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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, February 26, 2024

Tok the Talk: Rachel Zegler and gender bias in the media

How do you know if your celebrity criticism is valid?

Tok the Talk Column Graphic
Graphic by Molly Sullivan

“If it hadn’t been so successful, I think people would have thought it was really weird. It’s a really weird story. But I think once it becomes mainstream, it’s difficult for people to see how strange the story is.” These wise words were spoken by Robert Pattinson (Twilight heartthrob, though he would probably hate to admit that) in a recent interview with Wonderland magazine. In hindsight, his comments are amusing, and if anything, sensible. The Twilight franchise is known for its peculiar nature, and Pattinson has detailed how the books are like “reading [Myers’] sexual fantasy.” Gross.

He’s not saying anything new. But it is arguably disrespectful to the franchise and the fans — repeatedly denouncing something so beloved should garner anger or diminish his reputation. Spoiler alert: Pattinson’s reputation is fine, and most look back on his previous comments and laugh, because he was just criticizing something worth criticizing, right?

Then why is it that Disney’s new Snow White, Rachel Zegler, someone arguably guilty of the same crime as Pattinson, is continuously harassed by the media? In September 2022, Zegler mentioned that in the original film, “There’s a big focus on her love story with a guy who literally stalks her. ... Weird. So we didn’t do that this time.” She later expands on this criticism, but the main point is this: It wasn’t received all that well.

In the weeks following those comments, not only was she continuously harassed and mocked by various social media users, but rumors of her getting fired were in full force. All for what? Criticizing an old film for being too stuck in its time? Were her comments not the same, if anything less egregious than Pattinson’s?

When Jacob Elordi said in an interview, “I just play what they give me. … You know, I need a job,” several users of X, formerly known as Twitter, praised his honesty, and called him “real.” When Rachel Zegler said she stepped into her recent role in “Shazam: Fury of the Gods” (2023) because she “needed a job,” she was deemed an “ungrateful brat.”

One particular TikTok user, Ashten Stein, argued that “Clearly, Rachel has not been prepped properly,” referring to Zegler’s media training. But does it really matter? Whether or not she has received media training, absolutely nothing can warrant the amount of bashing she has received in the aftermath of her interviews. Or at the very least, her male counterparts should be held to the same standard. If Pattinson and Elordi are untouchable in the media, why isn’t she?

Evidently, women in the media and press have to very carefully watch what they say, for any potentially daring statement threatens to completely end their career. Men, on the other hand, can say whatever it is on Earth that they want to say, and come out completely unscathed. The question isn’t whether or not there are gender biases in the media. It is this: Are you bashing Rachel Zegler because her comments were so unfounded? Or are you bashing her because she is a woman, and therefore must deserve less grace than her male counterparts? Because to me, in every scenario, the latter seems most true.