I’m not going to defend Bret Easton Ellis for stupidly tweeting that Zero Dark Thirty/Hurt Locker helmer Kathryn Bigelow is “overrated” because she’s “hot,” nor am I condoning his view that “if The Hurt Locker had been directed by a man it would not have won the Oscar for best director.” He said a dumb thing that made him sound like a sexist pig. (Which he may in fact be.) But boil his words down and sand down the edges and all he’s really saying is that the attractive or unattractive appearance of a would-be Oscar winner can be a factor in whether or not people vote for him/her.
Bigelow is a gifted, tenacious, sharp-eyed director who knows exactly what she’s doing, and The Hurt Locker has always been and always will be a superbly made film no matter how good-looking she is. But imagine, say, if the highly refined, affable, Britishy and very pleasant-looking Tom Hooper had been a moderately obese Samoan who was 5 ‘ 7″ tall and wore tribal skirts and sandals and spoke in heavily accented English. Would he have won the Best Director Oscar for The King’s Speech? Perhaps not. You can’t say for sure that his Samoan skirts wouldn’t have rubbed at least some voters the wrong way.
I just don’t think you can separate your personal presentation from your work and say to your colleagues, “Look, you guys — forget whether I’m well-groomed or stylishly dressed or overweight or if I look like the Elephant Man or Charles Laughton or Paul McCartney, okay? Because my looks don’t matter, only my work does.” People will smile and say “fine, agreed” but you’ll always be judged to some extent by how attractive you seem to them.
There’s also the observation that Gold Derby‘s Tom O’Neil has passed about Academy geezers tending to vote for hot female Oscar contenders. This applies to actresses for the most part (if I understand O’Neil’s observation), but it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch if the same voting tendency worked to Bigelow’s advantage two years ago.