Photo of rachel zegler at a restaurant, a young brunette wearing a dark denim jacket, leaning against the table with her head in her hand.
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August 14, 2023

Rachel Zegler and the internet mob

I made a promise at the start of the strikes not to give any struck companies promotion for free. And so much has happened, but I’ve been content to write drafts and save them. Something that’s happened online this week requires a comment (without talking about the movie itself). The silence from a lot of people is allowing rampant misogyny. A year ago, Rachel Zegler was speaking about her upcoming lead role in a Disney live action remake. The clips have been making the rounds on TikTok. A more recent clip of her talking on the SAG-AFTRA picket line came up as well.

I honestly have nothing to say about her words or the movie itself. It’s mostly the reactions by everyone else, and the extreme misogyny being displayed.

The backlash about the strike

As to the clip on the picket line, she simply said that she deserved to be paid for every stream of her work. People were livid, saying she’s making millions. Most people don’t understand that those publicized deals aren’t the take home pay. Actors are paid a percentage of that reported value. The expectation is they’ll make the rest of it from the box office earnings of the movie. In her last two major roles, she likely made less than expected. Both movies had rocky theatrical releases due to the behavior of the male leads. So yes, it would be important she get paid for streaming views. She isn’t making Scarlett Johansson money yet.

Sidebar: actors rely on residuals to make ends meet between jobs. While this is far more urgent for working actors than top of the bill actors, residuals are their rainy day funds. In the industry you never know when the parts will dry up. Is this fair? Maybe not. Bbut that’s how the industry has always worked. Right up until the rise of streaming, it was a process that worked for actors and writers. Studio greed is why everyone is on strike.

A year old interview

Now, to the interview about this upcoming remake. What I think a lot of fans don’t realize is that most press interviews are based on talking points given by the studio. So that the phrases the upset everyone likely are talking points that came directly from the studio, the way they intend to market the movie. Promoting a project is part of the SAG-AFTRA contract with the AMPTP (which is why actors can’t promote their works). Rachel might be clunky in selling it, and doing it in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s how the studio would have hoped she’d say it – but she didn’t say anything new.

The only comment I will make is that it’s a very common way to market fairy tale adaptations- so the backlash feels a little strange. But the backlash feels familiar. We’ve seen this backlash happen to other actresses before. Jennifer Lawrence, Anne Hathaway, and yes… Kristen Stewart. People turned on them just because it seemed to be trendy.

The attacks are incredibly misogynistic. Rachel is 22. And despite the fact that she’s only playing the character, all the vitriol is aimed at her, none of it at the studio who greenlit the script. I haven’t seen a single “Iger is ruining everything.”

(Which not surprisingly, it feels a lot like the attempts that the press is making to smear those on strike – pointing the blame on actors and writers looking for some job security and a small percentage of the revenue that studio executives gift themselves for doing none of the creative work.)

Rachel Zegler: my two cents

I’ve seen people try to say that it isn’t feminist to support Rachel’s words, that there should be more than one way for women to exist on film. Which is true. But it doesn’t feel particularly feminist that weeks after social media was brimming with content about how there’s more than one way to be a Barbie and not letting the patriachy win, that suddenly everyone wants to rip Rachel to shreds.

It is feminist to let Rachel say what she wants to say, because it isn’t actively harming anyone. It’s an opinion on the original movie. If you disagree with what she says, then it’s up to you to present other points of view. It isn’t feminist to tear her down just because you disagree.

Ask yourself, why would you think that she needs to be knocked down a peg for promoting her movie? We’ve heard so much worse from men, from other actresses on press tours. What is it about Rachel that people hate?

Is it that she’s young and getting her break? Do people think Rachel shouldn’t have been cast in that role since she’s a Latina, but want to avoid being labeled racist?

I hope that everyone can step back and ask themselves who benefits by pushing these arguments. Nobody wins when we tear down women for entertainment. This is a case of people trying to fill the void left by the strike by tearing people apart just because someone else was. It’s bizarre.

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