Tina Fey was about to add Weekend Update Anchor to her SNL Head Writer credit and Amy Poehler would join the cast in the next year. As Tina wrote in Bossypants though, it was a time where “put[ing] Kattan in a dress” was considered preferable and funnier than letting female castmembers play female characters.
The world of 2000 was weak in ladies calling the shots as showrunners – no Amy, Tina, Mindy Kaling, Jenji Kohan, Shonda Rhimes, Liz Meriwether, or Lena Dunham quite yet. Television was not the place to look for women unapologetically creating and presenting their own identities. Instead, we had studio execs telling us who we were, what we cared about, and who we should want as our best friend. And that’s where Jennifer came in: she was being sold to us as “the girl next door.” “She has brown hair,” they said. “She’s just like you! Invite her over for a slumber party.”
But see, it’s really difficult to become besties with someone when it’s impossible to get to know them. The nature of the television industry (the main medium Hewitt has worked in over the last decade) and her role in it didn’t allow us to see anything beyond the boobs and the wide, wet eyes. The most interesting and relatable people on TV right now, male (Louis CK) or female (Mindy), are the ones who use the platform to open themselves up, for better or for worse. I don’t even find Kaling’s Mindy Project character likable, but I sure as hell applaud her for putting such a flawed female personality front and center. Hewitt has cut her teeth producing and co-producing a few TV movies and episodes of her own series. Here’s hoping she’s moving in that direction.
Which is to say, J. Love’s unknowableness isn’t necessarily her fault. Her perfection was her livelihood and the key to decent Movie-of-the-Week ratings. But still, I liked her best when her impenetrable image slipped and she responded in a sincere and personal way. Scum of the earth paps took photos of her in a bikini on her honeymoon. While any of those photographers would still have masturbated each other every day for a year to have a chance to sleep with her, the photos ran in tabloids with headlines criticizing her weight. Hewitt’s response was pretty fabulous: “What I should be doing is celebrating some of the best days of my life and my engagement to the man of my dreams, instead of having to deal with photographers taking invasive pictures from bad angles…. Like all women out there should, I love my body,”
Now, that woman I would like to get to know.
I’m reversing my position on Darcy’s Town. Bravo to Hewitt for taking the reins and putting herself behind a passion project. All I can hope is that she’ll let some realness seep through the glossy Lifetime finish. And that there are no vampires. Please. No vampires.