Maggie Gyllenhaal calls out journalist for calling her voice and look ‘cartoonish’

Maggie Gyllenhaal has a new-ish film on Netflix called The Kindergarten Teacher which is out in UK theaters today. It co-stars Gael Garcia Bernal, love him, and she plays a teacher who mentors a gifted young student, to the point of obsession. Here’s the link to the trailer. It looks like a compelling thriller and has a decent RT rating.

Maggie did an interview with The Independent, she talked to Patrick HJ Smith, who is their “head of culture.” Patrick opened the piece with an assholish comment about Maggie’s voice and looks and how that undermines her message. It was sexist and his editor should have changed it. Maggie called him out on it. Instead of a proper apology, he explained his sh-tty reasoning because that’s what you would expect from someone who would do that in the first place. Here’s that passage and that exchange. Keep in mind this is the start of the article.

Talking to Maggie Gyllenhaal can be a little disorienting. She has a high-pitched, cartoonish voice, which she uses to express deep things. One critic memorably said that she possessed a “Kewpie-doll silliness”, but maybe it’s a flaw in our culture that we expect serious thoughts to be couched in sonorous tones. “We live in a masculine world,” she says, “and in America – especially very recently – as much as we would like to believe otherwise, it’s a misogynistic world.”

[From The Independent]

Patrick was directly criticizing Maggie’s voice and look. There’s a difference between doing that and pointing out that others do that to add context to her quotes. He tried to undermine the points she made by mocking her for being a woman. We’re used to it and it’s glaringly obvious here. It’s a shame because Maggie makes some excellent observations in that article which Patrick confirms in the way he wrote it. She’s guarded and has a way of talking around things, but Patrick still punishes her for even bringing up feminist issues.

How women have been trained to accept male-centric storytelling
Gyllenhaal… is explaining the difficulties women encounter in clearly expressing something feminine in art. “It’s not impossible, and it certainly happens,” she says, “but I think just because something is written by a woman, or directed by a woman, that doesn’t necessarily make it feminine – because the context that we’re in is fundamentally masculine.”

From childhood, she continues, women have to develop a way to relate to stories where “the main character, the most interesting character, is a man. Every once in a while, I’ve come across things that didn’t require it. I keep thinking of being 15, and seeing The Piano and being very deeply struck by it. I’m still in the process of thinking about what it means to make something that’s feminine.”

On pay equity and how women are gradually becoming filmmakers
Gyllenhaal, a leading figure in the Times Up movement against sexual harassment and gender inequality, says there has been progress within the industry. “For a long time, women behind the camera have been shut out, certainly, but I’ve seen over the past maybe 10 years so many women who are working as a first assistant camera, and I’m just anticipating all of them graduating to become cinematographers – and that will really change film-making.” Yet, she continues, “the money is lagging. That always happens – artists and culture move faster than the money, always. We did not have enough money making The Kindergarten Teacher, not by half, and yet we were a group of women and we were like, ‘OK, we never expected to have enough money, we’re used to that, this is how we do it’, and we just made it happen.”

Should male actors help lead the charge by taking pay cuts? “Mmm, yes,” she says with a wry smile. “But there are lots of different ways to help. HBO, for example, gave me a raise for The Deuce so that I would have pay parity with James Franco. If you have a big company with power and money like HBO, making a decision like that makes it very difficult for other competing companies not to do the same.”

[From The Independent]

It’s clear this guy doesn’t agree with the points she’s making and that he thinks we shouldn’t take her seriously because she’s a woman. The fact that he’s the “head of culture” at one of the UK’s largest and most influential publications and that this garbage made it to print just makes her comments that more meaningful.

The Guardian’s Gwilym Mumford did an excellent writeup of his interview with Maggie. He led with her work and didn’t try to provide “context” with contradictory bad takes.




Photos credit: Netflix press and WENN

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19 Responses to “Maggie Gyllenhaal calls out journalist for calling her voice and look ‘cartoonish’”

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  1. Tanguerita says:

    what an asshole.

  2. Veronica S. says:

    Can men…stop.

  3. lucy2 says:

    Heaven forbid the man just say “you know, you’re right, I’m sorry. I’ll do better next time.”

  4. Lizzie says:

    this guy is a douche and i really couldn’t disagree more. i recently listened to maggie on fresh air and her voice was just so melodic and warm i could have listened to her for hours. i looked up if she did audio books and to my delight her narrating anna karenina is sitting in my queue. it is 35 hours long.

    • Tanguerita says:

      i agree with you, but that’s not even the point here. It reminded me of Christine Blasey Ford – people kept criticizing the “vocal fry” in her voice in order to undermine her credibility. It made me stabby.

    • Kitten says:


      1) She doesn’t have a “silly”, high-pitched voice.
      2) Even if she did, WHO EFFIN CARES?
      PLEASE stop policing women’s voices!!! I listen to ANY number of podcasts and I cannot tell you how common uptick and vocal fry is among men of my generation and younger– yet strangely, they’re never criticized for it. UGH.

      • Snowflake says:

        I have a high pitched voice and I feel like I don’t get taken seriously because of it.

  5. LivePlantsCleanAir says:


  6. MOT says:

    It’s like telling a man “I can’t take you seriously as a real man because of your tiny delicate hands….sorry if you take that wrong”

  7. LadyT says:

    A mellifluous voice is a wonderful thing and hers is positively lovely. This makes me so angry.

  8. KBeth says:

    This guy is such an ignorant douche.
    She is so talented.

  9. Eleonor says:

    She is talented as hell.
    She makes important observations, and the thing we are talking about is this piece of work of journalist. Of course.

  10. ChillyWilly says:

    Superficial? Who the hell thinks that about Maggie? She has always been a respected actress.
    This guy is a condescending creep.
    Also, I watched The Kindergarten Teacher and it was very good. A creepy character study and Maggie is excellent as usual.

  11. Patty says:

    The point he was making was that society does judge people based on things like voice tone and pitch. I’ve seen numerous comments on this board essentially hiding women due to the sound of their voices – I’ve done it myself a few times. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a hard time taking some actresses serious in certain roles because they sound like little girls. And there was a comment in a thread by another poster stating that Brie Larson was miscast as Captain Marvel in part because of her voice. And almost everyone hates vocal fry.

    I looked at this, as recognition that MG is not always taken seriously because some don’t like the sound of her voice but it was more a critique of our culture not MG:

    “One critic memorably said that she possessed a “Kewpie-doll silliness”, but maybe it’s a flaw in our culture that we expect serious thoughts to be couched in sonorous tones. “We live in a masculine world,” she says, “and in America – especially very”

    • Bella Bella says:

      I think a key word in the sentence you quoted is “maybe.” He should have cut that word if he were truly on her side and making a pitch to take her seriously. Also, in the sentence prior, he describes her voice as “cartoonish.” You can’t get much more reductive and undermining than that.

    • Laura says:

      Also, the writer starts off by saying that speaking with Maggie can be a little “disorienting.” WTF!? He starts off the article by insulting her and basically admitting that he can’t take her deep thoughts seriously because of her “cartoonish” voice. He goes on to say that “MAYBE” our society is flawed for ingraining such beliefs in our system. It’s like he’s not even convinced that society is full of misogyny.

  12. Amy says:

    Dude, not cool. That was some hot bullshit. Anyone who has seen anything or knows anything about Maggie Gyllenhaal and her work knows that she is ANYTHING but “cartoonish”, or “disorienting”, simply because she SOUNDS LIKE A WOMAN. She is allowed to sound high-pitched or low-pitched or any-fucking-pitched, and yes, at the same time she can also have very intelligent and “deep things” to say. Wow, how novel. A woman, saying “deep things”.

    Seriously, I get what he was sort-of trying to say. That she is not the traditional (sexist and misogynistic) image of a “serious” person–read: a man. But he really had to start the article in that way? He really had to point out that it was so surprising as to be “disorienting” for him to hear a woman who simply LOOKED and SOUNDED like her (like a woman), say such intelligent and “deep things”?

    Like, read the fucking room, man. Read up on who you’re interviewing, read up on the freaking MeToo era that we are now living in–and stop writing about how “disorienting” it is when you hear a woman saying smart stuff, in her own voice, in her own words, with her own face. Take a step back and understand your own ingrained misogyny. Jackass.

  13. Sansblague says:

    I just spent £50 on tickets to see The Kindergarten Teacher at our local cinema in London tomorrow night. Our baby-sitter for the evening will cost close to that amount as well. It’s a treat, but I know the film will be worth it because Maggie Gyllenhaal is in it. She is just an amazing and talented actress.

  14. Rita says:

    She needs a bra or boob lift. Badly.