After all of that holiday eating, many people will ring in 2014 with a New Year’s resolution to lose some weight and get fit. But as consumers are looking at their waist lines, there’s a battle going on over female body image. Jennifer Lawrence of the “Hunger Games” films and Joan Rivers are duking it out over Lawrence’s crusade to change the way Hollywood looks at women’s bodies. Almost simultaneously, Plus-Size-Modeling.com posted an image of a plus-size Barbie, championing the idea that Barbie dolls promote an unhealthy expectation for women’s bodies. If you’re taking media studies or women’s studies this fall, it’s a good idea to brush up on the issue of female body image in the media.
Jennifer Lawrence vs. Joan Rivers
The feud started with a seemingly innocuous comment that Jennifer Lawrence made in a November interview with Yahoo! She was asked about the pressures that women, particularly actors, face to stay thin and stylish. The star shared her frustrations, claiming that snarky television shows like Joan Rivers’s Fashion Police on E! fuel the fire.
“The world has a certain idea – we see this airbrushed perfect model image,” Lawrence said, quoted by Nardine Saad in the Los Angeles Times column “Ministry of Gossip,” December 27, 2013, in the article, “Jennifer Lawrence vs. Joan Rivers: ‘Fashion Police’ feud heats up.” Lawrence continued, “What are you gonna do, be hungry every single day to make other people happy? That’s just dumb…. And there’s shows like the ‘Fashion Police’ and things like that are just showing these generations of young people … that it’s OK to point at people and call them ugly and call them fat and they call it ‘fun’ and ‘welcome to the real world.’ And it’s like, that shouldn’t be the real world.”
Rivers immediately responded via Twitter, claiming that Lawrence had loved Fashion Police when they complimented her every week. “But now that she has a movie to promote,” Rivers wrote, according to Saad, “suddenly we’re picking on all those poor, helpless actors.”
On December 25, Rivers lit into Lawrence again, pledging, Saad recounted, to ensure “Jennifer Lawrence grows up and realizes how lucky she is and calms down.” Rivers also claimed that for someone who champions female body image, Lawrence’s posters and photographs are heavily airbrushed. “Look at her posters,” Rivers said. “She doesn’t have a nose, she has two holes. She just has to learn, don’t talk if you’re doing it.”
Lawrence’s crusade against body image goes farther than her feud with Rivers. In an interview with Barbara Walters for an ABC News special, previewed in “Jennifer Lawrence: ‘It should be illegal to call somebody fat’,” written by Lauren Effron for ABCNews.com, Lawrence said she thought it should be illegal to call someone fat on television. “Because humiliating people is funny?” she asked. “The media needs to take responsibility for the effect it has on our younger generation, on these girls who are watching these television shows, and picking up how to talk and how to be cool.”
Plus-size and life size Barbie
Speaking of teaching young girls about body image, there are fewer representations more common and long-lasting than the Barbie doll. So it’s no surprise that Barbie has become the focus of questions about body image – particularly in the case of Plus-Size-Modeling.com’s recent Facebook post asking followers to comment on whether there ought to be a plus-size Barbie to counter the too-skinny, too-tall doll’s prominence in the market. As Ellie Krupnick of Huffington Post covered in “Plus size Barbie on modeling site sparks debate over body image,” the reactions to the suggestion were polarizing.
Although the post gained 35,000 likes in support of the idea, the extreme size of the plus size doll bothered many, who felt encouraging obesity was just as bad as proclaiming that thin is in. “There were also those who wondered aloud where the ‘average’ size bodies were – meaning, bodies that are neither ‘plus-size’ nor a size zero,” Krupnick reported. Artists including Sheila Pree Bright, who created “Plastic Bodies,” and Nikolay Lamm, who designed a doll based on average proportions of a 19-year-old woman, have already created some stark images of those comparisons.
What do you think about the way the media and dolls portray body image? Tell us in the comments.