Link roundup: Picturing bodies

1. Lesley at Fatshionista has written an absolutely spectacular post on photographs and their role in how you relate to your body. No blurb I could write would do it justice, so you’ll just have to go read it yourself, if you haven’t already (I am a bit late posting this).

My Jenny Craig portrait was such a sad picture, such a painfully, pitifully sad moment captured and clipped to my file as a constant weekly reminder of why I was there. The picture said, “I don’t know what else to do.”

Now I look at these literal hundreds of new “before” portraits, and realize that somewhere along the way I proved that I could see myself in photographs and like the way I look, and feel happy with my body, and possibly most important, recognize myself in pictures without judgment, with only pleasure and love.

2. A friend directed me to this livejournal post about reproductions of famous artworks and how they reflect our changing (and ever-diminishing) idea of beauty. It made my jaw drop and yours will too.

It’s not just the supermodels on the cover of Cosmo, it’s not just Oprah, it’s not just Kira Knightly or whatever her name is, being stretched and elongated on her movie posters. Oh, no! Even Botticelli’s Venus and the Thorvaldsen Aphrodite are “too fat” and not bobble-headed enough to sell in today’s market.

3. If you haven’t seen this Shakesville guest post on the thinning of Hollywood, please head over there right now. There are a couple of examples you could quibble with, but overall it illustrates beautifully how the ideal has gotten so much thinner that even those with previously “ideal” bodies had to shrink to fit.

The point I want to make is that these women have ALWAYS been beautiful. They were considered beautiful enough to be stars with their curves, so what made them think they needed to lose them?

What I want to know is: What changed? What happened between the ’90s (when several of those pics were taken) and today?

23 thoughts on “Link roundup: Picturing bodies

  1. It made my jaw drop and yours will too.

    Yeah . . . I don’t even know what to say. Except that it adds a creepy 1984 dimension to the talk about how there didn’t used to be fat people, doesn’t it?

  2. Holy crap, those skinnified classic works of art are… so moronic I don’t have any words for them. I always thought the classic beauties were gorgeous – not because they were fatter and more realistic than today’s ‘ideal’, but simply because they have such a natural anatomical perfection about them. The joints, the muscles… the curves, the lines. I never saw them as some ideal body I should strive for, but somehow, I can’t stop staring at them – they’re aesthetic, there’s some sort of vibe or strength coming from them.

    Those reproductions don’t have any strength. They look like someone tried to make a full body and ran out of wax so left half of it off, like the ribcage and such.

  3. Oh jesus god those figurines. DDDDDD:

    On the happier side, Lesley’s post was great and reminded me to write a post I’d been thinking about for a while.

  4. :[ @ the art productions. I feel yucky tonight so that’s all I can muster.

    and eff cosmo :[ I spent way too much money on a magazine that I allowed to make me feel less than throughout my 20’s and 30’s.

  5. The Birth of Venus one startled me, because Botticelli’s Venus is one of the thinnest women I’ve ever seen in a Renaissance painting.

    Which is funny when you think about it, actually, that in the midst of all these other paintings she struck me as thin but on her own, compared to the modern ideal of beauty, she’s actually not.

  6. Holy fucking shit those statues are awful. Awful awful awful.

    OK between that and stumbling into a slew of fat hatred on craigslist when I clicked the wrong link AAAAAAAARGGGHHH.

    I’m going to bed so I can fume for a while.

    DRST

  7. wow…the reason I don’t like picutres of myself.

    “Get yourself photographed.” Cameras are much better tools than mirrors. I’ve got my mirror trained to show me exactly what I want. The camera is out of my control.”

    Cameras tell the truth..that is not a bad thing.

  8. The artworks are stunningly bad, but the celebrities? Woah.

    I knew some of these women lost significant amounts of weight. Like Lindsay Lohan, who I still think of as a cute round faced redhead, even though she’s blond and gaunt now. But, hold the phone, Amy Winehouse used to be curvy? I missed that one. She looks like an entirely different person now. Maybe it’s the drugs.

    It really makes me wonder if there’s any limit to “Hollywood Skinny.” How skeletal does the standard get before no one can meet it. And what then? It’s getting a little scary.

  9. As someone who has had photo issues for years, the first snippet went home a lot. I have always hated that when I had pictures taken I would feel happy and think I look good and then feel oddly betrayed when I saw the developed picture. I didn’t want to believe that this was what the rest of the world saw. So, very perceptive post, kudos there.

    As for the Coke-Fiend Venus? That just made me laugh – compared to the art it’s meant to copy, it’s just cheap gimcrack, and it looks it. These remind me of the plaster of Paris statues they sell on barrows in Rome for a few euros each.

  10. There was an essay written a few months ago about how much thinner the cast of the new 90210 series was than in the original. Looking at the pictures of the two casts side by side was shocking. It’s like, just when you think the female body presented to us as the “ideal” can’t be any more impossible for the average woman to attain, it becomes just that much more impossible.

  11. Oh man, so to make the altered art even worse, I’ve seen that post linked in various non-FA parts of LJ (generally sane ones, even) and the comments immediately devolve into how they’re not that skinny and the original versions had a “significant amount of fat.” I can’t handle people some days.

  12. LilahMorgan, there seems to be a lot of “ur not doing enuff and neether am i” shaming among conscientious creative women on LJ. It’s something I’ve noticed and it irritates the crap out of me.

    I suspect the devolution is part of that in some way — that the original Renaissance art versions (it’s only art, after all, zomg) are so EPIC FAIL because our “current standards” are sooooooooooo much more aspirational.

    The analogy that comes to mind is that a more synoptic style of writing would have been tolerated, even celebrated, in the ages of James and Dickens but is seen today as Just So Much Narrative Fail.

    I’m not arguing this well because I am so sleep-deprived from watching the AO at bizarre hours. I will try again another day.

  13. re: the LiveJournal- I started crying when I saw the Boticelli. Seriously. And while reading her follow-up post helped put some perspective on it, it certainly doesn’t make me feel better.

    And oh my gods the Hollywood pics….words fail. 0_o

  14. Reading some of the comments posted on the original blog about the formerly “curvy” celebrities, I always think it’s interesting how, if somebody dares to use the word “curvy” to positively describe a slightly-heavier body, some people get all up in arms and start insisting that, hey, they might be thin, but they’re curvy, too! Everybody’s curvy! How insulting is it to act as if people who aren’t fat are made of right angles, when all it is is a euphemism to make being fat sound better!

    Well, last time I checked, everybody had fat, too. But I don’t see these same folks jumping up and down going, “Hey, it’s not fair to say fat people are fat! I’m thin, but I have body fat, too!” Somehow it’s terrible insulting to imply that only fat women have curves, but there’s nothing at all insulting about implying that only fat women have fat.

    I just don’t get it.

  15. Cameras tell the truth..that is not a bad thing.

    Actually they don’t always. A photographer friend once told me that the standard front flash used in most pictures can flatten out features like cheekbones, making faces look rounder than they are.

    Portrait shooting uses lighting from multiple sides to counter this.

  16. On #1….this article is awesome. I completely agree that everyone should get their picture taken, not to repair what they think is awful about them in the picture, but just to see themselves in a picture. BUT, most important is to take lots of pics, doing lots of things. Because you’ll see there are shots that make you look amazing, others that are horrible. I used to be incredibly anti-photos of myself. And I decided one day to get over it. That was about a year ago. Now, I love having my picture taken, volunteer to get in pictures with people I know, ask people to take my picture at places. Before I ran away. It’s been a huge relief in the burden of being fatty, fatty.

  17. I generally dislike posed shots of myself. I think I have an image in my head of what I’m going to look like, and then when the picture doesn’t look like that, I hate it.

    I love candid shots, though. I’m always surprised at how I look in pictures that people have taken of me when I didn’t know they were taking them. It turns out that when I’m not stressing about smiling fakely in a way that look natural and holding my body at the angle that is most flattering, I don’t look that bad. I look like the “me” I expect posed shots to look like.

  18. The thing that bothers me about “curvy” as a euphemism for “fat” is that some fat people aren’t. Some fat people are shaped so that the lines of their bodies are pretty much straight up-and-down, and some are hourglass-y, and some are in between. Same with thin people. Curvy is a shape, not a size.

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