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Colette Burson (here with her husband and Hung co-creator Dmitry Lipkin) raised a few eyebrows with her comments about the scarcity of women who are pretty, funny, and over 35.
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Well, that was an unfortunate thing to say.
As part of a New York Times Magazine profile of Anne Heche, who appears on the HBO drama Hung, the show's co-creator, Colette Burson, talked about how lucky they were to cast Heche and said, "We auditioned a lot of people...It is incredibly difficult to find beautiful, talented, funny women over 35."
After finding herself on the receiving end of a lot of criticism, Burson has now reached out to the blog Women And Hollywood to clarify her remarks. (Since I mentioned her comments on Twitter this morning, it seemed fair to discuss her follow-up.)
She says that what she meant to say was that there are so few roles for beautiful, talented, funny women over 35 that they've all quit in frustration, so they don't go out on auditions anymore and you can't get anyone to come out.
Upon reading it, it struck me that her explanation would make a lot more sense if she'd said, "We couldn't find people to audition," rather than "We auditioned a lot of people." The way she said it, it doesn't seem to speak to a shortage of prospects so much as a conclusion that plenty of people showed up, but they weren't talented enough, funny enough, or pretty enough.
And, strikingly, she sticks to her guns on the fact that the combination of pretty and funny is inherently rare, adding that it's "talked about in Hollywood." Certainly, pretty (in Hollywood terms) is rare, and really funny is rare, so mathematically, that would make pretty and funny rare. But then Burson says "blonde and funny" is also rare.
Blonde and funny? What is the possible rational connection between being blonde and being funny? If natural blondes dye their hair, are they funnier? Can you take a brunette and make her a blonde and make her a funny blonde? Is it genetic? Cultural? What is the theory under which brunettes are funnier than blondes?
It's undoubtedly good for business that Burson spoke out, and you can't blame her for shifting the focus to the lack of roles for women over 35, which is certainly real. And she seems to have some history taking gender politics seriously in her work (that link goes to her frank discussion of a movie she wrote about the sex lives of teenage girls, by the way).
But it leaves some interesting questions open about what's part of the solution and what's part of the problem, when it comes to casting for women who are — as she put it — over 35.