The Graceful Boon

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Britney Spears and Michelle Williams (the actress) seemed like a very unlikely duo. So it was very much a surprise when Spears announced that Williams would narrate her memoir, ‘The Woman I Me’ for the audio-book version of it for people to listen to. Britney opened up that it was hard enough to finally put her life into words in writing, and it would’ve been harder for her to relive these memories all over again. Hence, she hired Williams to bring her words to life.

This collaboration between Britney Spears and Michelle Williams (again, the actress) seemed completely random, but it certainly worked. Williams did a great job and was praised by all those who listened to her voice on Britney’s audio-book. There were rumours that she cold be eligible for a Grammy for her performance. Suddenly, Britney’s fans also became Michelle Williams’ fans, and rightfully so. She’s a very talented actress.

I’m a fan of both Spears and Williams. I follow all the works of art of both women. Most would know of Williams as Heath Ledger’s ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child, Matilda, who’s now 18 (!) years old. I, however, got to know of her work long before her relationship with Ledger blossomed after the making of their movie, ‘Brokeback Mountain.’ I first saw her on my screen when I started watching Dawson’s Creek’ back in 1998, where she played Jen Lindley.

Williams began acting as a child star, and even emancipated from her parents at the age of 15 so that she could choose roles to star in on her own. ‘Dawson’s Creek’ was her big break. Since the show ended 20 years ago, Williams went on to star in films like ‘Brokeback Mountain’, ‘My Week With Marilyn’, ‘Blue Valentine’, ‘Take This Waltz’, and more. I watched all 4 movies I mentioned and more, so I think you can consider me to be a Michelle Williams super-fan? She also has 5 Oscar nominations under her belt, but never won. I guess she’s the Meryl Streep of our generation.

But despite making such great films one after the other, Williams seems to be most known for is Health Ledger’s ex and mother to their daughter, Matilda. The former couple were together between 2004 and 2007, and Ledger died just a few months later, on January 22, 2008. I remember that period after Ledger’s death vividly. All I saw for the next year were headlines about Heath Ledger, specifically his death, Michelle Williams and their daughter Matilda. Pictures of the mother-and-daughter duo were posted on gossip websites practically every other day. There were even photos of Williams arriving to New York with Matilda the day after Ledger’s death where Matilda, who was 2 years old at the time, was smiling from war to ear.

Of that time of her life, Williams opened up to The Guardian early in January of this year, “That feeling of being watched goes very, very deep because it cuts you off from living your life. And for a while it felt like such an impediment to being natural and unguarded that my daughter and I moved outside of the city.” After a while, she decided to sell the home she once shared with Ledger in Brooklyn and move to a farm in upstate, New York. Since marrying Thomas Kail and having two more children, she and her family moved back to her roots. “We lived in the country because I felt more capable of living an unobserved life there. The particles shift under observation. I certainly felt that when we were living in Brooklyn. I feel strengthened and more capable, but I certainly have an awareness I wish I could shed, because it does change how you move through the world.”

Before ever being in a relationship with Heath Ledger, no one really knew of Michelle Williams. No one really cared about or took notice of her. It seemed that she preferred it that way. She was just doing what she loved – making movies anonymously. No one even thought that ‘Brokeback Mountain’ would become such a cult classic, but it did, and suddenly, everyone wanted to know details about Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams’ relationship, and Williams’ life with her daughter after his death. It was absolutely disrespectful for the world to see her as an opportunity to monetize and bring money into their pockets for her personal life rather than her work. And that disrespect didn’t end once the media coverage of her personal life died down. When she did a movie with Mark Wahlberg, he was paid $1.5 million more than Williams for the same amount of work. So Wahlberg donated the $1.5 million to charity to ensure equal pay.

During the same interview earlier this year, Williams opened up about raising her now-teenage daughter following the #MeToo movement. She said, “I was raised in the ’80s. Selfhood wasn’t put into young women. And now it is. I get to see it in my own daughter and I can’t take my eyes off her. It is a glorious miracle to behold that I never thought I would witness in my lifetime. I thought I would have to teach my daughter how to subvert herself and crawl underneath the system to keep herself safe. And, instead, the system has exploded and these young people act with compassion, integrity and righteousness. I have the chills talking about it. These girls aren’t prey. These girls are already victorious. I love to sit back and watch them in the world and know that it is safer and more inclined in their direction than it was for me.”

We covered a whole lot here in just one post. If you haven’t already figured out, Michelle Williams has been through a lot in her life. She suffered a great big loss early in her life. She was only 27 when her former fiance and father of her daughter passed away. And it seemed like the media, which something that comes with the territory when it comes to what she does for work, wasn’t kind to her when she was in need to grieve and take care of her daughter. The first time she opened up about her loss was in 2010 during a televised interview with ’60 Minutes.’ She put in her all to open up about such a personal struggle, and she immediately regretted it as soon as it aired. It was edited so much so that instead of putting an emphasis on her grief, it concentrated on her rumoured romance and the chemistry she had with Ryan Gosling, her co-star with ‘Blue Valentine’, which wasn’t even true to begin with.

We can compare this situation to Lea Michele’s. She lost her partner, Cory Monteith, who was also her co-star on ‘Glee’, in July 2013. Unlike the case with Michelle Williams, the media was much kinder to her in letting her heal and grieve her loss properly. Her ‘Glee’ bosses had her make all the decisions on whether production should resume, and even allowed her the creative freedom when it came down to her character, Rachel Berry. She released her debut album a year following his death as her team allowed her to take time off so that there wouldn’t be any questions about that part of her life during the promotional tour as it was supposed to be released just a couple of months after Monteith’s passing. There were also rarely any paparazzi photos of Michele. If there ever were any updates on her, it was on her own terms based on what she posted online. Her ‘Glee’ co-star, Becca Tobin, also suffered a great loss when her boyfriend passed away suddenly in 2014. And yet, the media doesn’t scrutinize her at all for it. Maybe it was because their deceased partners weren’t as well-known as Health Ledger was at the time of his passing, given the fact that Ledger was to play his highly anticipated role as The Joker in ‘The Dark Knight.’

Liam Neeson is another example that can be used. He’s a famous actor who mostly takes on action roles. The only time I ever saw him in any other genre was when he starred in ‘Love, Actually’. He was famously married to Natasha Richardson. She was in the hit-classic, ‘Parent Trap’, where she played Lindsay Lohan’s mother. Richardson passed away in 2009 following a fall during a ski trip that caused damage to her brain. In the almost-15 years since her passing, there very much little to no media coverage on Neeson’s life. Personally, I don’t know much about his personal life. Did he even move on romantically? I only know that his son is now an actor as well and that he took on his mother’s last name professionally to honour her.

I know that this entire blog post analyzed celebrities and people who are in the public eye. And you might say that it was stupid of me to even compare us, regular people, to celebrities. But just look at Princess Diana and what happened to her. That disrespect and carelessness that came with her job and being a public figure was what eventually killed her. And it wasn’t for her work that there was an interest in, but rather her personal life. Call it whatever you want, but no one, and absolutely no one deserves to be treated with disrespect in the workplace; no mater the industry, no matter the title, no matter salary, no matter the age, gender, or anything else for that matter. Kids, high school, and university students deserve that same amount of respect as well. And this disrespectful treatment comes towards women in the workplace as we’re deemed to be less than.

There are be plenty of examples that I could use to prove my point. We’ve already covered sexual advances and sexual assault towards women in the workplace in my previous posts. But there’s also how women are treated in the case of pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and grievance. So many women were forced to come back to work mere days after suffering a miscarriage or losing their babies as either one is no big deal. But then again, there are also positive stories that are worth mentioning such as when a student’s mother passed away and she asked if she could get an extension to hand in her project. In turn, the professor agreed and asked her to write down her best memories of her mom and what she meant to her.

This last story is the type of story that needs to happen and needs to be told. Women need to speak up about their trials and tribulations more often than not, and more men need to be as understanding and empathetic rather than condescending. We, as women, shouldn’t be afraid to speak up. We shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed of any hardships that we go through at work. It doesn’t make us weak. We’re people too, and we shouldn’t allow anyone in the workplace to make us feel like we’re less than or that our feelings are invalid. We need to demand respect from those who belittle us or diminish us. And men need to show more support towards women. A man being a feminist isn’t a bad thing whatsoever. Someone made a comment on my socials making fun of my husband for being a feminist because he supports me, he supports my business, and he supports what I do. But making fun of it is so 1940’s. Let’s all just stop living in the past, for if we don’t, our future will not be bright.

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