The Aspen Ideas Festival is touted as the “premier, public gathering place for leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to engage in deep and inquisitive discussion of the ideas and issues that shape our lives and challenge our times,” but former Disney CEO Michael Eisner’s own ideas about the place of women in Hollywood — specifically the place of funny and “really beautiful” women — took center stage at this year’s event.
During an on-stage chat with Goldie Hawn — somewhat amusingly titled “Mindfulness: Goldie Hawn in Conversation with Michael Eisner” — last week, Eisner shared his ideas (via The Hollywood Reporter) as to why Hawn had been so successful during her career. From Eisner’s perch, it’s because she’s unique in her skill set and her looks, telling both Hawn and the audience: “From my position, the hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman. By far. They usually — boy, am I going to get in trouble, I know this goes online — but usually, unbelievably beautiful women, you being an exception, are not funny.”
Hawn herself seemed to agree with the assessment, adding that she believes she might have tapped into her comedic chops because she thought of herself as an “ugly duckling” in her formative years.
Hawn’s acquiescence to Eisner’s initial comments appeared to have emboldened the former executive, who continued, “You didn’t think you were beautiful…I know women who have been told they’re beautiful, they win Miss Arkansas, they don’t ever have to get attention other than with their looks. So they don’t tell a joke. In the history of the motion picture business, the number of beautiful, really beautiful women — a Lucille Ball — that are funny is impossible to find.”
Eisner’s comments are not only shockingly narrow-minded — even a glance around the current comedic landscape unveils plenty of funny women who are also pleasing to the eye, and also, who cares, really — they’re also indicative of a professional culture where people in a position of power and influence feel comfortable commenting on both the appearance and the talent of individuals in extremely public forums. The issue isn’t that Eisner’s comments will be made public — look, here they are online, just as he feared — but that he felt comfortable and justified in sharing them during an event that was ostensibly meant to celebrate Hawn and other women like her.