There’s a controversy swirling around online regarding “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence. With one critic suggesting she was too curvy to play the role of emaciated heroine Katness Everdeen, the anger is on.
What is making some people bristle is that this smacks of the bullshit talk that sends girls into the hell of eating disorders.
I’m not a girl. But I’ve dealt with an eating disorder for much of my life. So, naturally, I have some thoughts on the matter.
First, let’s look at what people are saying, starting with the movie review by Manohla Dargis of the New York Times that set people off. In the review, she makes a point that the character Lawrence plays is a starved teen with bones sticking out everywhere. Specifically, she wrote:
A few years ago Ms. Lawrence might have looked hungry enough to play Katniss, but now, at 21, her seductive, womanly figure makes a bad fit for a dystopian fantasy about a people starved into submission.
The L.A. Times “Ministry of Gossip” column ran with that single comment, calling it a “bold indictment” of a 21-year-old star “who currently captivates the attention of impressionable young females and her same-aged peers in show business.”
Are the critical sentiments — Vulture has a comprehensive roundup — correct? On the one hand, the content adapted from Suzanne Collins’ dark novels dictates that these oppressed citizens are in fact emaciated. But by all standards Lawrence is hardly overweight, though widely attributed with that dread celeb magazine buffer of “curvy.”
My colleague at CSO Magazine, Joan Goodchild, expressed her outrage in a Facebook post, which is where I saw all this for the first time. She wrote:
This is the kind of b*llsh*t story that pisses me off. I haven’t seen the film, or read the book. But if it is a “Hollywood interpretation” of the book, then this is hardly the first time the film deviates from the book. Yet here we have an article about how a thin, yet healthy, young actress was “too well fed” to play the part she had. And we wonder why so many young women have issues with food and eating disorders in this country? This is ridiculous!
I agree in the sense that there is a lot of this bullshit in Hollywood. How “curves” got to be synonymous in Hollywood with overweight is beyond me. Media in general has perpetuated the myth for years that stars need to be super thin. That warped view is especially glaring in the case of women.
There’s a certain evil to how Hollywood carries on this way, because filmmakers know their work influences young people and instills them with the idea that they have to look a certain way to fit in and be loved.
Did Hollywood influence my own eating disorder? Absolutely, though my relationship with food was corrupted long before by growing up in a family of compulsive over-eaters.
For me, the Hollywood part stemmed from my love of Heavy Metal music and the culture built up around it. The heroes in this world of musicians were the skinny guys with long hair. To be emaciated was to look good. Wanting to be like my heroes, I did a lot of things I covered in a recent post called “Skinny Like A Fool.”
I think, to a certain extent, I abandoned my earlier goal of being a musician and got into journalism because in the latter profession, you could be fat and cool at the same time. Of course, I took that to the other extreme and became a 280-pound pile of waste before it was over. While I’m some 80 pounds lighter than that today, I’m still a big, stocky guy who had to drop flour and sugar and start weighing all my food to regain some sanity.
I was never trying to make it in Hollywood, and, being a guy, there were certain pressures I never felt. But what I did and why still left a lot of scars.
Having been down that road, I share Joan’s anger. But I also think some of the rage over calling Lawrence well-fed has been blown out of proportion.
In the original New York Times review, the words “too well fed” are never used. “Seductive” and “womanly” are over the top, but not the same as calling someone fat. The L.A. Times gossip column is where the “too well fed” came into play. Of course, that’s the newspaper of Hollywood, so spin that as you will.
Maybe someday we’ll move beyond looks and start judging each other by what’s in our heads and hearts. But not today, apparently.