Jenny Slate is hot off of two animated film home runs in 2016: Zootopia and Secret Life of Pets. Because of their success, the actor says she can afford to be a bit pickier when it comes to choosing movie roles. And by pickier, she means giving a hard no to films that incorporate tired female stereotypes she frankly can't stand. Slate talked about stereotypical female roles in a new interview, and she basically said what we were all thinking. Her two latest hits were mainstream, but she shouldn't sell herself short. The 34-year-old has become an indie film darling with a knack for choosing characters in stories that aren't typically shown on the big screen — My Blind Brother (2016), Gifted (2017), and Obvious Child (2014) being some of them. Though it seems like her characters generally haven't been bound to the stereotypes she's referring to, she makes it a point to take a stand against them moving forward.
In an interview with Vulture, Slate reveals two female portrayals she loathes: the mom with the "ruined" vagina and the quirky best friend. I could try to make a mental list of films I've seen that have had either or both, but I can't — because there are so many or because they sadly all blend together at this point. Regardless, I've been thinking what Slate has expressed for some time. Not every mother's vagina is destroyed from childbirth. Not every best friend or sidekick is silly and lighthearted. The stereotypes are old, and Slate is putting her foot down.
The actor says she'll intentionally decline any movie that "makes it okay to laugh about things like women’s bodies after birth" with self-deprecating characters who make jokes at their vagina's expense. "I think it’s really rude for someone to disparage a vagina in the female body after it’s just f*cking created and exploded a baby into our world," she said. What's admirable is that Slate has yet to become a mom, yet her stance is still so strong. "It makes me furious and I will not change my opinion on that."
The second is the quirky sidekick. "She doesn’t have a filter! She talks about poop!" Slate said. They've been shown time and time again. Those characters are off-limits for the actor from here on out. Instead, her focus is on portraying true depth and human emotion on screen — darkness, humor, and hope included.
Slate's outspoken stance helps create big picture change by bringing attention to aspects of Hollywood that may be written off as small or non-problematic, reminding us that we must fight for true equality across the board. Hollywood has a ways to go in terms of female representation on screen and behind the scenes. Luckily, there are game-changers in the business who are making waves by tearing apart constructs of sexism and ageism one by one — think Meryl Streep, Tina Fey, and, of course, Slate herself. Additionally, heroes like Gina Rodriguez, Issa Rae, and Mindy Kaling have gone the additional step to move mountains for diversity at a time when roles for diverse women are even harder to get than diverse roles for women.
I'll be eager to see any of Slate's roles moving forward, as I know they're chosen with intent and a longing for substance and realness. And I'll continue to support all these famous women in their fight to get the same meaty, complex roles that men have enjoyed for so many years.