Hollywood’s Rise In Body Shaming, And Why It Won’t Stop
By Sa'iyda Shabazz
There’s an epidemic in Hollywood that has been spreading for a long time. Women are judged and punished for their body type. It goes back to the beginning of film, no question, the notion that stars should be beautiful. But there was once a time when Marilyn Monroe’s famous curves and Audrey Hepburn’s waif-like thinness could co-exist. Back then, Marilyn had the ideal body type; voluptuous, curvaceous, in a word: stacked. It’s funny that even though she’s still considered one of the most beautiful actresses of all time, by today’s standards she would be considered fat. A lot has changed in the 50+ years since Marilyn graced our screens. By today’s standards, Audrey Hepburn would be the ideal, but of course she’d have to have curves. It is a weird double standard. You have to weigh 90 pounds, but you also have to have full breasts and a round derriere. Finding a woman like that is almost impossible. The trend really started in the mid-1990s, when model Kate Moss ushered in the wave of “heroin-chic.” But nowadays, when the average American woman is a size 14, Hollywood must change its thinking.
Today’s blatant criticism of actresses who don’t fit the ideal body type is astounding. Female celebrities are expected to maintain the same weight their whole careers, even though we know that as a woman ages, her body changes. It is especially true if she has children. They are expected to be back to their pre-baby weight within months of giving birth, a trend Heidi Klum perpetuated when she walked the runway of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show a mere five weeks after giving birth to her fourth child in 2009. As a new mom, I know that in the first five weeks you should be worrying about your baby, not hitting the gym to pose in underwear. Ever since, women in Hollywood became expected to hit the gym as soon as the ink dried on the baby’s birth certificate. Those who don’t are mocked.
Recently, comedian Jay Mohr did just that to actress Alyssa Milano after they both appeared at a NASCAR event in early December. Mohr said, “It seems like she had a baby,” and said "I don’t give a s**t" … I read it on her gut. … Somebody sat in the director’s chair and was not wearing Spanx, and I was like ‘Jesus Christ.’ ” Milano gracefully took to Twitter to respond to him saying she felt sorry that he felt the need to “fat-shame” her and sent well wishes to Mohr’s wife, actress Nikki Cox, who had their child in 2011, the same year Milano gave birth to her son. While she seemed to take it all in stride, she admitted to Mario Lopez that “it hurt.” For the record, Mohr did apologize, stating in his blog that he took his joke “too far.” But he should have never been allowed to joke about it in the first place. Had Milano not responded, it would have been completely acceptable, and there’s a chance that many Hollywood executives agree with Mohr’s statements, but don’t publicly say so.
At the center of yet another fat-shaming issue is actress Jennifer Lawrence. An outspoken advocate against fat-shaming, she doesn’t realize that she is feeding right into the culture. In a Huffington Post piece, writer Jenny Trout points out how many of Lawrence’s indignant quotes can be construed as fat-shaming to genuinely fat actresses. In the year since her Oscar win, she has become somewhat of a martyr. A woman’s woman, shall we say. Young women and girls idolize her and hang on her every word, many of them going so far as to create GIF sets and memes that run rampant on Tumblr. They hang on every word she says, proclaiming her their new hero. She brags about eating unhealthy foods like McDonald’s, and claims to binge eat while watching Netflix in her rare time off. Yes, many young women also do this and therefore can relate, but they forget that regardless of what she may say, Lawrence still has a team of people to help her lose weight if and when she inevitably needs to. Trout also brings up the point that we accept this from Lawrence because contrary to popular belief, she still represents the ideal body type Hollywood is perpetuating, even though they now put it in a different package. Lawrence, even without speaking, is the girl most girls want to be. She’s sometimes blonde, her skin is taunt and slightly bronzed. Sure, she does have some curves, but they make her look sexy, not overweight, contrary to what she believes of herself.
If an actress who was genuinely overweight like for example Melissa McCarthy made the same claims as Jennifer Lawrence, it is safe to say that they would not be received with the same “you go, girl” attitude. Because if an overweight woman says that she would tell a higher up to f**k off if he told her to diet, she would be a bad example. Critics would be all over her for perpetuating an unhealthy lifestyle. So instead of being able to just have society accept the fact that she is heavier than your average actress, she must apologize for her size. Even though she has been able to be accepted for her talent, her size will always get in her way.
It is hard to say if this trend of blatant fat-shaming will subside anytime soon, but it is safe to say that it will probably get much worse before it gets better. The only true solution is to actually put into practice the body acceptance we claim to preach. The average person won’t accept the reality of society until Hollywood does. I don’t recommend holding your breath.