Hi, hey, hello—just stopping by with a casual reminder that your internet fave is mad creepy. Since I *could* be talking about like a dozen different people right now (Aziz Ansari? James Franco? Louis CK?), I won’t keep you in suspense: It’s everyone’s fave grumpy uncle, Bill Murray, who just made some… not awesome comments about Selena Gomez, his co-star in the upcoming zombie flick The Dead Don’t Die.
In an interview at the movie’s NYC premiere on June 10, Murray said that he had wrongfully judged Selena before working with her. “I learned that whatever preconception I had about someone that had 55 million, billion followers [or] something… I probably thought she was different than she turned out to be.” Then he said that, “if my mother were alive, I’d bring [Selena] home to her—‘Mother. I want you to meet Selena.’” Excuse me while I gag.
Murray’s comments about Selena during the publicity tour have been super cringey (he also joked he would be her boyfriend if she wanted), but the semi-sexual tone is just the beginning. We can’t overlook an equally problematic part of this whole situation: how totally condescending Murray is being.
Okay, but *why* is Bill Murray shocked that Selena Gomez is talented and professional?
That “wrongfully judged her” thing is the sneakily f-cked up part. He’s expressing shock that she’s competent, and it’s not the first time he’s been so condescending. He also told Vanity Fair that “she’s unusually bright. She’s kind and she’s natural,” and mentioned he thought it was refreshing she “didn’t have a ‘get a load of me’-type thing.” Sorry, but… “unusually bright”? Gross. People already tend to assume young women stars are vapid and untalented, and their achievements are so often assumed to be . As Dua Lipa pointed out, everyone assumes the work of women pop stars is manufactured by men who are pulling the strings. It takes so much more for them to be taken seriously
And this isn’t the first time Murray’s made questionable comments about a young, female star. At San Diego Comic Con, he told a massive crowd of mostly guy fans that at first he “was not convinced, but Miley Cyrus is really f**king good. She can sing. I thought she was a knucklehead crazy girl that you’d want to go on a road trip with, but she can sing.” (He worked with Cyrus on the Netflix special A Very Murray Christmas.) Is it even possible to break down all the reasons this is f-cked up? First of all, he essentially says he assumed Miley was dumb and untalented just because she’s a young pop star. But then he found out that she, a professional singer, could actually do her job, and his mind was blown. That also implies all kinds of things about the fanbases of stars like Miley, who are also mostly young women and girls—namely, that they’re tasteless and will gladly consume what he assumed was bad music.
In the end, the message that gets pumped out over and over again in the industry seems to be pretty clear: an older, more established man is pleasantly surprised when he meets a young woman who he judges capable of doing her job well! What a nice guy.
Dear dudes: women aren’t desperately awaiting your approval
So, we should state up-front that this is definitely not the worst thing that Murray has (allegedly) done. But this type of language does get at a larger problem with the entertainment industry and tbh the world in general. Men constantly feel like they need to validate or give their official stamp of approval to women, especially younger women, and the general public keeps indicating that they’re happy to listen. Even the women they’re talking about in such weird ways usually don’t see—or feel like they can publicly acknowledge—the problem.
So many powerful (and not-so-powerful) guys don’t think twice about offering unnecessary commentary about the women they know/meet/see in the street literally one time. It’s not just about her professional abilities—they’ll also tell us whether they think she’s beautiful or smart or talented, because they assume the world (and the woman) wants to know. And the worst part is that we kind of prove them right. Just look at Drake. For a long time, the man couldn’t shut up about Rihanna or Nicki Minaj in interviews or songs, and a ton of his music ultimately boils down to him explaining why he does or doesn’t approve of a woman’s looks or behaviour. And we love it. Proof: “Hotline Bling,” which is entirely about how upset he is that a woman he likes isn’t a “good girl” anymore, went seven times platinum.
Lots of people would say men who do this are just being nice. It’s true that they usually mean well, but their tone is almost always patronizing and paternalistic, regardless of whether they mean to be. And when we treat those kinds of comments, from celebs or from people in our everyday lives, as harmless or cute, it just perpetuates the idea that it’s natural for men to be commenting on what they think about women—and for people to care.
Sure, these are “just words”—but words matter
Maybe a YouTuber is surprised by how much he likes a woman rapper’s album. A boy in elementary school is astounded a girl can serve a volleyball. A media outlet covers Murray’s Selena comments using the word “gushes.” Unchecked, it creates an environment where no matter what a woman does or achieves, all their accomplishments can be overshadowed by some guy basically giving them “good job” sticker and being hailed as a relatable feminist hero.
Selena (and every other young woman Murray works with) will be successful whether or not they meet his mom or “earn” his approval. So people might care what you think, Bill Murray, but that doesn’t mean what you think actually matters. Also, stop creeping. Sorry, not sorry.
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