Pressure about body image is all over the place in our modern society. It’s hard to go anywhere, let alone simply step foot outside, without seeing some sort of advertisement or image in general where body image is not involved. Whether it’s a billboard off the highway or an altered image on the cover of Vogue (thank you, Photoshop), there’s really no escaping it.
In fact, these ads promoting the ideal image of womanhood are not only having affects on women in the real world, but are also wreaking havoc in Hollywood as well. According to The Representation Project, women who are 45 years and older only make up 15% of prime-time television characters, despite the fact that they make up over half of the population of the real world. The double standard in Hollywood for women and youth is ridiculous. When a man gets older (George Clooney, anyone?) he essentially ages like a fine wine in the eyes of the media. He is charming, experienced, and unpredictable. However, the day a female actor shows any sign of aging, the media turns on her. She isn’t charming, but rather talks too much. She isn’t experienced, she is past her prime. She isn’t unpredictable, she’s crazy and menopausal.
Another manner in which women are disadvantaged in the media deals again with body image. In 2012, women were already three times more likely to get naked on camera than men (Miss Representation, 2014). Women on TV also seem to be subjected to this same standard, especially on cable shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “Girls”. In a recent comparison of the two shows, Uproxx.com cited that the number of times that a storyline or message could have been conveyed without the nudity that accompanied it was a combined 33 times out of 50 episodes of the shows (2014).
While the every day woman is held to ridiculously impossible body standards, female celebrities are expected to meet these standards and then some. They are not only supposed to be beautiful and flawless, but to be this way at all times because the public is always watching.
Even though there are plenty of actresses who do adhere to these body standards, there is the rare gem that refuses to conform and inspires other women to love themselves- even if they aren’t model thin.
This past week, a gif set of actress Emma Thompson emerged, reminding women everywhere why they should not only love Emma Thompson and her feminist mind, but also why they should love themselves no matter their body style. The gif set stems from a BAFTA interview from December 2013 in which Thompson discusses the difficulty of becoming the characters she plays- especially when they require her to look thinner. “If people go on and on about how you look, you have to challenge it,” she explains. “If someone asks you or says to you that you have to be thinner then you have to challenge it by saying ‘why?’- is my character a thin person? Is my character thin because they are suffering from some sort of eating disorder?” Thompson explains that before she makes the extreme decision to lose weight for a character she demands a reason. “Give me a reason,” she continues, “because if this is a cosmetic reason, then what you want is a model, not an actress”.
Even though Thompson is not exactly known for keeping what’s on her mind to herself, she hit the head right on the nail. Women in Hollywood shouldn’t be expected to alter their body style just because they would “look better” if they shed a few pounds. Actors are hired because they have the skill to portray a character with realism and conviction- not because they look the part. If actors were hired solely based on whether their appearance matched the idea of how a character should look, there would be no need for makeup, prosthetics, or even CGI. In fact, if that were the case, some movies, such as historical dramas, would rarely exist.
As a woman, this attitude in Hollywood is disgusting. Who’s to say that women aren’t perfect the way they are? Every woman is beautiful and just because she doesn’t match up with an airbrushed image of femininity, it doesn’t mean she is any less valuable. When even super models don’t look like super models, it seems like common sense that these standards women are held to should be tossed out permanently.
Standards of beauty are evolving every day and with ambition and advocates, the way that women are expected to appear in the media and in real life can be changed to reflect the diversity of women that exists in the population. However, until that shift takes full force, the world needs more female celebrities like Emma Thompson who aren’t afraid to challenge the absurd views that the media has about how women should appear- because after all, women are the ones living in those bodies, so why shouldn’t they be the ones to make decisions about how they look?