Mila Kunis named Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year

The Hasty Pudding award is given to one man and one woman each year by the Hasty Pudding Theatrical Club at Harvard. The basic criteria is that the honorees have demonstrated a “lasting and impressive contribution to the world of entertainment.” The award has been given out since 1951, and the names on the list are a virtual who’s-who of the top female actresses over the decades. So it is a true honor to be included in such company, even though the media doesn’t give it the same celebrity status as they do the Oscars.

Mila definitely has the long history of contributions to the world of entertainment, perhaps first and foremost being the voice behind Meg Griffin on the “Family Guy” television series since 1999. But she also has amassed a substantial body of movie work including Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Max Payne, The Book of Eli, Black Swan (where she earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture), Ted, Blood Ties, Annie, and Bad Moms. We haven’t forgotten about her 10 year stint on “That ‘70s Show” that ran from 1998 to 2008.

The bigger question, definitely one for future consideration, is whether there was anyone else qualified for this year’s award? Last year’s honoree, Octavia Spencer, has a long history of being involved in the entertainment business but she doesn’t have anywhere near the consistency Mila has demonstrated, which makes Spencer’s award appear premature to say the least. You have to love Emma Watson but she doesn’t have the longevity of either Spencer or Kunis. Jennifer Lawrence has the same problem, and so far her roles have not presented sufficient depth to be viewed in the same light as Helen Mirren, Anne Hathaway, or Julianne Moore — all previous honorees.

Hasty Pudding’s criteria, longevity, is the sticking point in naming the next woman honoree. It is not clearly defined, and given the shortened careers of actors both male and female, the club may have to reconsider the precise definition. Over the past 15 years the club has chosen women in their 30’s (Mirren being the exception) but the currently active actresses who can make the longevity criteria are over 50. That reality is a historic one for female actresses as more often than not there was no place to be found for them in the youth culture of Hollywood.

On the downside, it may be an indication that great actresses are becoming harder to find among the younger generation. Television seasons are getting shorter, from the traditional 14 — 16 week seasons to 10 — 12 currently. Movies are becoming more dependent on CGI as the popularity of animated shows continues to increase. Is there any real future or incentive for young actresses to commit to a decades long career given the current state of the entertainment industry?

As much as we love Gal Gadot, she will be 33 this year and has less than a decade of credits under her belt. Given her marriage and children, she is not likely to make a wild adjustment to her lifestyle to accommodate Hollywood. She is an example of the potential future of the Hollywood actress — a short career selecting specific film projects that are more attune to their lifestyle.

To end on a high note, Kunis should have been last year’s honoree because she really didn’t add anything significant to her resume since last year. The Hasty Pudding award comes with an entire day devoted to honoring the actress, which even at the relatively young age of 34, is well-deserved.

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