Ellen Page – the new [insert name here]

I see that Roger Ebert has made Juno his film of the year (though we in the UK won’t get to see it until February 2008). Whilst other critical opinion may be divided as to whether it is any good or not, there seems to be a groundswell of opinion that Ellen Page, the 20 year-old Canadian star of the film, is in line for Golden Globe and Oscar recognition for her central performance.

Page is indeed a very talented young actress; her turn in David Slade’s 2005 shocker Hard Candy was sensational, showing a maturity beyond her meagre years etc etc etc… But what is the media’s obsession with calling her ‘the new Natalie Portman’ or ‘the new Winona Ryder’? This seems to be a curiously female phenomenon: is anyone ever seriously referred to as ‘the new George Clooney’, for instance? Okay, so I recall that Brad Pitt was once labelled ‘the new Robert Redford’ but no-one seemed to take that at all seriously. But we get ‘Scarlett Johansson is the new Marilyn Monroe’, ‘Angelina Jolie is the new Elizabeth Taylor’, ‘Naomi Watts is the new Nicole Kidman’, and Nicole Kidman is seemingly the new practically-fucking-everybody.

The idea that young actresses must follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before is patronising at best, and sexist at worst, and as simplistically narrow-minded as, for instance, labelling an up-and-coming black comedian “the new Richard Pryor” or “the new Eddie Murphy” by virtue of their skin colour alone. Stop it, please. It’s plain lazy.

Juno, by the way, looks really good, somewhat akin to Terry Zwigoff’s 2001 adaptation of Ghost World, a film I like very very much. So I guess that makes Ellen Page the new Thora Birch.

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