In case you don’t know who she is, Sarah Silverman is a bold and fairly outrageous comedienne who is probably known equally for one of three things: her Comedy Central show (“The Sarah Silverman Show”), her recent NY Times bestseller, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee, and “The Great Schlep,” her hysterical successful attempt to get Barack Obama elected in Florida through encouraging all of the Jewish grandparents there to vote for him.
Although her brashness is not always my cup of tea, the reason I have always loved Sarah is for her signature style. She is attractive by general standards of our culture: raven black long hair, pale smooth skin, proportional features, and a curvy but thin body. But she became famous wearing baggy boyish jeans, ¾ sleeve baseball tees, a ponytail, and no visible make-up. And I’m not talking about skin-tight sexy jeans, curve-hugging tees, and a cutesy little-girl ponytail. We’re talking effortless confident female; not “trying to look unattractive,” not “dikey” (I know you were thinking it!), not self-conscious, and not “hiding her body.” Just simple. That’s her look and I love it.
So imagine my shock and awe (forgive me) when a few months ago, I chanced to see her on some late-night talk show and she was – hang on to your seats—in a short mini-dress; layered hair grazing the top of her slender shoulders; in high spike heels; with glossy lips and blush. She looked great, don’t get me wrong; but something inside of me shrunk a little bit and I gasped outwardly. Where was my sporty Sarah? Where was the brave no-nonsense comedienne who held her own among males in her industry without “having to” display herself as a sexy woman? My husband told me to pipe down; he was trying to hear sexy Sarah being totally crude and over-the-top vulgar in her new get-up!
I instantly felt bad for doubting her simply because she was doing what almost every other female in show business has to do (myself included, to the best of my ability…). How many actresses and even respected writers like Tina Fey are only truly considered competitive in this industry when they shed those ‘extra’ 20 lbs and squeeze into a size 2? Most.
Sarah Silverman’s s talent is not in any way decreased by her showing her legs or letting her hair down, as it were, but still! I can’t help but wondering if some stylist got a hold of her and told her if she wants to compete, she’s gotta drop the boyish boxy look. Or perhaps she got tired of her signature look and wanted to start dressing up. But maybe she felt she “had to” do this to get “real” parts? (She is apparently appearing nude in her upcoming film but has said a lot of funny self-deprecating things about the nudity…)
I hope the old Sarah comes back soon in some permutation. I want her to have all the success in the world, but I also want her to know that she is someone I have looked up to because she hasn’t typically tried to fit the mold of what women in this industry are “supposed to” look like. She has her own style, and I love it. I think she is someone I would want to hang out with, if I were allowed by my stylist to even wear baggy boy jeans with ¾ sleeve baseball tees.
Oh, feminism. We’ve come so far but it sometimes seems we have such a long long way to go.