• Sat, May 31 - 12:00 pm ET

When Celebrities Make Controversial Statements: Gwyneth Paltrow Vs. Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron Gwyneth Paltrow 5-31-14

While poring through this morning’s celebrity news and whatnot, something struck me about the way Gwyneth Paltrow‘s comments on motherhood and Twitter trolls (i.e. comparing Twitter abuse to going through “war”) have been reported versus Charlize Theron‘s bold use of the word “rape” to describe how she feels when the media intrudes on her life.  I found myself wondering why I was so quick to roll my eyes and sigh at Gwyneth, but was open to listening to Charlize explain her personal truth.  After reading a scathing statement addressed to Gwyneth by a Green Beret yesterday, I came to a few conclusions. (One of them being I hope everyone excuses my split-screen Microsoft Paint job.)

First, though, are the two controversial quotes in question.
Gwyneth, on suffering Twitter abuse:

“It’s almost like how, in war, you go through this bloody, dehumanizing thing, and then something is defined out of it.”

Charlize, on Google being a gateway drug:

“I don’t [Google myself] — that’s my saving grace. When you start living in that world, and doing that, you start feeling raped. When it comes to your son and your private life…maybe that’s just me. Some people might relish in all of that stuff. But there are certain things in my life that I think of as very sacred, and I’m very protective over them.”

1. Gwyneth is notorious for being completely out-of-touch.
Between the $500 jars of organic honey she pilfers regularly via GOOP, to the public lamenting on working motherhood being, like, SEH HARD for her, she doesn’t exactly give off a solid self-awareness vibe.  While I’m sure Charlize can afford jars of insect excrement equal to my monthly rent, she doesn’t ever talk about things like that.  Sure, she’s insanely beautiful and we all might assume her life is super wonderful, but she hasn’t always had this type of life and doesn’t regularly try to make me feel like a lowly serf.

2. Charlize appears to think before she speaks. 
While I don’t take use of the word “rape” lightly–especially when celebrities use the word during an interview–I don’t think she would have used that comparison if she didn’t truly feel violated enough to feel that way.  She also didn’t backtrack her answer or try to make an excuse for it.  Obviously Gwyneth didn’t either, but I think it’s valid to feel somewhat abused and certainly violated by the media–especially when you’re a mother.  Actual victims of sexual violence may not agree with me at all, and they’d be completely valid in feeling that way.  I’m just saying I also don’t think soldiers who have fought the front lines in Afghanistan, who have stared death and mutilation in the face, are nodding along to Gwyneth like, “yeah, totally.”

3. Being self-serving vs. protective
Even though we all know how she feels about being a working mother, Gwyneth’s feelings on the matter all revolve around one main thing: her.  How hard it is for her, how tiring it is for her, how hard it is to read insults about herself on Twitter, etc.  She doesn’t often go into what her kids find troubling about their life (and I’m willing to bet that someday, there will be a lot of things they find troubling).  Charlize talks about how hard it is to read shitty things about herself, but also in relation to being someone’s mother/daughter/girlfriend and how hard that might be for her son/mother/Sean Penn (who, btw, ick).  She’s protective and defensive over the issues and people that matter more than anything to her.  Not over her penchant for expensive rabbit food and 50-bajillion-thread-count-Icelandic-sheep’s-wool-Christmas-pajamas.

(Photo: WENN)

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  • Ugonna Wosu

    agreed. Charlize made it clear her concern was her son Jackson when she made her comments, but everyone is ignoring that and thinking she’s being self serving.

    • Cassandra Hough

      I think there are other words Charlize could have used that wouldn’t have had as much of a polarizing effect on people, but the fact that she was thoughtful and stood by what she said made me listen instead of attack.

    • Isabelle

      But it’s sort of ignorant to response first and understand later no matter what a person says.

    • Elizabeth Aspen

      Yes, she could have used another word if only for the fact that the word ‘rape’ has come to specifically mean being forcibly sexually assaulted. Although historically, the word actually does mean to plunder or violate, which could be anything. I remember Jeff Goldblums’ character in ‘Jurassic Park’ using the phrase “rape of the natural world” and no one said diddly. Granted, it was many years ago and people weren’t getting up in arms about the word then, but still, it wasn’t used with any sexual connotation at all.

  • Isabelle

    But people ask GP about her so she responds accordingly. I have read plenty of quotes regarding her children and family life but those don’t get analyzed because they aren’t controversial. And no one is forcing people to go to Goop, her blog. She isn’t forcing anyone to do anything or pushing it down their throats. If they find her blog interesting or helpful than they should follow them, if not than they shouldn’t.

  • Elizabeth Aspen

    I’m willing to give Charlize a pass on her guffaw, if only because she’s way more talented and deserving of a career and fabulous lifestyle than Gwyneth Paltrow, and also because I don’t think she used the term ‘rape’ lightly, especially since she portrayed a perpetually-raped woman in ‘Monster’. Gwyneth is untalented and got where she is because she had two famous parents who got her into the business. That Oscar she won was a hundred years ago and she didn’t even deserve it.

  • fantasymother

    I think GP’s audacity in publishing that cookbook is what set her up, for years to come, as a twit who believes she has opinions more valid than most. The cookbook introduced us (or at least me) to two new facts about an actress I would normally dismiss as a mediocre talent.

    1) By writing and publishing that cookbook she presented herself as a expert-at-large on nutrition which, we all know, she is not. Strike one.

    2) By writing and publishing that cookbook, chock full of ingredients most in the First World can’t afford unless they’re wealthy celebrities, corporate giants, or Paris Hilton, she announced to us all that she was completely and thoroughly out of touch with 99% of, well, everyone. Strike two.

    Strike three will show up soon, I’m certain.

    So it’s not really a Charlize versus Gwyneth situation. Gwyneth did an excellent job of setting herself up as someone who goes well beyond not thinking before she speaks. She also doesn’t think before she writes, or edits, or approves proofs…

    • Isabelle

      Well your obviously not the demographic for the book. People are not justified to berating someone when you purposefully seek out reasons to berate them.

    • fantasymother

      I’m just as likely to berate her publisher as I am GP. Very few fall into her financial demographic, and if she was unable to see this, her publisher should have. I do eat organic foods, grow as much myself as I can and shop carefully for what I can’t. In theory that would place me in her demographic except I could never afford what she endorses.

      Of course, what are her qualifications for endorsing them?

      Am I berating her? Not really, I’m simply disgusted. Years ago I worked for the publisher that produced The Beverly Hills Diet. I managed the production of this piece of crap book. It sold millions – no one really cared that a few dozen died from the effects of a diet created by someone who had no qualifications to create and endorse a diet.

    • Isabelle

      Well her first book must have sold enough copies for her to be able to do a second. She is not pretending to be a doctor or nutritionist, if you can’t afford the recipes move on with your life and let her do her own thing. I just find it mystifying how many people feel inferior towards her when they can simply just ignore her and let her live her own life.

    • Cassandra Hough

      I like your strikes. She really has set herself up for all of the war-like fodder she’s had to endure. What I find especially mind-boggling is how she hasn’t used any of it for a little self-reflection/understanding.

    • fantasymother

      She’s been too busy uncoupling ;-)

    • JenH1986

      This is totally conspiracy theory here but: I wonder if she really doesn’t think about it? The only time GP is relevant anymore is when she says stupid shit like this (or publishes her stupid cookbook). She plays a minimal part in a movie franchise. She hasn’t been lead in anything in ages. I can’t decide if she’s really that FUCKING clueless…or if she’s more “screw it I can’t act but I’ll stay relevant by saying totally asinine things” or a combination of both.

    • fantasymother

      That’s definitely possible. I think it’s common for many celebrities to be “leaked” saying really stupid things simply to keep their names in the headlines. As they say, the only bad publicity is no publicity.

  • Alikay

    I think it’s also worth noting that Charlize has a history of witnessing horrific abuse (she witnessed her mother shoot her father in self defense.) I believe she understands the gravity of the words she chose rather than someone as privileged and out of touch as Gwyneth.

    • Cassandra Hough

      This is another reason why I didn’t grow immediately righteous over her use of the word.

  • Hypocrisy

    Totally disagree – Charlize could have easily used “violated” instead to convey her message. Her comment still trivializes rape – it’s not the same at all as to lack of privacy due to being superfamous. :o(
    Also, for someone who witnessed domestic violence firsthand, it is pretty sad that Charlize would get involved with notorious hothead and woman beater Sean Penn.

  • Brad Pitt’s big toe

    The best scene I’ve seen out of Paltrow was when her’ head was in a box.