And why I'd like to slap "America's Sweetheart"
I told myself before writing this story that it wouldn’t be a rant. And it’s not. It’s an honest reflection of how I feel and what I’ve experienced.
Before I go any further, and before anyone misunderstands or takes offense, I want to say that the women on one of my other writing platforms have been the kindest, most supportive, and encouraging group of females that I’ve ever encountered. And that includes my long career as an advertising and marketing writer.
So those fabulously fantastic females, are exempt from any vitriol I might spew.
Here comes a blanket statement: By and large, I’ve found that men are a hell of a lot easier to work with than women.
Men don’t take an immediate dislike for you for no apparent reason other than your choice of that day’s apparel. Or, simply for the fact that you’re another woman and therefore, “competition.” Again, at least not in my experience. I’m sure the guys have a whole set of foibles of their own.
Perhaps that’s because men don’t see us as “competition.” I hope that’s not the case but again, I’m speaking from my personal experience. Many, if not most of the women I’ve worked with certainly did view me as a threat to their jobs, which was a hoot because I didn’t want their jobs. I wanted MY job. I was perfectly happy with being an Associate Creative Director. I didn’t need the “Executive Vice President” title or some such bullshit.
When I started out, I had an exciting job at the Chicago Sun-Times. Before the daily eventually went down the tubes.
I worked as a writer in the promotions department, which essentially, was their in-house advertising arm and also as a frequent features writer. With a byline!
My boss was a guy who’d been there forever. A real mensch of a man. Kind, funny, and easy-going.
When he decided to retire, his staff was crushed. Enter two women. One more clueless than the other. They had no idea what we did in the promotions department, much less how to do it.
One of these two, especially, I clashed with. She was a rich girl whose daddy had set her up with some sort of furniture design company. What she was doing at the paper was anyone’s guess. It was a lark for her, I suppose.
There’s no need to go into all the nasty details but, even though I tried to “go along to get along,” I lost my job. A job that I loved and would have remained at for years to come.
My presence was an affront to her because I knew what I was doing and she didn’t. That became a pattern that I encountered time and again.
Fast forward a few years to the downtown Chicago ad agency where I worked as a copywriter for four years. Without fail, the supervisors who were the most helpful and generous with their time were the guys. Except for THIS guy. Brief segue here.
Another guy, the one who hired me, had sort of a rep for being a letch. I remember when he took me out for a “lunch interview,” he talked about himself the whole time.
One day, I was in his office discussing a project. He looked typically bleary-eyed. It was after lunch and he’d probably had a few.
I remember during the conversation that he stopped talking and just looked at me. Squirming in my seat, I said, "What?” Scintillating, I know.
His response: “You know, you remind me of my wife. Just like you, she has big, brown eyes and long brown hair…” He paused for a minute, then: “But she has better tits. No. Bigger. Bigger tits.”
Anyway, this agency flaunted some particularly nasty female staffers. Some were sneaks. Some were back-biters. Others were just beaten down by the former two. And one became my VP/Creative Director years later.
Talk about an incestuous business.
I’ve written about this woman before. The clueless twit who used phrases she didn’t understand like “Case and point.” The one who withheld work from me so she could fill up her own timesheet. (The place was very big on our billing at least 95% of our time to client work.) We could take a pee every now and then but that was it.
Because said twit had talked her way into a job she neither understood nor deserved, she, along with our hatched-faced account team, lost a shitload of business resulting in my entire team being laid off.
So I was out. After fifteen years. She eventually got hers, but not soon enough.
On to Reese Witherspoon. “Oh, Reese. How I’d love to smack that self-satisfied smirk from your silky-smooth cheeks.”
This might startle you. “Why,” you might be thinking. “What could you possibly have against America’s sweetheart?”
This: Witherspoon talks a good game about “empowering women in film” with her production company, “Hello Sunshine.” (Gak.)
She has a “game,” alright. For example:
“I don’t really believe that we’ve been seeing the full spectrum of the female experience, and that is simply because women’s stories are not prioritized,” she continued. “I also just think we need to think about women differently because women are the largest captured consumer audience in the world.”
Uh-huh. Tell me something I don’t know. Here’s more:
“Women want real substance and premium thought-provoking, well-made content, and they want it now,” she said. “Women want to be entertained where they are, running errands, going to the doctor, on their mobile phones, their laptops. We need to stop expecting them to come to us, and we need to go to them because they want to see themselves onscreen, and that’s the most important thing. …”
Apparently, she only wants to see certain women onscreen. Entitled women like the character she plays in her company-produced “Big Little Lies,” which was entertaining, I give it that, but relatable? To whom?
And here’s one of my favorite Witherspoon-isms:
“I realized if I wasn’t going to start creating these opportunities for myself and other women, nobody was going to do it.”
Yeah. That and a banana…
I don’t know how she does it! Where does she find the time to act, produce, write cookbooks, host talk shows — and empower women?
She should run for office! Right? RIGHT? I bet Oprah would vote for her!
If it sounds like I have an ax grind, I sure as hell do. I have a screenplay that I believe is a perfect match for “Hello Bullshit.” And other women can actually relate to it! Of course, the protagonist is in her fifties and doesn’t live in a stupendous beach house, and she gets breast cancer…but so what?
I’ve tried to get this project to her company as has my manager, to no avail. That’s because I’m not the right kind of woman. Not the type that Witherspoon would like to empower.
I’m not fresh as the morning dew. I’m seasoned. I have a little dust on me. You’d think that might be compelling. A female screenwriter with some perspective. Someone who's been in the trenches and could inspire other women.
So yes, I’m pissed and frustrated. But I’m not beat. Not by a long shot. I’ll get there, but it will no doubt have to be by my own volition.
I used to like Reese Witherspoon. I enjoyed her earlier performances like the stellar turn in “The Man in the Moon.” But now she just annoys the shit out of me. Because she’s everywhere, spouting her bullshit for a salivating press to regurgitate.
“Reese, put your money where your mouth is and give real women a shot. Women who aren’t in the industry, who don’t have the connections that can get a script into your anointed grasp. You might just uncover a gem amid the dreck. And if you can’t do that, please just shut the hell up and do what you do best: Pretend.”
© Sherry McGuinn, 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Sherry McGuinn is a slightly-twisted, longtime Chicago-area writer and award-winning screenwriter. Her work has appeared in The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, and numerous other publications. Sherry’s manager is currently pitching her newest screenplay, a drama with dark, comedic overtones and inspired by a true story.