Judd is not the first entertainer to contemplate a political career. Sonny Bono, George Murphy, Fred Grandy, Fred Thompson, Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and, of course, Ronald Reagan, successfully made the transition from entertainment to public office...For female entertainers, the challenge of crossing over into politics is even greater, and not only because women politicians are a minority in general. The gender stereotypes in Hollywood feed into the gender stereotype of Washington. "There is a synergy between heroic screen models portrayed by certain leading men and how that helps presidential candidates appear in public and in crisis situations," says [Burton W.] Peretti [, professor at Western Connecticut State University and author of The Leading Man: Hollywood and the Presidential Image].
"For women in show business, you not only have to overcome being in show business, you also have to overcome being cast in roles that aren't as substantive," says Schroeder. "You're already hearing criticisms from conservatives that [Judd] has done topless scenes, and that is being used as cudgel against her. That would not apply to male actors."
Dissecting what she calls Daily Caller's "theatrical slut shaming," Think Progress's Alyssa Rosenberg points out that when male actors strip down on camera (and Mother Jones highlights male actors who did, and crossed over successfully to politics), it is framed comically, with no one confusing Old School's streaking "Frank The Tank" with Will Ferrell, the man.
"But with actresses, that division appears to be less certain. If a woman takes off her top in a movie, much less baring it all, Mr. Skin and his ilk will be there to catalogue it to make sure people who only want to see her as, in the parlance of that site, 'breasts, butt, bush, underwear, sexy,'" writes Rosenberg.
Nevertheless, Judd should look to the example her forefathers and how they moved into politics. "They have to make a bit of a clean break with their past and try to disassociate form Hollywood in order to be seen in this new incarnation and taken seriously in the political context," says Schroeder. "Reagan did a good job reinventing himself."
When his acting career saw a decline after the World War II, Reagan got involved in the business side of Hollywood, and later served as the spokesperson of General Electric; he also stopped appearing in public with other actors (though Frank Sinatra and others did do some fundraising for him) to further distance himself from his showbiz past. Minnesota Senator Al Franken also has taken great pains to separate his political career from his former comedic persona. He talks almost exclusively to his state's local press, and rarely cracks jokes when speaking on the record."If [Judd] can come up with her own narrative that will make her seem like a plausible candidate, someone who is 'Kentucky'–that will overcome whatever narrative the MConnell side is putting out," says Peretti.
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