Forbes released a list of the 10 most trusted celebrities. Culled together by E-Poll, the rundown “ranked the A-list names Americans rated the highest in for trustworthiness, awareness and appeal.” These are stars who have been so consistently respectable that we allow them creative flexibility (Tom Hanks in Philadelphia to Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump.) We feel reassured when we hear them. (James Earl Jones’ voice-overs for CNN for example.) There’s not an offensive name on the list (maybe Will Smith, what with his Scientology links), but at the same time, there’s only a single lady–Sally Field. Which makes us wonder: Why doesn’t America trust its leading ladies?
(‘’)Because we demand so much of them, we’re expecting failure. And even when they succeed, we maintain a relationship of distrust. They can succeed countless times over and that relationship won’t evolve. And when one leading lady takes a tumble, it becomes the talk of the town and proves this totally lopsided hypothesis to be true.
For example: With squeaky-clean A-listers like Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Sandra Bullock, and Amy Adams enjoying heightened publicity these days, it’s not as if there’s a dearth of similarly trustworthy women. Fans followed Streep from Sophie’s Choice to The Devil Wears Prada and even into creative misfires like Rendition. Many followed Bullock from Miss Congeniality 2 to The Blind Side. Amy Adams was doing a guest arc on The Office and deigned to star in Disney’s Enchanted, before appearing on-screen opposite Streep in Doubt. Witherspoon did Cruel Intentions before she courted Oscar-caliber fare like Walk the Line.
But then you can clock the cock-ups of starlets like Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears: Two of America’s sweethearts-in-the-making gone terribly awry. There are few young men who have similarly defected and undone entire careers. At the end of the day, LiLo throwing a hissy fit will grab more headlines than Streep looking radiant at an awards ceremony. Curiously, the opposite is true if you were to consider Robert Downey Jr.’s drug problems. The country has even kind of forgiven Christian Bale his epic screw-up from last year. Besides, those would more likely be eclipsed by Brad Pitt being Brad Pitt in any part of the globe. Which then puts us back at square one.
Maybe, like most things media-related, the American consumption of culture is always tinged with some kind of Lolita-esque spite. The kind invoked when a pedigreed star like Nicole Kidman refuses to indulge the public for more, choosing instead to shut herself away from the world. Which, in turn, fuels jokes of her robotic composure.
For better or worse, there are different expectations. Leading men pretty much have a lowered set of expectations to meet and when they barely meet their already-lowered expectations, we applaud them. “Well done, Tom Cruise, you didn’t jump on any couches today!” The bar for women remains much higher and inflexible. “Oh, Katie Holmes. I don’t think I can forgive you for that horrible Batman Begins bullshit you did. There’s no way I’m watching Thank You For Smoking now.” And when replicated on a larger scale, these sentiments then translate to stranger trends.
Among the most prominent: Basically that America would sooner trust a man like Tom Cruise not to make an ass of himself (there’s truth in numbers) than give Holmes another chance to redeem herself (once again, numbers.) And so we’re more willing to trust James Earl Jones for saying, “This is CNN,” than Streep for stepping in and out of Miranda Priestley’s heels without flinching.