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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The blatant disrespect for Rachel Zegler is embedded in sexism and needs to stop

Rachel Zegler accepting the Peoples Choice Award for The Action Movie Star of the Year on February 18, 2024.
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Rachel Zegler accepting the People’s Choice Award for The Action Movie Star of the Year on February 18, 2024.

I first heard of the controversial actress Rachel Zegler in 2022.

I was browsing mindlessly through Disney+’s movie recommendations when I accidentally clicked on the live-action remake of West Side Story. I had previously heard of this adaptation in 2021 when it was released, but at the time, I had an extreme dislike for musicals of all kinds and had refused to watch it. However, in 2022, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone in more ways than one, so I decided to try West Side Story.

Immediately after I finished the film, I logged in to Instagram and followed Rachel Zegler.

Even though I had never seen her before this movie, it was undeniable that she had an incredible talent for acting. With her exquisite singing voice and portrayal of intense emotions throughout the film, I was convinced she would become one of the best actors of her generation. 

I was right, but I was also dreadfully wrong.

In June 2021—before West Side Story’s official release into theaters—Zegler was announced as the next live-action Disney Princess. She would act as Snow White in an adaptation of Walt Disney’s Animation Studios’ most famous film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). 

When Zegler attended the D23 Expo in 2022 to promote Snow White, she and co-star Gal Gadot were interviewed by Variety on the blue carpet. When asked about the new modern take on the film, Zegler smiled bashfully and replied, “I just mean that it’s no longer 1937. We absolutely wrote a Snow White that she’s not going to be saved by the prince, and she’s not going to be dreaming about true love. She’s going to be dreaming about becoming the leader she knows she can be and that her late father told her that she could be if she was fearless, fair, brave, and true.”

As expected, the backlash from the public came swift and fast, with thousands of comments flooding into social media sites. Zegler was pictured as a “walking PR disaster for Disney,” who didn’t honor the traditional story of Snow White. In the interview, she meant that she was excited to update the near-century-old tale for today’s young women. However, her words were twisted to make it seem as if she believed that women couldn’t be in love and be leaders simultaneously. In addition to this outrage, the public was angry that Zegler was cast in a role where the original character had fair skin, with Zegler being from Latina roots. 

The hate only increased in 2023, when Zegler attended the Shazam! Fury of the Gods world premiere. It was her second-ever role in a movie. When asked why she wanted to enter the DC universe, she responded, “I needed a job. I’m being so serious.” For some wild reason, this moment sparked extreme resentment among the public, when just a few months later, famous actor Jacob Elordi said the exact same thing at the premiere of Saltburn: “I just play what they give me. I need a job.” 

Clearly, a kind, compassionate person like Zegler shouldn’t be discriminated against for wanting to be successful in the acting industry.

The difference in reaction to these two interviews was shocking. Elordi was praised for being relatable while Zegler was denigrated for being “shameful” and “dispassionate.” This serves as a sobering reminder that women are constantly put under fire for wanting to be successful and make a living doing what they love; while for men, it’s unnecessary to hold them to the same standards. 

Another example of Zegler receiving hate is when she attended a SAG-AFTRA strike in Sep. 2023 to support the Screen Actors’ Guild. The organization was on strike at the time, demanding fair wages in Hollywood. During the strike, Zegler proudly told a reporter, “If I’m going to stand there 18 hours in a dress of an iconic Disney Princess, I deserve to be paid for every hour that it’s streamed online.” 

In the context of the strike, it makes sense that she would be demanding a fair wage for the work that she has been doing. Despite that, once again, she was criticized for simply wanting to be paid fairly. Many people perceived her as rude and ungrateful, especially with “the way” she said the sentence. 

The industry of Hollywood is a perfect example of how society continues to attempt to find a reason to destroy a successful woman’s career. Zegler has never done anything extremely horrible to deserve the backlash she’s been receiving since she starred in West Side Story. Countless people have mangled her reputation online, twisting it into something to be hated and stepped on.

Even with the incessant hate, Zegler continues to triumph above every single negative comment she’s ever received. Last fall, she headlined the box office spectacular The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes portraying Lucy Gray Baird, and just last week, she won the Action Movie Star of the Year award at the 2024 People’s Choice Awards. In her acceptance speech, she emotionally exclaimed, “For so long in this business, I didn’t think I fit in, but tonight, you have made me feel like I don’t have to change myself to be chosen.” 

Clearly, a kind, compassionate person like Zegler shouldn’t be discriminated against for wanting to be successful in the acting industry. Women often have to work harder than men to make the same amount of money, yet they are seen as selfish for simply trying to be respected. This circles back to the age-old fact that women are not and have never been equal to men in almost all aspects of life. As America Ferrera says in the Barbie movie, speaking to the struggles of women, “You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line.”

In 2024, it’s about time for women in all industries to be respected and praised for their work just as much as men are. 

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About the Contributor
Maylee Ohlman
Maylee Ohlman, Staff Writer
Maylee Ohlman is a sophomore going on to her first year on The Central Trend.  She spontaneously decided to join Writing for Publication this year and is now excited to keep writing for the rest of her time in high school. She dances on the FHCVDT in the winter. In her free time, she loves to read, swim at the beach, and try new bubble tea spots across Michigan. Maylee loves to feel like a tourist anywhere she goes and aspires to travel as much as she can in her lifetime. Besides reading and traveling, she's always loved movies and good food, and hopes to eventually combine her passions into a journalism career. Favorite book: Better than the Movies by Lynn Painter Favorite TV show: The Last of Us Go-to bubble tea order: A peach milk tea with lychee jelly and tapioca pearls

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