In her new movie, 50-year-old Jennifer Lopez plays a stripper.
I knew before I even saw any reviews or previews that Jennifer Lopez is not going to strip in this movie. Like Natalie Wood and Demi Moore and Jennifer Aniston, who have all played strippers in movies, she will embrace the peculiarly feminine trope of screaming “look at me! I’m SO naughty!” without actually doing anything all that naughty. She will somehow convey that she didn’t really want to play the role but just had to. That somehow, this film about persuading men to give you money to take off your clothes, is really about female empowerment.
She will not do this film unless the director ensures that when she does her pole dance, the audience simply goes wild. We don’t– it’s a rather pedestrian pole dance, and, fit as she is, Lopez is still 50– but the audience in the film are directed to go while and shower the stage with money. And we are supposed to believe that this is a kind of gutsy performance, the result of dedication and discipline and months of training.
She will fully expect, and the entertainment press will fully deliver, reviews that rave about her astonishing beauty. Who would even think she was 50 years old? And some reviewers will give her extra points for playing a character they think the audience thinks is dark or conflicted or interesting on some level that eludes me.
And a certain type of reviewer will fall in line by proclaiming that the 50-year-old will stun 20-year-olds into awed silence at her overwhelming deliciousness, while simultaneously shutting men up with her liberated, empowering, feistiness and bravado and blah blah blah.
Speaking for the entranced multitudes:
Nowhere is this truer than with the 50-year-old Lopez, who makes a magnificent entrance in “Hustlers” with an athletic, graceful and erotic dance number, and never lets go from there. Once again, she proves what an instinctive, spontaneous actress she is, infusing Ramona with her own Bronx-born street smarts, and carrying herself with the feline regality she’s acquired over a nearly 30-year career as one of the entertainment industry’s most gifted triple threats. In this raunchy, gloriously liberated revenge fantasy, Lopez rules with seductive, triumphant authority. Not only do we climb into her fur, we’ll happily follow her anywhere. Ann Hornaday in the Washington Post
Have you seen any other Jennifer Lopez films? She may have “feline regality” but she is far too busy being a star to be convincing in any of her roles. And what is “feline regality” anyway, if not a code word for celebrity privilege and entitlement? But we are given a clue about the reviewer’s perspective: she infuses “Ramona with her own Bronx-born street smarts”. Is that code for the idea that she doesn’t really create a character– she just plays herself?
We understand why Hollywood religiously adheres to the titillation code: Wood, and Moore, and Aniston, and Lopez can play strippers and deceive you into thinking they are almost naked on screen (they never are) so you can enjoy the perversity of watching a naked woman, while reassuring yourself that you are a decent, morally upright human being because they are never actually naked. You get to live in an envelope of widely accepted hypocrisy.
It is of a piece with Seth Rogan comedies: you get to talk dirty and make stupid jokes about bodily functions and then tack on some kind of sentimental moral lesson so that audiences can feel good about enjoying the smut.
In interviews, Lopez plays it for what it’s worth:
This is the first time you see my character. It’s sexy, it’s dangerous,” Lopez explained of her character’s introduction during the video diary. From
I am just stunning! And empowering! And stunning! I display my empowerment by stripping for men (and then robbing them). And stunning! The distasteful part of it is that the film will show other characters in the film reacting as if they have waited their entire lives to watch a 50-year-old rich celebrity strip. This is the arrangement: Lopez will draw a guaranteed constituency to pay to see the film (who revel in her celebrity status) and therefore has to power to essentially give herself a role more suited to a 25-year-old. As I noted, the celebrity press will play along with this, even suggesting she should get an Oscar.
She continued: “There’s something liberating and empowering about it, but you’re really out there, physically, emotionally and psychologically.” From Here.
That makes me morally superior to Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby.
In some way or another.