Here’s a pro-tip: If you’re interviewing a famous celebrity—or anyone at all, ever—it’s best to get their name right.
Yesterday, the hosts of Good Morning Sacramento secured their place in the burn books of John Green fans everywhere when they interviewed “Carla” Delevingne. You likely know her as Cara Delevingne, the ubiquitous model and star of Paper Towns, the latest entry in Hollywood’s YA-industrial complex. The interview itself is a case study in how to be condescending to women—even if you’re also female. Throughout the segment, the panel doesn’t just get her name wrong: They continually minimize her (rather impressive) accomplishments. Instead of congratulating her on being in seven (!) movies in the next year, they nag her with a question best saved for 1950s thinkpieces: “Successful woman, how does she do it?”
While The View’s increasingly reprehensible Whoopi Goldberg (seriously, what happened to you?) chided Cara Delevingne for her behavior, the 22-year-old did the best with what she was given—which was not much. Anchor Marianne McClary assumes that—with her busy schedule—she hasn’t had time to pick up the book, which makes sense: When trying to understand your character, an actor’s first instinct wouldn’t be to do the easiest bit of research possible to tap into their motivation or anything. Do you think Daniel Day-Lewis reads? For her part, Delevingne is a good sport. “I never read the book—or the script actually. I just kind of winged it,” she jokes.
But Cabral’s co-host, Ken Rudulph, can’t drop the “B-word” (and not the one you’re thinking): “Do you find it’s easier for you to focus because you’re so busy?” Reporter Mark Allen triples down: “Are you just exhausted?” Unbelievably, it actually gets worse from there. When Delevingne jokes that it’s the morning—because she’s a human who needs to wake up, just like the rest of us—McClary responds: “You do seem a bit irritated… We’ll let you take a little nap, get a Red Bull, how ‘bout that?” Even after the interview is over, McClary continues to police her responses: “She was in a mood!” They might as well have insisted she was on her period.
Instead of congratulating her on being in seven (!) movies in the next year, they nag her with a question best saved for 1950s thinkpieces: “Successful woman, how does she do it?”
The hosts argue that given the fact that she just made more money than most people will ever see in a lifetime for a six-week shoot, the least Cara Delevingne could do was be nice to them. However, no woman—even a famous one whose job it is to promote her movie—owes you her kindness, especially when she’s constantly being infantilized on air, as if she’s a toddler who needs her diaper changed. It’s clear that—aside from Allen, who praises the film—the hosts aren’t familiar with her work and don’t even know who she is. Even Whoopi took a moment to remind Cara Delevingne that she’s not that famous, meaning that she better smile and look perky.
But it’s about more than the problem with telling women to smile. No matter how accomplished and successful a woman is—even if she’s one of Hollywood’s reigning “It Girls”—there will always be a reason to belittle women’s achievements. It’s telling that the hosts not only tone police her but consistently remind her how tired she looks, as if a young woman who works as much as she does must be holding on by a thread. When Michael Fassbender or Leonardo DiCaprio load up their IMDb with projects, we credit them for their hustle. When it’s Cara Delevingne, we wonder if she’s sleeping enough. The implicit question is: “Are you OK, sweetie?”
The idea got a full treatment in a Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle that offered a frazzled shrug to the question I posed earlier—I Don’t Know How She Does It. Parker plays a forty-something investment manager who juggles being the breadwinner for her household with the stresses of marriage and raising children. Parker’s character, Kate Reddy, waxes on the struggles of “Having It All” in a Carrie Bradshaw-lite voiceover: “The inside of a working woman’s mind is like the control tower at O’Hare Airport.” (I don’t know what that means—but sure, whatever.)
As the A.V. Club’s Tasha Robinson explains, the working woman can’t seem to keep it all together. “She trips over herself, hikes her skirt above her waist to adjust her underwear while not realizing she’s on a video conference call, misidentifies how many kids she has, and gets the world’s most exaggerated case of head lice.” The film misidentifies the problem with a tin-earned quotation pulled from the Bartlett’s from Hell: “Trying to be a man is a waste of a woman.” But the problem isn’t that women are trying to have careers but that we keep insisting that they’re doing it wrong.
Successful women continue to be treated like a dog walking on its hindlegs—an adorable curiosity—and if Hollywood hasn’t figured out how to deal with them, the public hasn’t either. The Delevingne debacle is shockingly similar to a recent catastrophe during an Amy Schumer interview in which Australian radio host Matt Tilley referred to her character in a less than flattering way. “Do you have the word ‘skanky’ in America?” he asks. Schumer shoots back, “What made you think about your mom?”
But the gold standard here is Star-Ledger critic Stephen Whitty, who blamed Mila Kunis’ “cold” responses to his interview questions on the fact that she was pregnant. Whitty remarked, “Maybe she just picked up the phone after an awful bout of morning sickness.” Instead of mansplaining her mood (“hormones” is just about the oldest cliché in the book, isn’t it?), all he had to do was look at the questions he was asking her. She was there to promote her movie, and Whitty just wants to talk about her childhood. Kunis even said that: “It just seems weird to do an interview about Third Person and then it becomes about Ukraine, and that’s the headline.”
But the problem isn’t that women are trying to have careers but that we keep insisting that they’re doing it wrong.
The same is true in the Good Day Sacramento interview: The anchors spend so much time telling “Carla” that it’s time to go beddy-bye that they only ask her one real question about the actual movie she’s in. That’s why campaigns like #AskHerMore have been adamantly trying to up the game when it comes to the sexist questions women are asked when they’re promoting their creative work. On the red carpet, men get to talk about their projects and their passions, whereas women are asked about their beauty regimen. “Adam Sandler, who are you wearing?” asked no one ever.
But if there’s a bright side to all this, the backlash against Good Day Sacramento on the Internet has been swift. The show’s Facebook page has been getting trolled hard by angry viewers demanding “Justice for Cara.” User Juan A. Garcia writes, “Hey how about you guys get a red bull, i heard it gives you wings. So maybe you can go f*** your self [sic].” And another commenter, Sarah Sakura, asks: “Can I challenge your anchors if they know certain social graces and proper etiquette and decorum?” Next time, Good Day should let their Facebook followers ask the questions.
Because if it’s sometimes difficult to act in seven movies while juggling your modeling career and a personal life, I bet it’s way more tiring to constantly be asked about everything but the one thing you came to talk about.
Nico Lang is the Opinion Editor for the Daily Dot.
Screengrab via Daily Actual/YouTube