Archive for Oscars

Oscar wrap-up, part two: Why we need to talk about Kim Novak

The Oscars were just over a week ago, but I’m still talking about them because I haven’t gotten around to talking about the appearance of Kim Novak, and I feel I must.

If you don’t know, Kim Novak was one of the most sought-after starlets of the ’50s and ’60s, starring in dozens of films, most memorably as the object of Jimmy Stewart’s obsession in Hitchcok’s Vertigo.


And if you weren’t watching the Oscars a week ago, you may not know that Novak, now 81 years old, appeared there as a presenter, but was almost unrecognizable because of the amount of work she’s had done on her face in order to appear much younger than she is.


When Novak walked on the strage, gripping the arm of her co-presenter, Matthew McConaughey, like she might either fall over or fall apart without him, a hush fell over the Dolby Theatre as everyone in the audience—and all of us watching at home—realized that Novak had decided she would rather her skin appear smooth and artificial than wrinkled and old.

It was honestly the saddest moment of the whole night.

And, in that moment, it hit me that this is what we do to women in this country—we teach them that their value is derived solely from their physical appearance, we teach them that it’s better to look unreal than to look elderly, that it’s better to look plastic than wrinkled, that it’s better to hide who they are than to be themselves.

As Oscar Host Ellen Degeneres jokingly said, “I’m not saying movies are the most important thing in the world. I’m not saying that—because the most important thing in the world is youth.”

In that way, Kim Novak’s appearance at the Oscars last Sunday sums up everything that’s wrong with our expectations for American women, who are taught over and over again that looking young and pretty is a goal worth achieving at any cost.

A cost Novak seems more than willing to pay.

And I’m terrified that I’ll see her choices repeated over and over and over again on the faces of the women around me as time and science march on.

I was lucky enough to be at the beach yesterday, and the middle-aged mother sitting next to me was literally wearing a string bikini.

A leopard-print spring bikini.

I was pretty sure she was around my age, and sure enough, later in the day, I heard her say that she “wasn’t forty YET.” (I’m 43.)

Despite the fact that we are virtually the same age, this woman had the body of a twenty-year-old. Her upper body was flawless—with sculpted abs, a flat stomach, and toned arms—and her legs had only enough cellulite for someone who was really looking to notice.

Still, though a part of me admired her discipline—you don’t keep a body like that into your 40s without a hell of a lot of trips to the gym—I didn’t envy her. Because all I could think was that her charade would soon be coming to an end, and when it did, she’d have to face the fact that she wouldn’t be young forever.

I worry, too, that such a realization will send beautiful women like her straight to the plastic surgeon where they can be nipped and injected and tucked until no sign of their aging appears. But no sign of their former selves either.

Despite this, I can’t help but note that Novak—and other women in Hollywood like her, who have chosen the plastic surgery route over the age naturally route—are the ones who aren’t really working as actors anymore.


Though you wouldn’t know if from the pictures above, at 82, Maggie Smith is only one year older than Novak, and despite the fact that she has chosen not to hide her age, she continues to work with much success.

Judi Dench, 79, too has embraced her age, and her career is thriving…

Judi Dench

Though younger than Novak, Smith, and Dench, Susan Sarandon, 67…


and Diane Keaton, 68, have done the same…


So if the women who are getting work in Hollywood are the ones who are not afraid to age naturally, I can’t help but wonder why Novak—and others like her—are so afraid to do so that they engage in such risky behavior.

Perhaps looking into Novak’s past will give us the answer.

When Novak was twenty, the modeling agency where she worked described her this way: “Hands, marginal; legs, hefty; neck and face, flawless.” Pretty soon “studio executives made her cap her teeth, bleach her hair, shrink her body with a strict diet and exercise regime, and perpetually paint her face with the help of a personal makeup artist.” And Novak’s agent used to “read her every bad review she got. And she got plenty; Novak was never a darling of the press. If she tried something dramatic, she was wooden. If she did a sexy role, she was too heavy, too dumb. When she went to the Oscars one year and posed on the red carpet, one columnist sniped that Novak was ‘aping Marilyn’s every move.’”

It’s not hard to understand why someone whose been put through that kind of scrutiny would be afraid to be herself. My God, it seems that Hollywood probably destroyed not only Novak’s self-esteem but her looks as well. Perhaps the reason that actresses like Dench and Smith were never obsessed with staying young is because their faces were not as famous as Novak’s in their youth.

And maybe what we can learn from Novak is that, unless we stop worshipping at the alter of youth and physical perfection, then we all run the risk of some day, like Novak, falling victim to the belief that there is only one kind of beauty.

It’s sad to admit, but it seems that Novak has suffered such a fate.


Oscar wrap-up, part one: The world is round, people!


The Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night closed out a film season that, for me, seemed to go on and on and on.

But the night was anything but an afterthought since, thankfully, two insanely awesome things happened…


1) A deserving film—12 Years a Slave—won the Oscar for best picture. This almost makes up for Crash beating Brokeback Mountain. Almost.

and, more pertinently,


2) Cate Blanchett gave the speech of her life, castigating Hollywood for their absurd sexism and calling for more female-driven films. She hinted at this idea the night before at the Spirit awards, saying, “there is a myth that female-driven movies don’t make money.”

And at the Oscars she called out those “who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences. They are not. Audiences want to see them and, in fact, they earn money. The world is round, people.”

Of course, Blanchett could not be more right.

Not only is the earth round, but audiences DO want to see movies about women. And everything from The Hunger Games to My Big Fat Greek Wedding proves it.

Despite this, in 2013, only 28.4% of speaking roles in top 100 films went to women.

And if we don’t have more films about women, we’ll never be able to feel good about ourselves or our bodies because we will always feel like we’re playing second-string to dudes.

And, really, isn’t it finally time that we let go of the idea that men are more interesting, important, and movie-worthy?

Not only do we need more films about women, we also need more films made by women. As Brapointed out on Twitter last Sunday, there weren’t ANY women nominated in the Directing, Cinematography, Film Editing, Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects categories this year, AND no women has EVER been nominated for the cinematography award.

This doesn’t really surprise me.

I’ve worked on a few short films myself, and on each of those films (including one made by a female Academy Award winner) only men were allowed to operate the camera, as if it were made of some anti-woman Kryptonite.

Again, women are never going to have a positive self-image if we aren’t allowed to contribute to the images we see on our screens.

Blanchett’s speech and 12 Years a Slave’s win weren’t the only high points on Oscar nights. A few other highlights that are good for women and the way we see ourselves…

1) After the male-centric hero montage, Whoopi Goldberg said, “Not all heroes wear capes and masks. Sometimes they wear ruby slippers.”


2) Thankfully, there were no songs about boobs.

3) The Oscars were MUCH more inclusive this year, giving awards to more than one token person of color, highlighting the role of women in film, and even featuring presenters from movies that weren’t up for Oscars. Maybe the Academy is finally getting it. Maybe.


4) Ellen challenged the notion that women should be judged by the way they look by rejecting the idea that a female host must change her outfit at every commercial break. Instead of constantly showing up on stage in one stunning outfit after another, Ellen only changed only from a black tux to a white one and back to black again, and then commented on the change, saying in a matter-of-fact voice, “Oh, yeah, I changed clothes” as if it were the least important thing in the world, which obviously it is.
5) On a related note, let’s not forget that Ellen Degeneres is a lesbian who doesn’t even wear dresses, thereby shattering the myth that beautiful successful women in Hollywood must wear evening gowns and be seen on the arm of a smoking hot guy. In case you missed it, the world really is round.
6) Ellen also shattered the myth that celebrities never eat junk food and that they have no problem sitting at a bloated awards ceremony without food by ordering pizza and serving it to everyone from Meryl Streep to Jamie Foxx. As Ellen pointed out, the Oscars are a lot like The Hunger Games: “Everybody’s starving, there are cameras everyone, and Jennifer Lawrence won last year.”
7) Oh, and speaking of Ellen, she killed it. That selfie was especially brilliant because it showed us—perhaps for he first time in Oscar history—celebrities acting like real people rather than depicting them as cardboard cut-outs who look and act perfectly all the time.
Overall, it was a good night, but there are still some things to fret over. Tune in soon for more.

Minutes before the Oscars, I’m still re-thinking my love-hate relationship with the Red Carpet


The Academy Awards start in two hours (on ABC), and the E! pre-show starts any minute.

My DVR is set to record! I’ve got my evening cleared of obligations! I’m ready!

But as much as I love oohing and aahing over everyone’s looks on the Red Carpet, I hate the tools of objectification that come with it—the GlamCam, the Mani-Cam, the Glam-O-Strator, the 360-degree Room, and all the other we’re-judging-you bullshit.

(E! is even premiering a new camera tonight—the “Fashion Turn,” an all-glass box that spins the actress standing in it around in a circle so we can see every detail. Puke.)

Why can’t we just look at their dresses, appreciate them, and move on? Why do we have to deconstruct every stitch, every hem, every piece of bling?

Apparently I’m not alone in thinking that much of the head-to-toe critiquing that happens on the Red Carpet is overkill.


In the Entertainment Weekly‘s recent Oscar issue, Academy Award nominee (and former winner) Cate Blanchett (shown above with fellow nominee Lupita Nyong’o) bemoaned the way women are objectified on the Red Carpet, explaining that the reporters will actually ask her how she’s doing and then PAN THE CAMERA DOWN HER BODY. Blanchett is not at all pleased by this behavior, saying “With Bradley Cooper and Ben Stiller, they keep talking to them face-to-face. Why are you talking to my shoes?”

I could not agree more.

That’s why I was thrilled when Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss flipped off the Mani-Cam at the Globes this year.


At the same time, I’m not one of those people who is willing to boycott awards’ pre-shows on the grounds that the Red Carpet reduces women to their looks.

So where does that leave me and other fans of the Red Carpet who still want to resist the notion that it’s acceptable to treat women like pieces of meat?

I suppose the answer is that, if we’re going to keep watching (and I know I definitely am), we have to counter the constant scrutiny and objectification by critiquing the people holding the microphones in any social media venue we can find. Let them know when they suck, and praise them when they actually get it right. And hope that maybe just maybe they’ll start to grow and learn.

Oscar recap: people still care way too much about what women look like… said another way: give Renée a break

It’s time for my annual post-Oscar post. Some years the Academy makes me feel good about the world, and other years…

…well, others years it makes me feel like we are still living in the paleolithic era.

Unless you live in a cave, you know that the biggest problem with Sunday night’s Oscar telecast was the host, Seth MacFarlane, whose performance featured jokes that were sexist, racist, and homophobic while also throwing in a rape joke for good measure. (The Daily Beast called it the “Juvenile Oscars,” and you can read about some of the worst offenders in this list of the “9 Sexist Things That Happened at the Oscars.”)

But I’ve already forgotten about MacFarlane.

He’s a neanderthal, he’s Archie Bunker reincarnated in Peter Brady’s body, and he knows it.

In other words, he’s not worth my time.

What I can’t seem to forget—what was keeping me up last night with concern—was all the negativity about Renée Zellweger’s looks.

Type in the words “Renée Zellweger Oscars” into Google over the past thirty-six hours, and you’ll get hundreds of hits about Zellweger’s appearance (as well as her supposedly drunken behavior, which has since been refuted). The internet and Twitterverse have been downright aflame with talk about Zellweger’s face—claiming she looked overly botoxed and completely “unrecognizable.”

All I can say is, what the hell are they talking about?

Zellwegger has always had a unique face, but saying she looks unrecognizable is a strange charge to level when she looked almost exactly like she always has if a bit older and thinner:

And, yes, her face does seem unusually smooth for a women in her mid forties, but no smoother than mine or any of my friends who are the same age as Zellwegger.

I mean, come on. Forty is not sixty or even fifty.

And so what if she’s had botox treatments? We live in a society that is obsessed with scrutinizing the appearance of celebrities—especially female celebrities. I sincerely hope that Zellwegger and other “middle-aged” celebrities reject botox and other types of plastic surgery, but honestly, I cannot blame them if and when they don’t.

It also seems like a vicious cycle that we are helping to perpertrate when we criticize women like Zellwegger who get work done—these women are put under a microscope so harsh that we have entire tabloid magazines devoted to seeing celebrities looking bad in their bathing suits—and then we have the nerve to criticize them when they want their skin to look smoother?

It makes me wonder what they could do, if anything, to make us happy. I fear that the answer is nothing.

Possibly worst of all of the criticism about Zellwegger’s looks Sunday night was a comment tweeted by Jesse Tyler Ferguson (@jessetyler), one of the stars of Modern Family, who said:

Renee Zellweger arrives as a Ghost of Christmas Future for Jennifer Lawrence, bearing warning about Botox. #Oscars2013

Not only is Ferguson’s comment intentionally hurtful, but it also furthers this never-ending cycle of making women feel like nothing they do is ever good enough.

Ironically, it also alludes to the real problem: that women in Hollywood are glorified for their natural beauty when they are young—like Zellwegger was around the time she was in Jerry Maguire and Jennifer Lawrence has been lately—and then ripped apart and rejected when they age naturally. Yes, there are some exceptions, but they are few and far between, and those exceptions are usually only granted to “serious” actresses like Meryl Streep and Susan Sarandon.

The other problem with the attacks on Zellwegger is that when we criticize female celebrities for their looks, we simultaneously hurt ourselves and our collective self-esteem. After all, if the internet is obsessed with Zellwegger’s too-smooth skin and her squinty eyes, how on earth are the rest of us real women supposed to feel when we look in the mirror and see that—next to someone as thin and polished as Zellwegger—we look even more flawed? The answer is that we often feel like crap.

And a big part of me wonders if the reason Zellwegger got a bit too much botox or looked too shiny under the bright lights of the Oscar stage or seemed a bit squinty or unsure of herself (to the point that people thought she was drunk) is because she’s been out of the limelight for a while and isn’t as used to the intense pressure and scrutiny that comes along with that kind of international stage.

To put it simply, maybe she was just nervous.

One of my former students posted these words on Facebook today:

If you see someone struggling to keep their head above water, it’s probably best not to push them under.

That’s honestly the best thing I’ve heard in days.

Annual Oscar wrap-up: getting my hopes up all over again

In my post-Oscar wrap-up two years ago—called “Where are all the curvy white women?”—I wrote about how it often seems like only women of color are allowed to be curvy in Hollywood. That year Mo’Nique had won an Oscar for Precious and eight women of color—JLo, Mo’Nique, Gabby Sidibe, Queen Latifah, Mariah Carey, Zoe Saldana, JLo, Penelope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz—had walked the red carpet.

But all but two of the twenty “white” women on the red carpet that year were super thin, and both of them—Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver—would qualify for the senior discount at the multiplex, making their “curvy” designation much less impressive.

The message was clear—white women are not allowed to be curvy in Hollywood, as if curves are somehow tied to race and ethnicity, which, believe me, they’re not.

And then last year, things just got worse. I wrote then—in my post called “2011 Oscars: Playboy Barbie edition”—about how there were ONLY THREE women of color (Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson, and Penelope Cruz) and ONLY TWO curvy women (Jacki Weaver and Penelop Cruz) on the red carpet that year. (At that time, Jennifer Hudson had just lost a bunch of weight and was too thin to be called curvy.)

I had thought it was bad enough the year before when there were no white curvy women on the red carpet under the age of sixty, but at least that year there were NINE curvy women total. But 2011 saw the red carpet sink to new lows, and at that time, I wrote, “I can’t help but wonder if we are regressing.”

But, much to my surprise, this year curvy women and women of color bounced back. Believe it or not, there were no fewer than ten curvy women on the red carpet this year:

Meryl Streep, JLo, Octavia Spencer, Penelope Cruz, Maya Rudolph, Sheri Shepherd, Melissa McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Virginia Madsen, and Julia Ormond.

And—as I’m sure you’ve already figured out—FIVE of these women are considered “white.” FIVE! That’s a big deal, people. It means that we’re finally starting to move away from the notion that white women must be super thin to make it in Hollywood.

Also good news is the fact that there were at least eight women of color on the red carpet Sunday night:

Cameron Diaz, JLo, Octavia Spencer, Penelope Cruz, Maya Rudolph, Shelia E, Sheri Shepherd, and Bérénice Bejo.

This is equally important, for it’s a sign that—this year at least—Hollywood said you don’t have to be blonde and thin to be one of us, and expanding the definition of the Hollywood celebrity also means expanding the definition of beauty.

Don’t get me wrong—it was a horrible year for women inside the Academy Awards. There were no women nominated in the best picture, best director, and many other categories. And only one nominee in the writing category was female—Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo for Bridesmaids (and they obviously didn’t win).

So, no, we’re not at our 2010 level of gender equity when Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win an Oscar for best director, AND we saw many women of color and curvy women on the red carpet. But this year was certainly better than the last, which means that—like Charlie Brown getting ready to kick the football—I’m naively getting my hopes up for next year. Keep your fingers crossed that no one pulls the ball away before I kick it.



2012 Oscars . . . Curvy women: 10 / Women of color: 8

2011 Oscars . . . Curvy women: 2 / Women of color: 3

2010 Oscars . . . Curvy women: 9 / Women of color: 8

James Franco: bad Oscar host or wise sage?

So much Oscar gossip, so little time.

If you didn’t watch, probably the most dramatic thing about the Oscars last Sunday (because nearly all of the winners were known in advance) was James Franco’s unbelievably lackluster performance, which even he predicted in this video he posted on Twitter. Not a half an hour into the ceremony, Franco was so out of it that Twitter and Facebook were inundated with questions about his sobriety. The main question being, is Franco high????

I have no idea if Franco was high, but I know he was not exactly into hosting the Oscars, which was the polar opposite of his co-host Anne Hathaway, who worked hard enough for the both of them. He was so not into that he didn’t even go to his own after-party, instead flying back east the same night.

I know Franco is going to school right now—studying to get his Ph.D. in literature (at Yale no less). And I remember a few weeks ago, he was on The Daily Show talking about his Oscar nomination, which had been announced that morning right before he’d gone to class. Stewart then asked if anyone in his class had congratulated him on the nom, and without even thinking about it, Franco said no. “No one said anything?” Stewart asked, skeptical, and Franco had to admit that his classmates at Yale couldn’t give a shit about the Oscars. (At least that’s how Franco read it, but it’s also possible they’re pretending not to care, which is what I really believe.)

I guess this brings me to my point—maybe Franco didn’t care about hosting the Oscars because he has bigger fish to fry—or if not bigger, then at least better. This is a guy with serious aspirations—he’s an actor (in three different venues—film, television, and daytime television), a short story writer, a filmmaker, and a scholar. That might explain why getting dressed up in a thousand-dollar tux to go to the biggest party of the year to honor a bunch of people who are honored every day may not seem like a huge priority. Sure, Franco should have said no if he wasn’t going to do his best, but I can see why it wasn’t that important to him. Because in the big scheme of things, it just wasn’t that important.

Fun, yes. Important, no.

Which might be why Franco was at his best in the ridiculous skits in which he dressed up like Marilyn Monroe or donned the tights of a ballet dancer a la Black Swan. (By the way, if you ever feel bad about the way you look in a dress, just picture Franco as Monroe, who looked wonderfully absurd.)

As one Tweeter said Sunday night, “The Oscars are a pointless, trivial, gross popularity contest that rarely honors the true best of the year. I will be glued to the screen.” Maybe Franco is simply more in the former camp than the latter one.

Franco’s uninspired performance doesn’t directly relate to the topic of this blog, but in a tangential way it speaks to the same issue. That is, the issue that there are more important things in the world than how you look in a tight dress or how white your teeth are. On the red carpet the other night, Natalie Portman claimed that, though she likes attending these ceremonies, it’s the rest of us who are lucky because we get to sit at home and watch in our sweats. I have to say, Franco’s resurrection of his Pineapple Express character was pretty entertaining from my spot on the sofa, but I imagine it might have felt mighty awkward—even scary—from the seats of the Kodak theatre.

For years, I fantasized about going to the Oscars and still a part of me wants to go some day, but lately I’ve come to realize Portman’s point—it’s probably more fun to watch on the sofa than attend.

For that reason, I won’t join the hordes of Americans who are bemoaning Franco’s performance this week. Instead, I’ll thank him for reminding me that though watching the Oscars is a lot of fun, it’s also pretty darn silly and something none of us should take too awfully seriously.

The 2011 Oscars: Playboy Barbie edition a.k.a. two steps forward, two steps back

Last year, I spent the days after the Oscars and Golden Globes talking about how much curvier the red carpet was, how women of all sizes should dress, and how Hollywood allows women of color to be curvier than white woman.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t talk about any one of these issues this year even if I wanted to because there were almost no curvy women or women of color on the red carpet this year.

So what happened? Where were all the women of color? And what about the curvy women? Where were they? Because the only curve I noticed on the red carpet Sunday night was the moon-shaped baby bump under Natalie Portman’s plum-colored dress.

Okay, so Penelope Cruz was showing off a little extra stomach, arm, and thigh (not to mention boob) post-baby, but other than that, the red carpet was curve-free. (In case you’re wondering, breasts alone don’t make a woman curvy.)

Last year there were nine curvy girls on the red carpet— JLo, Mo’nique, Meryl Streep, Gabby Sidibe, Molly Ringwald, Queen Latifah, Mariah Carey, Sigourney Weaver, and Kate Winslet (FYI… I wouldn’t call Winslet curvy, but since one reporter called her “big” that night, she deserves to stand with us)—and eight women of color: Mo’Nique, Gabby Sidibe, Queen Latifah, Mariah Carey, Zoe Saldana, JLo, Penelope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz. This year, real-sized woman dropped to two—Cruz and nominee Jacki Weaver—while women of color were down to just three: Cruz again, JHud, and Halle Berry.

And that wasn’t the only place women were missing. When Spielbeg introduced the award for best picture, the girls at BitchFlicks rightly pointed out that he mentioned eight films that had been previously nominated for—The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, The Graduate, Raging Bull—and won—On the Waterfront, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather, The Deer Hunter—the best picture Oscar, but not one of them was about a woman or a person of color.

This was in stark contrast to last year’s Academy Awards, which, as I said then, was an evening focused on strong women—Sandra Bullock, Mo’nique, Meryl Streep, Gabby Sidibe, and of course Best Picture/director winner Kathryn Bigelow to name a few—and that those women thankfully had bodies of all sizes

And if women were more of an afterthought this year and women of color and curvy women glaringly absent on the red carpet, I can’t help but wonder if this means we are regressing.

Reese Witherspoon showed up in a look that was frighteningly reminiscent of a Playboy bunny (see picture above), and I visibly shuttered when I saw her on my TV screen. Are we going backwards instead of forwards? Will we be breaking out the corsets and bonnets next year?

The irony is that one of the only women of color on the red carpet was Jennifer Hudson, who, over the last year, has famously replaced her ample curves with ones that are more Hollywood appropriate.

Maybe the lack of curves on the red carpet was the reason why JHud’s new bod seemed to be all anybody could talk about when they saw her. Even the normally infallible Tim Gun felt the need to point out Hudson’s “amazing new figure.”

Even worse, when Ryan Seacrest interviewed Hudson, he said, “You must love getting dressed up now that you have that new body.”

It’s bad enough Seacrest felt comfortable giving Hudson such a back-handed compliment, but his comment is also offensive to the rest of us non-Red Carpet walkers because his message is that if we aren’t skinny, then we shouldn’t enjoy dressing up.

Guess what, Ryan? Real women—whether they be curvier than celebrities or more flat chested than them—like to dress up too!

The bottom line is that the more we talk about Hudson’s “new” bod, the more we reinforce the idea there was something wrong with the old one. And, my God, the woman is gorgeous at any size.

After the Golden Globes this year, I wrote about how Seacrest’s superficial and sexist banter on the red carpet hurts us more than Ricky Gervais’ raunchy ribbing of celebrities, and this year’s color-and-curve-free red carpet makes me think it’s time for another course correction.

Over the past few years, we have seen a resurgence of curvy women and women of color, but last Sunday proved that, unfortunately, we’re falling back into old habits. This means that we have to re-double our efforts by continuing to demand more magazines and models with real women and by continuing to vote with our dollars and spend money on female artists of all stripes.

Recently, when asked if the new emphasis on curves would continue, a world-famous designer said that, in fashion, trends come and go pretty quickly, and he imagined that the curvier women we’ve seen on the runway over the past year would not return next season. But if trends come and go that fast, then we wouldn’t have seen the same Kate Moss heroin chic bodies for the past fifteen years. From my point of view, this sounds like an excuse—and one we cannot accept.

Time for the fattists to shut it

The Oscar nominations came out this morning, and I am thrilled because my favorite movie of the year—Winter’s Bone—was nominated for best picture. If you haven’t seen this film yet and can stand a movie that is pretty gritty and dark, rent it ASAP. It will kick your ass. (On top of that it’s also a movie by and about real women.)

Now that the Oscar noms are out, I guess I should finally wrap up the Golden Globe coverage. And I want to do that by shaking my finger at Time magazine for posing an article called “5 Stars Who Looked Fat and 5 Stars Who Looked Fit” after the Globes.

Yes, as a friend pointed out, “it’s not bad enough, fashion-wise, to be overweight, but now it’s a fashion faux pas to look an ounce larger than you really are.

I couldn’t agree more. What the hell is wrong with people—I’m talking to you, Charla Krupp—that makes them think it’s acceptable to call people fat? Guess what, Krupp? It hasn’t been okay to call someone fat since fifth grade. Time to grow up.

What’s crazy is that this salacious headline promises more bite than it delivers. If you read the article, you’ll see that Krupp calls Christina Aguilera “buxom” and “hippy,” describes JLo as having an “ample derriere” (see picture above), and says Jennifer Love Hewitt’s “top half is voluminous.”

Buxom? Hippy? Ample? Voluminous?

I don’t know about you, but I would have no problem having JLo’s ample derriere, Hewitt’s volumnious top half, or Aguilera’s buxom and hippy. And I certainly know it would make my husband happy.

Oddly, Krupp included Heidi Klum in this list of “stars who looked fat,” which doesn’t even make sense. If Heidi Klum looks fat, then my next birthday wish will be to be as fat as Klum.

And I think that the fact that Krupp doesn’t get this proves that she’s out of sync with so many of us—those of us who want to accept our bodies the way they are and don’t feel a need to cleave to some ridiculous model of perfection.

What’s worse is that this article ran on the Time magazine website. Really, Time magazine? Really? You think it looks good to talk about how “fat” someone looks? It’s not like this is some tabloid we’d find in the checkout line. I expect more of a “news” magazine. I expect integrity. So let’s see it.

The Oscars, Part II: Where are all the curvy white women???

192 pounds
If you didn’t watch the Oscars on Sunday, then you might not know that, in her acceptance speech, Oscar winner Mo’Nique mentioned Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win an Oscar for her supporting role as “Mammy” in 1939’s Gone with the Wind. Mo’Nique said, “I want to thank Miss Hattie McDaniel for enduring all that she to, so that I would not have to.”

The next day, commentators were discussing Mo’Nique’s acceptance speech and one of them also included a video of McDaniel’s original speech, which I watched immediately.
As I watched McDaniel accept her Oscar, it hit me rather suddenly that her body, like Monique’s and Gabby Sidibe’s, wasn’t typical of Hollywood actresses.
And that made me think more deeply about an issue that I often don’t talk about: the fact that in our society women of color are allowed to be curvy, and “white” women are not.
I’m not saying this is a hard-and-fast rule. There are certainly women of color—Halle Berry, for instance—who are super thin, and I’m sure there are “white” women who are not—Kathy Bates comes to mind. But, for the most part, in the mainstream media, women of color are given more latitude in terms of what their bodies can look like than their white counterparts. A quick glimpse at my Gallery of Gorgeous Women proves that.
Still don’t believe me?
Let’s do a quick rundown of who was on the Red Carpet . . .
Mo’Nique, Gabby Sidibe, Queen Latifah, Mariah Carey, and Zoe Saldana were the African American women who walked the Red Carpet before the ceremony. Four out of five of those women could not fit into the sample sizes used at Fashion Week.
JLo, Penelope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz were the only Latinas there Sunday night. JLo is obviously curvier than most of her “white” peers, and Cruz is on the fence—she’s got some real curves, but she’s also pretty fit. Diaz, on the other hand, has always been super thin and is the only one of these three who clearly fits into the waif-like model, but one could argue that most people are ignorant of Diaz’ Cuban roots, meaning she has to fit into the “white” model of beauty despite her ethnicity.
And what about the “white” actresses?
That list includes Sandra Bullock, Kathryn Bigelow, Charlize Theron, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Carey Mulligan, Anna Kendrick, Amanda Seyfried, Helen Mirren, Demi Moore, Sigourney Weaver, Kristen Stewart, Elizabeth Banks, Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Kruger, Kate Winslet, Nicole Richie, Miley Cyrus, Tina Fey, and Meryl Streep.
Are you seeing what I’m seeing?*
Out of these twenty women, only two have slightly real bodies . . .
Meryl Streep and Sigourney Weaver.
Let me repeat that . . . only two of the twenty “white” actresses on the Red Carpet last week have a normal body, and both of them are not only older than the others, they are also already established forces in Hollywood, a feat I might add they both accomplished when they were still very, very thin.
And really, let’s be honest . . . Streep and Weaver have phenomenal bodies. Neither one of them are the slightest bit overweight. Who knows what I would do to look like them? Certainly, I wouldn’t kill for a great bod, but I might lie, cheat, and steal to get one. And in that sense, they really can’t even be put into the same category as people like Mo’Nique, Sidibe, Queen Latifah, or even the always voluptuous Lopez and Carey.
So why the double standard, Hollywood? Why are you willing to accept women of color in all shapes and sizes but only accept “white” girls who look like they stopped eating after puberty? I mean, really, Hollywood, what gives?
I don’t know the answer to these questions and I fear that racism has something to do with some of it, but I do know this: until we allow women of ALL races and ethnicities to be different shapes and sizes, we will never have a healthy idea of what women’s bodies should look like.
*I’m also seeing that “white” actresses significantly outnumber non-“white” actresses, which is another problem, but not one that has to do with the themes of this blog.

The Oscars, Part I: A plea to all Hollywood starlets

192 pounds
As I’m sure you all know, the Oscars were Sunday.
It was a great day for women because Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman in history to take home the Academy Award for Best Director. And her film—The Hurt Locker—also won the Best Picture award.
I also felt like the narrative of the evening focused on strong women—Sandra Bullock, Mo’nique, Meryl Streep, Gabby Sidibe, and Bigelow to name a few—and that those women thankfully had bodies of all sizes.
But before the actual ceremony began, I found myself cringing during the Red Carpet show.
At first I wasn’t sure why the Red Carpet didn’t have as much appeal for me as it normally does, but after the first sixty minutes or so, I put it together: many, many of the women who walked it looked too thin to me. To the point that they almost looked as if they were sickly.
I’ve made it a point on this blog NOT to criticize skinny women or name names about women who I think look like they are at an unhealthy weight, and I think I’ll stick with that decision because it doesn’t really help anyone to attack the way certain women look—whether they be too small or too big. I’ve always said that the point of this blog is too help people accept themselves they way they are, and calling someone anorexic-looking doesn’t really serve that purpose, does it? After all, it’s just as easy to be naturally thin as it is to be naturally curvy.
But I do want to make a plea to the actresses and celebrities of our time, and that plea is this:
Please be true to your bodies! Please accept your body at the weight it should be rather than giving into the weight everyone else tells you it needs to be! We need you to do this for us! We really, really do!
My husband always says he believes that after we stop growing, people settle in at a certain weight, and that that weight is often where we are supposed to be.
And, for the most part, I agree with him.
It’s the same principle as aging gracefully—meaning, accepting the fact that at the age of forty, you shouldn’t have the same body you had when you were twenty. We don’t expect our faces to look the same as we age (at least most of us don’t), so why do people expect their bodies to look the same?
And when I see people—and by people, I mean, celebrities since I don’t know ANY regular people who have this problem—who are my age but weigh the same or less than they did when they weren’t even old enough to drink, it scares me. There is no doubt that there are some really young celebrities out there who are pushing the thin thing too far, but there are also plenty of middle-aged superstars who are simply way too skinny.
To be honest, I find that extreme gauntness actually ages women dramatically, making them appear much less attractive than they would with just five or ten more pounds on their body. Let’s face it, at some point—maybe around the age of thirty-five—women no longer look healthy being the same weight they were when they were eighteen.
Don’t get me wrong, I get it.
I get why they do it.
I get that the pressure—pressure from the media, pressure from casting agents, directors and producers—to be whippet thin in Hollywood is completely insane and insanely unfair.
I’ve even witnessed evidence of that insanity this week. Since the Oscars I’ve heard one fashion commentator say something like Kate Winslet (see picture above) “has always been bigger” and another point out that Molly Ringwald (pictured below) is “not a size 0.”

I mean, why is it necessary for us to talk about Ringwald not being a size zero? Is that really supposed to be some kind of freaking ideal?
And in what universe could either of these women be called “bigger”?! That is complete crap! If anything, they look pretty darn thin to me. Maybe what these critics meant to say is that they don’t look anorexic or unhealthy, and it scares me to think that not looking anorexic translates to “bigger” on the Red Carpet.
So, yes, I get it, but I’m begging all of you Hollywood types out there: Do not give in to this bullshit! Let your body be the size it wants to be!
If nothing else works, look at Meryl Streep, the most successful actor in history, and recognize that you don’t have to be super skinny to be huge.
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