Remember Jennifer Livingston, the reporter who publicly denounced the asshole who wrote her an extensive, pseudo-concerned letter about how Livingston needs to be a better role model with regard to her weight?
What about how Mindy Kaling regularly faced criticism while her show was starting up, with comments often crossing over into involving her appearance? The fact that she’s on the more normal-size of things has been criticized as encouraging women to be… well, normal-sized. Which is apparently bad, or something.
Or the way Lena Dunham has had her weight insulted by several writers numerous times? Some have called her decision to show her body in all its non-size 0 glory a “bad influence” that will somehow help young females think it’s all right to not be thin, which is obviously a terrible, horrible thing, too.
In the past couple years, concern-trolling has been a national pastime among those who wish to control females’ body images. It ranges from telling a newscaster to lose weight to insisting that photos of plus-size models are worse for women’s health than standard-size models in fashion.
What bothers me about the anger surrounding is that there have been normal and overweight people on television for ages and ages; up until now, however, they were primarily men. Men who dated small women. Men who married thin women. Men whose weights were, at most, used as the occasional joke on Family Guy or SNL but mostly just ignored.
Whether it’s animated shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy, a classic like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or even a pretty shitty sitcom that’s somehow lasted for nearly a decade (I’m looking at you, King of Queens), there are dozens of examples for the “skinny wife with overweight husband” television tradition.
Young, pretty women with goofy-looking guys, often ones who are overweight, is something that we see so much on television, we don’t really question it any longer. Even Modern Family, which has plenty of non-Brad Pitt archetype actors whether it’s with regard to weight, age or simply being a ginger, the female characters are all great looking, particularly the wives who are thin, barely wrinkled and incredibly pretty.
Having a male with a large belt size is not a big deal; people will treat him the same way on the show and off. Critics don’t typically mention his appearance, nor will anybody insist that it’s a problem that needs to be changed. Dieting will usually not be mentioned by his character on a regular basis. A more normal-sized woman, on the other hand, often has her plot lines driven by her weight. Tabloid coverage will revolve around it. People will comment on it in reviews, in blog posts, in public.
And weight isn’t the only aspect of actresses where there’s not a whole lot of diversity. Another simple example is complexion. Male actors are seen as distinguished when they obtain wrinkles. Patrick Dempsey, George Clooney, Russell Crowe, Gerard Butler… all of them have wrinkles, yet they’re all still seen as incredibly attractive men. Women, on the other hand, are all but tossed out the window once they start showing signs of aging, while most of the ones who continue getting roles into their 50s and 60s are ones who barely show any noticeable features of time passing on their faces.
Also, if men faces have scars, it’s considered “character,” whereas I can only think of a single famous female with facial scars (Tina Fey). I can’t recall any women with acne scars, either, but I can recall several men with them.