StMU Research Scholars

Featuring Scholarly Research, Writing, and Media at St. Mary’s University

March 20, 2023

The Parallel of the Media’s Treatment of Female Celebrities


A place full of glamouring lights, high fashion, and established awards – is also riddled with dirty laundry, scandals, and hundred years of mistreatment for talent and those who work behind the scenes. Women being a group that has suffered tremendously in the entertainment industry, facing both sexism from their fellow employers and the media – tabloids, news outlets, talk shows, etc. In the sense that female’s in the industry have to worry about things that their fellow male counterparts don’t typically have to think about- such as aging, not being seen as physically attractive, or their opinions not being taken as seriously. 1

Being subjected to snide comments from both superiors and colleagues, is something that most women have been subjected to in their lifetime or least witness it occurring to someone else. But imagine not just one person making comments about trivial things like your weight, how clear your skin is, or analyzing your relationships and friendships- but millions of people. People who only get a glimpse of your life, who make assumptions based only on half-truths or total fabrications. That’s what female celebrities deal with on a consistent basis, now while they are in the public light and subjected to scrutiny, there is a sense of no boundaries when it comes to female celebs. A lot of us contribute to the overconsumption of tabloid news, it’s like celebrity gossip gives us a sense of adrenaline and something to bond over.

Magazines for sale at supermarket | January 31, 2008| Courtesy of MTSOfan of Flickr

But the way that the media rips apart female celebrities is honestly brutal, labeling these women, never letting them live down a mistake they may have made in the past, or picking apart their appearance. We never see articles written about men in the same fashion, hardly picking on a man who’s struggling with something like acne or gaining a few pounds. While yes there will always be someone writing about someone’s “flaws”, it’s more common for there to be a more positive spin for men. They’ll get praised for rocking their acne, while for women it would be pointed out how bad their skin is and how different they look in comparison to a professional taken photo. The history of partners will always be something of interest to the public and the media will never let women just date around, being forced to talk about their intimate relationships in public.

Pamela Anderson who starred in the show Baywatch, is a great example of female celebrity who faced both exploitation and harassment from the media. Private videos of her and then husband Tommy Lee of the rock band MÖtley Crüe were stolen from their home and then distributed online without the couples consent. The couple filed a police report for the theft of their personal items and filed a $10 million lawsuit against Penthouse Magazine for publishing photographs of Anderson and Lee from an illegal copy of the video they possessed. The lawsuit would prove to be futile as the judge ruled that the images were no longer private due to other magazine’s publishing the private photos. 2

Pamela Anderson 2009 | Pamela Anderson attending “The 6th Annual Hollywood Style Awards” Beverly Hills | October 10, 2009 | Courtsey of Wikimeida commons and Glenn Francis

This would be a pattern for Anderson. She was denied having the tapes be taken down, because Andrerson was seen as someone who couldn’t be exploited due to her modeling for Playboy Magazine. Her identity as a sex symbol, rather as a human being who didn’t consent to having millions of people see intimate videos of her and her ex-husband, jeopardized her personal privacy. And throughout her career she was faced with humiliation and harassment from the media and the public, which affected her career and her relationship with Lee. Last year, Hulu aired Pam & Tommy a docu-series which tells the tale of the couples eccentric romance and details of the videotape situation. Even this series was produced without her knowledge or participation of the project. Once again telling a story that wasn’t meant to be told without the person who was ultimately affected by the tapes and participated in the romance. It wasn’t until recently that the Baywatch star gets to tell her own story, in her documentary Pamela, a Love Story, a celebration of a women who finally gets to tell her story and on her own terms. 3

We see this pattern of demonization of female celebrities, not seeing them as actual people, who like us, go through difficult times and make mistakes. There’s this need for input from the public and we respond. We contribute to this sensational media cycle each time we click on an article, or search for facts about the current drama that’s occurring, and when we tune in on the gossip channels. Even though we don’t fully understand all the details, we are quick to judge and make assumptions about these celebrities characters. Specifically giving female celebrities a harsher sentence of judgement, never fully allowing them to move on with their work and bringing up certain things from their past to haunt them and make them feel small.

Another actress who faced with this type of scrutiny is Angelina Jolie. She faced a lot of criticism for her relationship with Brad Pitt. Pitt was previously married to beloved Friends star Jennifer Aniston, leading the public’s assumption of infidelity happening between Jolie and Pitt, while they filmed the movie Mr.&Mrs.Smith together. This caused Jolie to be pressed with questions about their relationship and have articles written with the accusation that she ruined Pitt’s previous marriage. Jolie got majority of the heat from the press in comparison to Pitt. A tabloid frenzy pitting the two women against each other ensued. while there was some truth to the rumors and Pill and Jolie did marry. Later the couple called it quits, due to Jolie filing for divorce and abuse allegations against her husband.

“When one of the children verbally defended Jolie, Pitt lunged at his own child and Jolie grabbed him from behind to stop him. To get Jolie off his back, Pitt threw himself backward into the airplane’s seats, injuring Jolie’s back and elbow. The children rushed in and all bravely tried to protect each other. Before it was over, Pitt choked one of the children and struck another in the face.” 4, October 5, 2022, NA. Gale OneFile: Business (accessed March 20, 2023).]

Cluster of Magazine’s of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s Divorce | October 9, 2016 | Courtsey of Bob Doran on Flickr

When these statements came out in the media stories began to paint Jolie as a vindictive wife who wanted to tarnish Pitt’s name and career, when in reality no one besides the family knew what actually occurred on that flight. And once again Pitt escapes the wrath of the public, while some tabloids may have written pieces about the alleged abuse and the messy divorce, he still never got the same treatment from the public. Because he’s a beloved actor, there wasn’t the same impact on his career and public image, he still got to act in big movies and continue producing films even after the news came out.

It just shows that there is an imbalance when it comes to the media’s mercy, if a woman gets involved in drama it will follow her around for years, become what she’s known for, and ultimately affect her overall image. Where a male actor can openly say he disliked a role, or production, while if a women said that she thought her character could’ve had some more depth to it, they’re considered to be ungrateful.

There’s a lack of balance in the entertainment industry when it comes to men and women, women will walk on eggshells to keep their supporters, their bosses, and the media happy. But it’s so common for these women to either lose their support from the media, becoming hated, or becoming disliked by those in Hollywood.

” Women can get blackballed in Hollywood because their co-stars on one production didn’t like them; meanwhile, their male counterparts, particularly white men, can openly discuss “pranking” their co-stars with dead rats, used condoms, and boxes of bullets and still continue to line up high-profile gigs.” 5

Where we have these male celebrities not seeing error in their actions, due to them being put on a pedestal, never actually suffering the consequences of their actions. But female celebrities will make a comment on how they wish something was different with the production of a project or they vocalized a concern they had, it turns into her being difficult to work with and leads to less roles being offered because of this assumption.

We should keep this in mind, that a lot of tabloid headlines are just assumptions of celebrities and they tend to have misogynistic undertones in their articles. While we’ve gotten better with recognizing these tones we tend to fall victim to clicking that article with the crazy title or unflattering paparazzi photo sequence. We should become more aware of the media we’re consuming, how we contribute to these articles being written, because the media is catering to what the audience is interacting with the most.

  1. Nick Allen,.2015. “”Hollywood sexism revealed in anonymous blog; Women working in film and television have detailed a pervasive culture of sexism and discrimination in the film and television industry.” Telegraph Online, May 5, 2015. Gale OneFile: Business (accessed March 18, 2023).
  2. Matt Brennan, “Timeline: Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s Sex Tape Saga, as It Happened.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 2 Feb. 2022,
  3. Liz, McNEIL, “Pamela Anderson: It’s My Turn.” People 99, no. 5 (January 30, 2023): 42–49.
  4.  “Brad Pitt ‘choked’ one child, hit another: Angelina Jolie.” Daily Times [Lahore, Pakistan
  5. Bradley, Laura. “Did Constance Wu Get ‘Canceled’ for Being ‘Ungrateful’?: From Constance Wu to Katherine Heigl, Neither Hollywood nor the Public Likes a Female Celebrity Who Does Not Properly Perform Gratitude—especially Not a Woman of Color.” Daily Beast (New York), July 15, 2022, N.PAG.

Tags from the story


gender equality

gender in media

Gender Roles

Recent Comments

Leave a Reply