Earlier this evening Jessica Chastain asked film crickets on Twitter what advice they might have for a woman looking to break into this devotional calling or difficult racket or however you want to describe it. She got the usual responses — knock on doors, start your own blog, submit pieces to established publications, network your ass off, live online, attend the best film festivals, get to know the community, knock on more doors, etc. Total boilerplate.
So I decided to insert three suggestions that no one else had mentioned. One, make double-sure that you’re a talented enough writer to even give it a shot because if you’re not innately talented to some degree, you’re wasting your time. Two, look at yourself in the mirror and ask if writing about movies matters more to you than anything else, including earning a half-decent salary or even eating regularly. And three, don’t even try to break in unless you’re willing to eat shit — i.e., to do whatever it takes without any thought to how well or poorly you’re being paid, or if you’re being paid at all. You need to be tenacious as fuck, and that might mean having to write for free or next to no money and enduring all kinds of deprivations for a year or two or even longer. Because that’s what I had to do.
And then I thought of something else, which was that it would help if you’re “fetching” along with being a good networker. And right away the p.c. brownshirts, in this instance led by anal-cavity-residing Indiewire critic David Ehrlich, jumped all over me for using the “f” word. I was an animal, they felt, for suggesting that presenting a nice, attractive image at parties and editorial meetings and film festival panels and whatnot will help you, as will being a good schmoozer and chit-chatter. Ehrlich was appalled that anyone would even suggest that an attractive appearance might have something to do with how you’re received in mixed company or by potential employers.
Well, appearances do matter along with all the other stuff. In any profession an attractive or at least a pleasant-looking person coupled with all the other necessary traits will tend to experience better career progress than that of a brilliant job applicant who looks like Charles Laughton‘s Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Shirley Stoller in Seven Beauties or The Honeymoon Killers.
Do you have to be moderately attractive or pleasant-looking to make it in the film critic realm? For the most part, no. Not that many critics are lookers. But it sure as shit doesn’t hurt, and that’s all I was saying.
I realize that the concept of personal attractiveness being one of the things that might help to some extent goes against p.c. doctrine, and that it’s very upsetting to all those brilliant established film critics who got where they are today by sheer brain cells and writing skill and perception and good personal relationships. But attractiveness fucking helps all the same. That’s all I said — it can help.
And for that mild little statement the p.c. goons ganged up and tried to club me to death tonight. And this is the fucking culture that we live in today. This is what your Trump supporters hate about the left, and I must say I understand where they’re coming from when one of these episodes happen, as they do from time to time.
I guess I should have posted the initial three observations (paragraph #2) before mentioning the fetching + networking thing, but you know what? Fuck those goons and their bully-boy instincts. Really — they’re disgusting.
I was a marginally talented wannabe critic-interviewer in the late ’70s. I didn’t even learn to write half-decently until ’80 or thereabouts. I wasn’t Mozart. I had to work my fingers to the bone, and write and re-write and re-write again. But I was devoted and tenacious and I gradually started to learn the ropes and break through. And the fact that I was a pretty good-looking guy back then definitely helped in some ways. If I hadn’t eventually figured out how to write decently my appearance wouldn’t have mattered in the least, but being attractive helped a little bit. It really did.