Published: April 24, 2022

Author: Delenne Phan
Nominator: Katie Conger
Course: LING 1000 Language in U.S. Society, Fall 2021
LURA 2022

Interviews are for the public/fans to get to the interviewee. They give the public insight into who the celebrity is. This is based on the information that comes out of the celebrities’ mouth, which corresponds to the presentation of self. It depends on how they present themselves and what kind of image they want to portray. The answers are only half as important in an interview though, the other half are questions being asked. Questions are often overlooked because the person asking the questions isn’t the one in the spotlight. Little does the audience know, the questions set the interview agenda. Without certain questions, there won’t be certain answers. With uncomfortable topics, questions can embody presuppositions, meaning that they are built upon assumptions. Additionally, questions may have incorporated preferences, allowing the interviewer to ‘push’ towards an answer they want. These questions come with strategic answers, most of the time celebrities dodge uncomfortable questions in such a way that the audiences don't even notice. They can set another agenda or even turn the question right back at the interviewer. The perfect example of such interviews is from interviewer Jerry Penacoli and interviewees Anne Hathaway and Scarlett Johansson respectively.

In the interview for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, between Jerry Penacoli and Anne Hathaway, the interviewer focused on her physique while playing Catwoman. 

First image retrieved from Vanityfair and second image retrieved from joe.le

The interviewer, Jerry Penacoli, was asking questions about Hathaway's body and this was how she answered:

Penacoli: “You’re always in great shape, but you had to make sure you were in perfect shape for this one, didn’t you?”

Hathaway: “Eh, it wasn’t about being in perfect shape it was being able to do the stunts and the fighting perfectly”

Penacoli: (Went on to focus on her form by talking about her leather suit)

Hathaway: “It wasn’t very form fitting. I mean it’s not a pair of sweatpants, I wouldn’t describe it as that kind of comfortable”

Penacoli: (Continues to ask about her body asking her to share her ‘feline fitness’)

Hathaway: “It’s all the boring stuff that no one ever wants to do. It’s just watching what you eat and getting yourself to the gym.”

Hathaway: “Are you trying to lose weight? What’s the deal man, you look great! No no we have to talk about this. What do you want? Are you trying to fit into a catsuit?” (Swift 2018).

At first, Hathaway was certainly trying to respond kindly to the odd questions, but when she got uncomfortable, she switched the questions right back at Penacoli. The way she did it, wasn’t aggressive, it was more in a humorous way like ‘why are you asking all these questions, are you trying to fit into a catsuit yourself?’ This made a lot of people laugh but was also a very effective technique used to stop the questioning and resist the agenda. Analyzing the questions, Penacoli did not get the answer he wanted so he pushed Hathaway with bolder questions. He started out soft, by asking about the catsuit, then jumped and asked about the feline fitness. Hathaway answered his questions because she didn’t want the interview to be awkward, but he took it as a ‘go’ sign to ask bolder questions. 

The second Penacoli interview was with ‘The Avengers’ stars Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner.

Image is from Business Insider 

 This interview showed resistance from Scarlett Johansson, since Penacoli seemed to have gone too far. Penacoli, in this interview, asked if Scarlett (Black Widow) was wearing any undergarments under her suit when acting for ‘The Avengers’, and that got a powerful resistance from her:

Penacoli: “Were you able to wear undergarments?”

Johansson: “You’re like the fifth person that’s asked me today. What is going on?”

Johansson: “Since when did people start asking each other in interviews about their underwear?”

Penacoli: “Because it is so skintight….”

Johansson: “I’ll leave it up to your imagination. Whatever you feel like I should be or should not be wearing under that costume” (Swift, 2018).

Johansson was shocked at the questions. Penacoli focused on her undergarments, instead of focusing on her work. Her response from the start showed that the questions were offensive. Even though Penacoli saw this, he stuck with the questions knowing they were inappropriate and offensive. He pushed for the answer he wanted just like in Hathaway’s interview, but in Johansson’s case, she showed more resistance in a much more aggressive way. By asking if she was wearing undergarments under her costume, Penacoli showed presumption when he assumed that she didn’t wear any under her suit. 

These types of questions seem to show up a lot with female actresses. Questions ranging from their clothes, their makeup, their physique, their beauty, etc. These questions are rarely found in interviews with interviewees who are male. The interview with Scarlett Johansson and Jeremey Renner proves this. The interview was with both Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner, but Jeremey did not get asked about his undergarments, he got asked about his work and his injury on set.

Header image credit:

Handy, B. The Dark Knight Rises Review: Anne Hathaway is the best catwoman ever. (accessed Feb 17, 2022). 

JOE_co_uk. Here's Anne Hathaway in her skin-tight 'The dark knight rises' Catwoman costume. you're welcome. (accessed Feb 17, 2022).

Orange, B. A. Scarlett Johansson's pregnancy could impact 'Avengers' sequel. (accessed Feb 17, 2022). 

Swift, N. Stars Who Fired Back At Their Interviewer On Live TV. (accessed Feb 24, 2022).