February 17, 2004

Mr Silver Hits the Bulls-Eye

WE WERE QUITE PLEASED to learn that Stephen Silver, a blogger for whom we have the utmost respect, has denounced the appalling tendency of female Hollywood celebrities to become dangerously thin.

Mr Silver also decries the trend for popular magazines to put these "allegedly hot" celebrities on their cover, moves which he argues force other female celebrities to also lose weight. As an example of this, he notes the attention paid to Christina Aguilera and Drew Barrymore, who are respectively an entertainer and an actress:

Drew Barrymore is on the cover of this week's People Magazine, trumpeting her recent loss of 20 pounds as she promotes her new movie "50 First Dates." The movie was filmed prior to her weight loss, and Barrymore is now apparently every bit as skinny as her boyfriend, Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti.

There's just one problem with all this: Barrymore looks better in the movie than in the magazine. Like many other actresses, most notably Renee Zellweger and Kate Winslet, Drew was about a hundred times sexier when she had curves, such as on a Vanity Fair cover last year, before apparently succumbing to pressure to starve herself down to People Magazine-approved levels. It's almost as bad as last fall's US Weekly expose of "How Christina Lost the Weight," published after the truly vile Christina Aguilera dropped from 90 pounds all the way back down to 80.

What sort of message does it send when these very attractive women -- who are still thinner than most people as it is -- are expected to drop even more weight, in order to "compete" with the likes of Paris Hilton?

After a bit more, Mr Silver then continues:

By putting allegedly "hot" women like Paris, Christina, and Brittany Murphy on one magazine cover after another, the publishers of the world are not only driving countless young girls to bulimia, but they're encouraging other celebrities who aren't rail-thin to go in that direction, to the detriment of both their attractiveness and, more importantly, their health. I've always heard women make this argument, but I'd really like to start hearing more men say it as well. I mean, does any guy think Sarah Jessica Parker is hot?

Now, we can only speak for ourselves in this matter, but our answer to Mr Silver's final question is a decided Not Really, No. So there you have it, sir; your opinion seconded.

Long-time Rant readers will recall that back when we lived in Los Angeles, we once found ourselves in the same elevator with Mrs Parker and her husband, the actor Matthew Broderick. For whatever reason, they had decided to visit the Century City-area building* in which we worked at the time; and we can assure you their identities were confirmed by the other gentleman on board the elevator with us -- after Mrs Parker and Mr Broderick had departed, of course**.

Anyway, this meant we were approximately two feet away from both Mrs Parker and Mr Broderick for roughly forty-five seconds. As both were dressed rather casually, we were able to see them without the benefit of stage makeup, klieg lights, and so forth. We will say only that we found both rather thin, shorter than we expected, and otherwise physically unremarkable. We could tell, though, where both would light up the camera in terms of their facial appearance. They were better looking in that regard than the average person, although even then, it wasn't as if one would suddenly take notice.

That said, we must say we wholeheartedly agree with Mr Silver's argument: this long-running and horrible trend towards extreme thinness on the part of female celebrities is awfully disturbing.

To be perfectly blunt, we are simply not turned on by women whose physical appearance instinctively makes us think they've been checked into a methadone clinic. Conversely, we certainly fancy women with curves -- we have long considered actresses like Kate Winslet (Oh God!) supremely foxy -- and especially so if they have a great personality and a remarkably high intelligence quotient to boot.

We have not seen Ms Barrymore act in a movie since we saw "The Wedding Singer," a movie which we particularly enjoyed***. As such, our memory is not good enough to make an independent analysis of Mr Silver's argument. However, we further have no reason to doubt his words, and certainly we believe that Ms Barrymore was thin as is in "The Wedding Singer." If she has lost any more weight since that time, we would consider that particularly unfortunate.

In addition, we are frankly appalled to learn that Miss Aguilera, who stands approximately five-foot-three, weighs but 80 pounds. This equates to a rough density of approximately 1.3 pounds per inch. Were Miss Aguilera the same density as we were -- we stand six-foot-four -- we note with alarm that she would stand all of two feet and one inch tall. We are male, of course, and we are somewhat overweight; but even still, this indicator should suggest that Miss Aguilera is underweight at the very least.

Now, we do not know if these celebrities are attempting to compete with Paris Hilton and Miss Hilton's ilk for the public limelight. One would think that since they are each celebrites in differing media, competition would be generally limited in this regard. Further, the entertainment media seem to take a very "flavor-of-the-month" stand towards celebrities these days, thus ensuring that only the most popular celebrities gain lasting fame and glory. We would argue (pray?) that Miss Hilton does not rank in such a group -- and we certainly hope that in two years' time she will be but a distant memory; a scar, if you will, on America's cultural psyche.

That said, we must admit we are positively amazed that anyone finds Miss Hilton attractive at all. Everything we have read regarding her public persona suggests that she is not particularly intelligent or educated, and we can detect little trace of a noteworthy personality in her. We admit that we could be wrong in this assessment -- we don't know her, after all -- but we have not seen anything to change our mind. Furthermore, to be cruel about it, she's scrawny. Gad! Were she in far different economic circumstances, we would half expect to find ourselves on some street corner giving her a buck and wishing that her life changed for the better -- that's how abnormally thin she appears. It's supremely off-putting, and we would go so far as to say we consider it downright ghastly.

As for the impact which the marketing of these dangerously thin celebrites has on American girls and women, we would very much hope that American girls and women pay it little mind.

Sadly, though, we can imagine this set of circumstances likely has an influence on many women and especially teenaged girls -- especially if they do not realize the great lengths which are taken in terms of packaging the celebrities in question. Furthermore, the enduring popularity of the "heroin chic" look likely does cause many celebrities to engage in "fad diets" and other such weight-loss techniques; hence causing them to get dangerously thin, and perpetuating this unfortunate cycle.

We aren't entirely sure what can be done to right this situation; although we would like it if a cacophony of male voices from the blogosphere would scream out and assure the women of America that yes, we do very much like curves. If enough men do this, it would get noticed; and perhaps it would help shift the attitudes on this issue. In time, one might hope, this would filter into the fashion and entertainment worlds.

It is not something about which we are overly optimistic. But at this point, anything is worth an attempt.

* This building, on W. Pico Blvd. near Century City and the Beverly Hills Country Club, was popularly known among many workers as "the building someone's son-in-law designed."

** It is generally considered impolite and gauche among Angelenos to accost a celebrity or otherwise act in an annoying fashion towards them. Hence, if we remember right, we did not address any words to Mrs Parker and Mr Broderick. Besides, what were we supposed to say? "Godzilla really bit the wax tadpole?" "First floor! Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?"

*** This should not be considered an indictment of Ms Barrymore's acting abilities: it's just that we haven't seen her in anything since "The Wedding Singer."

**** And who the deuce is Brittany Murphy?

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at February 17, 2004 11:26 PM | TrackBack

I loved your and Mr. Silver's commentary - thanks!

Posted by: Zephyr Sherwin at February 18, 2004 01:57 PM

Granted, I'm no expert on these matters, but I've always wondered how men could find Aguilera sexy. I think she's got the body of a ten year old boy.

Posted by: Emily at February 18, 2004 03:31 PM

Thanks for the link Ben... normally I roll my eyes when people end sentences with "Bueller"- but if the sentence is about Matthew Broderick anyway, I like it.

Posted by: Stephen Silver at February 19, 2004 01:00 AM

Zephyr: You're quite welcome! Thank you!

Emily: Point noted! The only answer I can give to your question is that I have no idea myself.

Steve: You have NO IDEA how tempted I was to say that, especially when they got the wrong floor for the garage. To be fair, though, EVERYONE gets mixed up about that in this particular building.

The only thing that was good about the place, now that I think about it, was that a parking bureau office was there. It helped take away the insult from the $40 injury.

Posted by: Benjamin Kepple at February 20, 2004 12:06 AM

Curves, definately. Need more curves. ;]

I have a hard time seeing women like SJ Parker as "sexy". Easy on the eyes in a movie, sure. Attractive to look at, sure. But... Raquel Welch was "sexy": curves that never quit, and a bit more than 80lbs on her bones. All of it cherce, too. Ann Margaret was sexy.

They were also women, not spoiled vacuous girls... which is a diferent rant. ;)

Posted by: Ironbear at February 20, 2004 05:22 PM