Punchline Magazine wants to know if it’s good for women in comedies if Mila Kunis scored the cover of GQ’s comedy issue, a first for a woman, if she’s scantily clad on the cover.
Out of curiosity, I went back to 2000 in GQ’s cover archive to confirm the suspicion that I had that Kunis’ shoot is completely typical. In all that time, Angelina Jolie is the only woman who landed a cover and who got to wear an outfit for the shoot that she could have worn out in public to some place other than a beach. Her closest runners-up were Charlize Theron in hot pants and a top that shows she’s clearly not wearing a bra, Anna Kournikova in a crop top, Jamie King in a see-through top, and Eva Mendez in a mesh dress. Jennifer Anniston memorably posed topless in a jeans skirt when she was named the magazine’s first Woman of the Year. And Sacha Baron Cohen reciprocated a little when he posed naked for the comedy issue in 2009. In this context, where men generally wear full outfits and women wear very little, the treatment of Kunis isn’t out of line with GQ’s practices, where the men are role models and the women are objects of worship. It’s a pretty boring decision for a cover shot, but I don’t think it’s sexist. Given that male comedians who get the cover for this issue usually end up looking silly or not particularly attractive on it Kunis may actually be one up on them.
And if the pictures get guys who skipped Tad Friend’s Anna Faris profile to read a piece that touches substantially on sexism and comedy, I’m okay with that. We do not live in a perfect age. I think it’s very smart that Kunis called out Lucille Ball, Sarah Silverman, and Tina Fey, all women with substantial creative control over their shows (I’ve always loved that Lucille bought out Desilu after her divorce so she could own her own production company outright — this seems like a substantially overlooked issue when we talk about representation in pop culture, period) as role models. And frankly, I really respect her for agreeing with the interviewer that Tina Fey’s ongoing efforts to act as though Liz Lemon isn’t that attractive are getting tired. Kunis apparently told GQ “You want the attention to go to the joke itself rather than be distracted by who’s delivering it…But look at Bridesmaids. That movie’s full of beautiful women who are hysterical. I’m so proud of those ladies.” Comics, be they ladies or dudes, are stronger when they can execute humor on more than one track.
At the end of the day, I would be sort of sad if magazines aimed at heterosexual men weren’t able to acknowledge that women are attractive. That doesn’t feel like any sort of feminist victory to me.