Sunday, April 09, 2006

Reasons to like Tori Spelling

It has always been chic to look down on Tori Spelling, and even before I had ever seen her I had a negative impression. But the first time I saw her it was in a small part in the Parker Posey movie House of Yes and she was actually pretty good. So I've been pretty open to the possibility that she's actually a decent actress, rather than just a talentless creation of her father.

I was also prepared to like her personally after watching the brilliant, short-lived TV series Grosse Point, a parody of Beverly Hills 90..whatever-the-other-numbers-are in which the character of Marcy was presumably patterned after Tori. Marcy was sweet and insecure, so I thought, maybe Tori is the same.

Now Tori has gone the way of Kirstie Alley in Fat Actress, playing herself in So NoTorious on VH1. On the show, Tori is sweet and insecure, and even her best friends think she's talentless and owes her career to her rich daddy, who speaks to her through an intercom in his mansion, greeting her with "Hello angel" (he produced Charlie's Angels).

So far, So NoTorious is very funny. I say so far, because the first few episodes of Fat Actress were also very funny, and the last few were pretty horrible. But the three I've seen were all very good. And Tori is very good playing herself.

It's hard to know how she feels about the merciless fun her own show makes about her. There's a difference between letting writers make fun of you and actually having a sense of humor about yourself; Michael Jackson made a video that made fun of all his eccentricities but I don't think he thinks he's weird. It's brave to play yourself as an idiot or a weirdo, as proved by Jon Lovitz and David Duchovny on The Larry Sanders show, but it's also good business; William Shatner revived his career by acknowledging his own pompousness.

All of this has me pondering why Tori has always been such an object of ridicule. I never saw the Beverly Hills show, so perhaps she wasn't very good on it, but she probably wasn't worse than any of the others on that show; bad acting is often a feature of Aaron Spelling productions.

The hostility seems to come from the fact that she has a daddy who can give her a career (in So NoTorious she is seen giving a wretched ten-second audition at the end of which her dad shouts out, "you're hired!"). People feel it's not fair. And of course, it's not fair, but it's interesting that people seem far less hostile to a talentless actress whose career is entirely due to her looks. Raquel Welch is one of the worst actresses to ever star in a movie, and owes much of her looks to plastic surgery, but I don't think she was ever despised as much as Tori is. Now, getting a career because you had a good plastic surgeon, or just because you are born good looking, isn't any fairer than getting a job because your daddy owns the company, but it seems to rankle people more. Sure, Tori was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and got chances most people don't get, but then, Christina Aguilera was born with an amazing voice (they blocked her from high school talent shows because it was so incredible), Liza Minelli got breaks because her mom was famous (Judy Garland) and most people in Hollywood wouldn't have their jobs if they weren't born better looking than the rest of us.

So while I certainly envy Tori's good fortune, at the moment I do basically like her, and I hope her show continues to be funny and she winds up besting the naysayers and getting herself a respectable career.

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