Is It Easier For Men To Make A Comeback?


Tonight is, by all accounts, Mickey Rourke‘s night to shine. After toiling in Hollywood’s Has-Been Zone for years, Rourke is favored to win gold. But is it harder for actresses to overcome Has Been status?

If we consider what nearly ruined Mickey Rourke’s career in the first place; the reputation for being difficult, the bad movie choices, the plastic surgery that rendered him practically unrecognizable, it’s fairly amazing to consider that Mickey Rourke might just walk away an Oscar winner this evening. Yet in a way, it’s not: Rourke has always had the talent, he just couldn’t seem to keep his shit together long enough for anyone to give him another chance to prove it.
But would an actress who went through the same struggles as Rourke even ever get that chance?

Though The Wrestler may be Rourke’s greatest performance, he’s still being, well, Mickey Rourke all over the place, giving wackadoo speeches like the one he gave at last night’s Independent Spirit Awards, wherein he demanded that Hollywood consider giving roles to his friend, Eric Roberts: “Eric Roberts is probably the best actor I ever worked with, and I don’t know why in the last 15 years ain’t nobody give him a chance to show his [stuff]…. Eric Roberts is the [expletive] man. Like I got, he deserves a second chance, and I wish there would be one [expletive] filmmaker in this room that would let him fly because he is something else.”

And where, as former Jezebel editor Jessica Grose points out, this is what he had to say about co-star Marisa Tomei: “I wanna thank uh, who else? oh! Melissa? Marissa Tomei. Goddamn she had to do all this with a bare ass and she brought it. Is she here? Not many girls can climb the pole. You understand what I’m saying? She climbed the pole and she did it well, and it was a very courageous performance.”

Regardless of Rourke’s fairly gross speech, Hanna Rosin of XXFactor argues that The Wrestler has a decidedly feminist edge to it, in terms of how it portrays the struggles of both Rourke and Tomei:

“Usually when the exploitation of the male body is a theme, the context is noble sport, or test of manhood- boxers face off like warriors, quarterbacks take one for the team,” Rosin writes, “But here the context is pure exploitation. What’s happening to his body is the exact equivalent of what’s happening to the character played by Marisa Tomei – an aging stripper who can’t convince any of her clients to buy a lap dance. The wrestler often refers to himself as an “aging piece of meat” and he is always objectified by the camera – shot from behind, or from the chest down. He’s not a victim in the straightforward sense – the wrestlers are all very polite and discuss their moves in advance. But he is in the second wave sense – trapped in a larger system which gives him no other choice.”

But in the real world, an actor like Mickey Rourke can undergo extreme plastic surgery and dress like an insane scarecrow and wax poetic about his dogs and forget his co-stars names on stage and be forgiven, due to his talent and ability. Do actresses receive the same forgiveness? If Marissa Tomei, who is undergoing a comeback of her own, wasn’t still quite lovely and couldn’t “climb the pole,” would she have been cast in her Oscar-nominated Wrestler role? If she was the one who was known for extreme plastic surgery and erratic behavior, would people even give her the time of day? It’s a strange but sad question that is, perhaps, worth asking.

So what say you, commenters? Is it easier for men to make a comeback?

Marisa Tomei’s Quiet Comeback [PBS]
A Very Courageous Pole Performance [XX Factor]
Is The Wrestler A Chick Flick? [XX Factor]
The Mickey Rourke Show Enlivens Spirit Awards [Chicago Tribune]

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