Hollywood commentators choose to dissect stars’ weights instead of their work, revealing a startling problem: No one minds his or her own business.
We’re a few months into a new year and already finished with one season: award show season – but several smug Hollywood personalities continue to remind us that the tradition of criticizing the body size of other media figures has not faded.
Comedian Joan Rivers, who normally tears any and all actors’ red carpet fashion to shreds, was somewhat supportive of Oscar-nominated actress, Gabourey Sidibe, during her E! Fashion Police special.
“All the jokes going around about this girl, that they shot Avatar against her – so mean, so mean,” Rivers said during the special.
But her support didn’t stretch to the entire Hollywood community. Rivers still felt the need to point out that Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet has “a weight problem” and that pop singer Mariah Carey looked like she was “about to explode” in her red-carpet dress, followed by, “somebody needs to tell her that she’s chubby.”
Sidibe, like people of similar body sizes, is aware of her larger body size. Society’s need to continuously remind those people of this fact is not only disturbing, but very telling of our society’s often unnecessary concern for the weight – or other issues – of other people.
The Monday after the 82nd Annual Academy Awards, shockjock Howard Stern made it clear that Precious actress Sidibe was not immune to weight criticism.
“That’s the most enormous, fat black chick I’ve ever seen,” Stern said on his Sirius satellite radio show. “Everyone’s pretending she’s a part of show business, and she’s never going to be in another movie. She should have gotten the best actress award because she’s never going to have another shot. What movie is she gonna be in?”
But a week earlier, Showtime cast Sidibe in its new show, The Big C.
The criticism of people deemed overweight becomes even more complicated when establishments enforce policies that isolate and harm people for their body sizes. Last month, director and actor Kevin Smith said Southwest Airlines kicked him off a flight for being overweight.
“Dear @SouthwestAir – I know I’m fat, but was Captain Leysath really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?” a post from his Twitter account reads.
Southwest Airlines indeed has a customer-size policy, which has been enforced for 29 of its 38 years in business. The company created the policy because passengers did not have “full access to the seat purchased due to encroachment by a large seatmate whose body extended into the neighboring seat,” according to a description of the policy on the airline’s Web site.
Customers “unable to lower both armrests and/or who compromise any portion of adjacent seating” are expected to purchase additional seating. If a customer has a discounted fare for advanced purchase, the policy states, then the second seat is sold at the same discount fare. If a customer purchased a low, unrestricted full-fares seat, the second seat will be sold at the child’s fare.
The fact that customers must purchase additional seating, no matter the price, is humiliating. Even more humiliating for the passenger in question and for our society is that policies like this exist.
Rivers’ and Stern’s harsh criticisms and Southwest’s policy translate to this: We as individuals cannot be content simply worrying about our own bodies. Instead, we criticize others for their body types.
The obsession with weight – even when the intention is noble, i.e., losing it for health reasons – is creating a culture that encourages phobias of any body type that is not thin or “normal.”
Celebrity gossip blogger and TV personality Perez Hilton recently defended Sidibe in a post
“As long as she is healthy, vital and above all, happy, we don’t care how much weight she gains or loses,” Hilton wrote.
For Sidibe and everyone – regardless of body size – health, vitality and happiness should be all that matters.
Josh Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.