Next they’ll print one about airplane food

Ah, the New York Times. The old gray lady, the paper of record, the practice workshop for standup comedians. If the latter strikes you as out of place, just check out this article (title: “What’s the Skinny on the Heftier Stars?”), which basically amounts to the author, Michael Cieply, saying “Fat actors! What’s the deal with that?”

Honestly, I have no analysis of this one; I’m just here to mock it. It was apparently written by a man who has literally never once thought about body size before in any context, much less film. We start off with obligatory fatphobia, which Cieply assumes is shared by all his readers:

Two men. One notebook. Four chins.

Hollywood’s pool of leading men is getting larger — and not necessarily in a good way.

Four chins?!? My god, has a double chin ever disgraced the screen like that?

Cieply goes on to note that some male film stars, like Russell Crowe, John Travolta, Hugh Grant, and Denzel Washington, now appear to be bigger than they once were. It’s crazy because they’re only around 50! How could this happen? Tom Hanks was totally skinny in Castaway when he was playing a man stranded on a desert island, but now he looks different! He doesn’t have a beard or a volleyball or anything.

My absolute favorite sentence of this article is about The Ladies.

Hollywood’s women may have weight issues of their own. But it is somehow less noticeable, possibly because actresses who expand do not often get roles to showcase that growth.

This honest to god made me LOL. This right here is a stunningly great example of the male gaze and how it is founded on male privilege. There are two parts of this sentence that are more or less factual: 1) “Hollywood’s women may have weight issues of their own” (depending how you define “issues,” of course), and 2) “actresses who expand do not often get roles to showcase that growth.” But it’s the hinge of these facts, that wonderfully clueless phrase “But it is somehow less noticeable,” that makes me want to put this article in a textbook under “Male Gaze 101.” See, there’s a phrase missing from this sentence, an important one. The sentence should read: “It is somehow less noticeable to me.” I guarantee Michael Cieply that the absence of fat women, or even size-6 women, or even very thin women who are not shockingly beautiful, onscreen is eminently noticeable to women moviegoers. To girl moviegoers. To fat moviegoers. To anorexic moviegoers. To flat-chested moviegoers. And so on. Behold the grammar of privilege: it rests in the absence of the phrase “to me” and the presence of the word “somehow.” The “somehow” is the male gaze. If you are a straight man, women onscreen are selected for your visual pleasure, and the camera acts as a proxy for your point of view.

“Desire […] is a property of men, property in both senses of the word: something men own, possess, and something that inheres in men, like a quality.” –Teresa DeLauretis, “Through the Looking-Glass: Woman, Cinema, and Language”

The reason it is “somehow less noticeable” to you that there are no fat women onscreen is that the entire history of cinema is designed to reassure you that you don’t have to look at fat women. Thin women are the default; they are how the cinematic world is populated, so they look normal to your eyes. You don’t notice the absence of fat women; you notice their rare presence, when the camera deviates from your point of view long enough for you to say “Whoa, fattie!” But every single woman who sits in a movie theater is forced to inhabit that male gaze, too, forced to watch how the camera treats women of rare beauty and slenderness as the only kind of women who exist. This is how it is possible for women as small as Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Simpson to be “Hollywood fat.” For women moviegoers, the “weight issues” of “Hollywood’s women” are one of the *most* noticeable things about movies — sadly, for some of us, the primary fact of movies.

(This matter of gaze and representation, incidentally, is why so many fat people and fat allies were angry about Wall-E. Here is one of the very very very few instances where the world is not populated only by very thin people… and it’s the dystopic future of the human race.)

Okay, it turned out I had some analysis in me after all. Back to mockery!

Cieply points out that the male actors of yesteryear, like Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable, stayed skinny well into middle age. Of course, they smoked like chimneys and also survived the Great Depression… but seriously, you didn’t see them letting themselves go! That Denzel, he just needs more self-discipline.

Cieply saves the biggest laughs for the end, though, like any good comic.

He might want to get some diet advice from Jason Segel.

Mr. Segel, 29, was fairly hefty in “I Love You, Man,” a comedy released by Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks in March. But his face looked surprisingly thin on billboards advertising the film.

The advertising photos were done some weeks after the film shoot, with a slimmer Mr. Segel, said Katie Martin Kelley, a publicity executive with Paramount. “There was no retouching done,” Ms. Kelley said.

There is nothing I can say about this that would be funnier than it actually is. No retouching!

Since Mr. Cieply and his editors at the NYT clearly need a lesson in human biology as well as rhetoric, feminist theory, and film studies, I am offering myself up as an object lesson. Shapelings, I, like poor John Travolta, have gotten a lot bigger in the last 20 years. A LOT. It’s like my whole body has just ballooned outward in every direction, and I can’t control it, and no matter what I eat or how much I exercise, I just can’t get back to my old shape. I think you can see what I mean. (Edited to include funnier picture.)

Sweet Machine 20-ish years ago

Sweet Machine 20-ish years ago

Sweet Machine today

Sweet Machine today

There was no retouching done.

95 thoughts on “Next they’ll print one about airplane food

  1. Wow, what an ass. I tried to work up some mocking analysis, but Sweet Machine, you done covered it all so well. So instead I’ll just point out that Michael Cieply is an anagram for Hilly Pie Mecca. Mmm, hilly pie.

  2. Help, please? I don’t get the no-retouching thing. I mean, other than the fact that there’s always retouching. And… SM LOOKS bigger in the first pic than the second pic, even though she’s smaller, because of the perspective (or lack thereof)…

  3. You know, I think you misinterpreted the quote about women – because my interpretation shows him as even more clueless, even less compassionate than yours.

    “Hollywood’s women may have weight issues of their own. But it is somehow less noticeable, possibly because actresses who expand do not often get roles to showcase that growth.”

    You’re interpreting “weight issues” as including such things as anorexia, overemphasis on thinness, and disordered eating. I don’t think that’s what he means. I think to him, “weight issues” means “weighing more than I like to see”, period. Anything else is not a weight issue.

    He does notice the absence of non-thin women, and he likes it that way. That’s the way it’s supposed to be when he sees a movie. He is not to have to put up with movie actors – male or female – being fat at him, or even being non-skinny or non-youthful at him. (At least not the leads.)

    What he means is this:
    “Some Hollywood women may gain weight. But it is somehow less noticeable because, unlike the men, the women who gain any weight at all are no longer allowed to act in movies.”

    And he thinks this is a good thing. And he thinks that the problem with this situation is that men who gain weight are sometimes cast in movies.

    *klunk*

  4. How cute are you, with your art-face pasted on? That made me want Sweet Machine masks for Halloween and other special occasions. : D

    I want to know who is in charge of Cieply’s office. Who, upon reading that article, would not send him back to revise? There are fairly obvious answers to some of his questions. On a freshman composition paper, I’d write: “Where is your analysis?” and he would no break into B-range until he’d put a little critical thinking into his work.

  5. i first interpreted it as “women who expand their acting abilities beyond the comfortable range of two-dimensional prospective cock socks never actually get roles to showcase this growth in their skills.”

  6. I thought the best part of that line (“But it is somehow less noticeable, possibly because actresses who expand do not often get roles to showcase that growth.”) is “actresses who expand do not often get roles to showcase that growth.” How many times have we seen actresses complain they can’t work in the industry if they gain even a tiny bit of weight, or if they look even a tiny bit older?

  7. ”But it is somehow less noticeable, possibly because actresses who expand do not often get roles to showcase that growth.”

    When I read that sentence my mind went straight to: When do actresses get any kinds of roles that showcase any kind of growth whatsoever?

    It seems like, when they exist, those roles pretty much all go to Meryl Streep (I’m not at all hating on Meryl Streep).

  8. The Bald Soprano: No, I got that part, thanks — sorry, I wasn’t clear. The part I don’t get is the “no retouching” wrt a thinner Jason Segel. And then how that connects to SM’s 2 photos, child vs. adult.

    re: handle — Thanks, and same to you!

  9. tadpoledrain, there is not a single image that is released by movie studios that is not retouched. It is just inconceivable. Especially given that Rudd and Segel are standing against a blank background — the picture has been photoshopped and of COURSE the publicist is going to lie about it. That’s what publicists are for.

    I realize it would have been a better illustration if the photos had the same relative size/depth to them, but I don’t have that many pictures of me as a kid! Just this one with all my koalas. (I got one koala when I was 2 and really loved it, so relatives/family friend just kept getting me koalas for my birthday and Christmas and such. Of course, in my kid mind the koalas were all related.) For reference, the koala in the pink vest is about a foot tall.

  10. What he means is this:
    “Some Hollywood women may gain weight. But it is somehow less noticeable because, unlike the men, the women who gain any weight at all are no longer allowed to act in movies.”

    Oh, I totally agree that that’s what he’s saying. My point is that what looks to him like an absence of “weight issues” is actually the PRESENCE of weight issues — just not the ones that he can imagine. His privilege blinds him to the fact that actresses’ careers are predicated on not appearing to have the “issues” he’s worried about.

  11. So Sweet Machine, what you’re saying is, we should all send you koalas when we’re overcome with appreciation of your awesomeness, as happens so often?

  12. I was hoping ther would be something about that ridiulous NYT article here. I was not disapointed. Thanks SM! I love the photos – what’s your secret to looking so animated after all these years?

  13. Yeah, the fact that the drawing is SM’s adult face makes the first photo a bit misleading, but I guarantee you that in the first pic she’s about three feet tall. You’ve gained so much volume, SM! And lost so many koalas! It’s not healthy!

    (I have found another photo of SM a bit more than 20 years ago, so we may go with that instead.)

  14. OK, thanks. I was just overthinking it, then. And I missed the blank background part. (Actually, I think it works well that the two pics don’t show the actual relative size — it points out that size is relative, e.g. Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Simpson being fat by Hollywood standards.)

  15. ITYM this one… though he’s standing next to the poster version of Paul Rudd. Who does look exactly like his poster ego, because he is PAUL RUDD.

  16. What he means is this:
    “Some Hollywood women may gain weight. But it is somehow less noticeable because, unlike the men, the women who gain any weight at all are no longer allowed to act in movies.”

    And he thinks this is a good thing. And he thinks that the problem with this situation is that men who gain weight are sometimes cast in movies.

    I’m reminded of an article from an Aussie publication posted about in the SP ning community where the author, Amanda Plawtell pretty much spent the entire time freaking out about how GASP! teenage girls who WEREN’T a size 6 or smaller DARED to wear bikinis and about how it’s so ridiculously unhealthy to NOT shame these girls for having the confidence to strut their stuff regardless of size. It made me want to facepalm. Here we have alarming amounts of girls and women engaging in unhealthy eating and/or exercise habits all over the freaking world, wasting time on hating themselves and in extreme cases DYING thanks to this shaming tactic and we need more of it? What?!

    Not to mention that the author pretty much said at the end “and I know I’m too fat too, but you don’t see ME going around being fat at people” which basically translated to me, “if I hate my body, so must everyone else. Know your place fatties!” However, in the case of this article I’m inclined to assume that this guy is just a privileged moron rather than bitter. I’m not sure which is worse really.

  17. You’re right, there he is. Peeking out as if to say “that guy? That’s the one everyone keeps saying I look like? Shit, I look NOTHING like that guy!”

  18. Not only are these actors being fat at audiences, they’re also being old at them, too.

    Seriously, I am only 26, so clearly they should be able to be 26, too. They’re not trying hard enough and should be shamed more until they either get acceptably young or stop appearing in public.

    I braved the comments and except for three or four “we’re all fat, actors should set better examples” airheads, almost everyone was either a) pointing out the double standard for women in Hollywood b) noting that the “health concerns” were total bs, or c) complaining that the New York Times had published something that asinine. Apparently some things go so far that even news article commenters (who I’ve noticed tend to occupy the lowest levels of self-righteous scum) call bullshit.

  19. Coming out of lurkerville to profess my love for you, SM. Your un-retouched photos made my day. ;)

    Hollywood’s women may have weight issues of their own. But it is somehow less noticeable, possibly because actresses who expand do not often get roles to showcase that growth.

    Yeah, because that in and of itself is Not A Problem. Female fatties conveniently disappear from our screens because someone has decided no one wants to see them anyway. Neat!

  20. I was waiting for this post since I read the article this morning. Thank you for the links to feminist theory – you’ll never stop learning something new.

    And: my, what a lovely dress!

  21. And… SM LOOKS bigger in the first pic than the second pic, even though she’s smaller, because of the perspective (or lack thereof)…

    Okay, even though this photo is no longer up because of the confusion, I also want to add that I was a fat kid and am not currently a fat adult. So I was relatively bigger 20 years ago, even though I was absolutely smaller. Which just illustrates the point even more: bodies change through time. Apparently someone needs to inform the NYT of this fact.

  22. ok, so I don’t know who Jason Segel is because I don’t own a TV and am therefore utterly disconnected from the world of pop culture, and I could not tell from the photos which dude on the poster was Jason Segel. It took seeing Paul Rudd and recognizing that he was in the poster, and seeing fillyjonk say that Paul Rudd looks like the poster, for me to figure it out .

    I mean, I know I have trouble recognizing faces sometimes, but goddamn. Not retouched? I don’t have friggin prosopagnosia here. Those are NOT the same face.

  23. Not only are these actors being fat at audiences, they’re also being old at them, too.

    GASP! You’re right! The horror of this double offense! These actors MUST be stopped!

    Here’s what I don’t get, there’s this big deal made about actors/singers/whatevers getting fat/old/purple/whatever and thus being deserving of getting shamed out of Hollywood. What’s the standard for reporters getting stupid? Can we shame them out of work too?

  24. I was particularly amused by this part:

    “Even Leonardo DiCaprio, the young heartthrob from “Titanic,” is better padded these days, at 34. Photos from the set of “Shutter Island,” a thriller on tap from Paramount Pictures and the director Martin Scorsese in October, show a little bit more to love.”

    I’ve been following DiCaprio’s career and, um, body shape since I was a smitten preteen watching Growing Pains. And until just a few years ago, the go-to joke was that he looked like a girl, or a twelve-year-old, or a twelve-year-old girl, because he was so skinny. I guess he only got a couple of years’ grace period between “too skinny” and “too fat.” Our culture is so fucked up.

  25. Oh noes, male actors with naturally round faces look bigger now. Nevermind that Denzel and Russel always had sort of a baby-face look, they’re being fat at us !!1eleventy

    When I thought of fat actors, I thought of Chris Gauthier, Ian McNeice, and Jorge Garcia. Male actors have to be genuinely fat before Hollywood notices, actresses just need to have a big lunch. The interesting upshot of this camera-as-male-gaze deal, a wide range of actors get to be seen as sexy to the female audience. Women kill themselves to fit the ideal, men just have to show up.

  26. This is an awesome piece of writing. I love your analysis, and there is nothing I can possibly add besides: thank you.

  27. the entire history of cinema is designed to reassure you that you don’t have to look at fat women.

    This entire essay (yours, not the Times douchehose’s) is just packed with awesome, but I was especially gobsmacked by that. Of course! D00d Nation d00ds lerve the mewveez because they can sit back, relax, and NOT SEE A FAT CHICK FOR TWO WHOLE ENTIRE HOURS, unless she’s the butt (hawhaw) of jokes and japes he’s much too “polite” (scared?) to make in front of real-life fat chicks. Cinema? Schminema. Why they even bother with scripts, I have no idea.

  28. Wow, Sweet Machine, you’ve REALLY let yourself go! I mean, look how much taller you are in that second photo! Really! How could you let that happen?
    This is one of my FAVORITE posts, EVER!!!!! I wonder if another part of the reason only skinny women are onscreen is also because none of the producers, directors, agents, etc. in Hollywood ever see a fat woman in their daily lives. They live in a house in a gated community (with wives who are stick thin), get driven to work, where they proceed to interview more stick-thin, desperate wannabees (who are willing to lose even MORE weight, if asked, for the privilege of appearing onscreen), then go to restaurants/clubs where, once again, they are surrounded by stick thin waitresses/bartenders/wannabee actresses.
    They rarely, if EVER, go into the Valley, downtown, or GOD FORBID, East or South Central L.A.!!!!!!
    I remember watching “Eyes Wide Shut” and getting SO pissed off, because here was this supposedly “brilliant” film, made by a brilliant director, that showcased naked (and often faceless) women in practically every frame for no reason other than it could get away with it. (But was there any naked boy booty? Hah!)
    There was also an episode of “Will and Grace” where Jack and Karen were flipping through TV stations. Each time they stooped on a channel they said “Fat Guy, skinny wife!”
    How true. And sad.
    And MADDENING!

  29. Is Paul Rudd really short or is Jason Segal a giant? Just curious looking at the pic of them next to a poster.

    This really is male gaze 101. The sad thing is I’m so used to hearing men say jaw-droppingly stupid and privileged things like that that I hardly even notice any more. I more or less assume that most men will be that clueless and, for example, see nothing odd about Angelina Jolie playing Colin Farrel’s mother.

    Also, this isn’t just fatphobia (and sexism), it’s ageism too. There’s this wierd current cultural assumption that people’s bodies aren’t meant to change as they age. There was a lot of that going on in the reactions to Susan Boyle too – OMG, a 47 year old woman who actually looks 47? Shocking!

  30. CassandraSays, both, according to Google. Paul Rudd is 5’7″, which is kind of miniature for a dude, and Segal is 6’4″. I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW TALL THESE LEADING MEN HAVE GOTTEN GOD IT’S WEIRD

  31. Will watching movies with tall men make catch the tall? Because some of my cabinets are really high up.

  32. Seriously, I am only 26, so clearly they should be able to be 26, too. They’re not trying hard enough and should be shamed more until they either get acceptably young or stop appearing in public.

    They lack will power. That’s why America has an aging epidemic, with more people getting older every single year!

  33. As an official shortass I say these new leading men should stop being tall at me. Bastards, messing with my ability to think of myself as the unquestioned norm just like Mr Cieply.

  34. As an official shortass I say these new leading men should stop being tall at me. Bastards, messing with my ability to think of myself as the unquestioned norm just like Mr Cieply.

    You know, it’s not just that I object to people being tall at me. It’s really a health and social issue. Tall people use more fabric and have higher caloric needs, and this is clearly leading to mass starvation and the end of the world. We should stop building shelves that I can’t reach in order to encourage them to do something about their excess height.

  35. See, Sniper, you think you’re joking, but…

    “But the men are still playing leads into their 40s and 50s — giving glimpses of what age, and perhaps a little inattention, can do to a most admired physique.”

    If only the stars lived on nothing but skinless chicken breast and organic arugla and worked out 6 hours a day they wouldn’t be ageing like that. Shame on them, being so inattentive.

    (This attitude is tragically common in California. I once had a friend earnestly tell me that if I ate only organic foods rich in antioxidants I wouldn’t get wrinkles. Seriously.)

  36. WHERE ARE MY KOALAS DAMMIT I DIDN’T GET TO SEE THE KOALAS

    i am going to bed to cry to my koala-less self, now :(

    i will comfort myself with my far-superior hedgehog collection.

  37. “The bigger people are, the more concern there is about high blood pressure or the possibility of strokes or heart attacks” during a shoot…For all but the oldest stars, however, an extra “10, 20 or 30 pounds” is usually not a major underwriting concern, Mr. Kingman said.”

    I think this is the quote that really gets me. This is his one attempt to justify/rationalize what is obviously his biased and bigoted opinion. Obvious the extra pounds that Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks have accumulated are GOING TO KILL THEM before they finish filming their next movies.

    It’s totally rational, therefore, for companies not to hire overweight people. I mean, they’re all just one foot away from the grave as it is.

    This guy is just trying to hide the fact that he wants more of the same body image representations from Hollywood by calling NORMAL bodyweights and a liability.

  38. This whole thing reminds me of an episode of Coupling where Patrick literally doesn’t see a fat woman at a party. She simply doesn’t exist to him. Of course the writers make it clear he’s an asshole and get laughs from it. Too bad Mr. Cieply isn’t so self aware.

  39. This is fucking fantastic:

    “But every single woman who sits in a movie theater is forced to inhabit that male gaze, too, forced to watch how the camera treats women of rare beauty and slenderness as the only kind of women who exist”

    Thanks Sweet Machine, this was really good to read today.

    And Alyssa upthread: you hit the nail on the head with this:

    “I wonder if another part of the reason only skinny women are onscreen is also because none of the producers, directors, agents, etc. in Hollywood ever see a fat woman in their daily lives. They live in a house in a gated community (with wives who are stick thin), get driven to work, where they proceed to interview more stick-thin, desperate wannabees (who are willing to lose even MORE weight, if asked, for the privilege of appearing onscreen), then go to restaurants/clubs where, once again, they are surrounded by stick thin waitresses/bartenders/wannabee actresses.”

    I’m not AT ALL celebrating body bashing thin women…Its just so the Hollywood/West LA culture to be a size 0-2-4, and if you’re above that, you’re a behemoth with no discipline who has “really let herself go”. It fucking stinks.

    It

  40. You know, another depressing angle on this article is that as newspaper readership goes down so, too, does it seem that the quality of reporting is going down. THIS article is in our Newspaper of Record? That’s really scary to me, just in terms of journalistic quality, or rather, the lack thereof.

  41. I was watching Groomer Has It tonight, and the fat chick/skinny chick duo won the mini challenge. The prize was to go indoor skydiving, which sounds awesome. They showed the skinny girl in full frame, floating in the air in the instructor’s arms. Then, the fat gal gets a close-up on her cheeks rippling in the wind. Then three more minutes of the skinny woman flying around, cutting to the house full of people making jokes about how annoying and fat the fat girl was. I wanted to see her float like a butterfly too, Chicken Joe, even if everyone in the Doghouse is annoyed at her personality. She’s being portrayed as highly needy and an AW in every shot.

    I don’t know if anyone else noticed, or if I would have before I started reading these social blogs.

  42. @keshmeshi I love that episode. and it totally illustrates the same point. She isn’t conventionally attractive–although in my view, she’s far from ugly–and so he literally doesn’t see her. It’s perfection.

  43. I’m an asshole, because the first thing I thought was that photoshopping your avatar over your face counts as retouching. lol

    Anyhoo…One of these days I’m going to get off my ass (or on it, I suppose) and write that brilliant screenplay featuring the average* sized woman living the same life as a thinner counterpart would in a mainstream film. You know, so that it can be produced and then swept up by the larger movie-going audience and win me a writing Oscar. A girl can dream, no?

    O!M!G! An actor hit 50 and gained weight! That’s the first time that has ever happened – no man has ever had his body change with weight, ever, in history. Also, never mind the fact that some of us genuinely find chubby dudes attractive. Yeah, Seth Rogan looked better pre-weight loss, if you ask me.

    *by average I mean real-world, not Hollywood. I know that defining “average” is damn near impossible, but in my head when I hear it I picture someone who is probably my size or slightly smaller. I wear like a 16. I’d like to cast a fat chick but not have the plot center on her being the fat chick. Which I guess is revolutionary because, you know, fat chicks don’t live the same lies or have the same trials and tribulations as skinny chicks, we only care about being teased by the prom queen or binge eating or something.

  44. @Sweet Machine – this is a totally rocking post, with verra smart replies.

    I note the ‘Alexander Knows’ poster in the background of your 20-years-later photo. PLEASE PLEASE TELL ME WHERE YOU GOT IT!?

    :)

  45. A 50-year-old man of average weight would decrease his risk of dying of heart attack or stroke by losing 20 pounds? Err…NAWWWT.

    And comparing Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks to Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart, who had nastier habits by far than Washington and Hanks AND weren’t paid nearly as well AND had to perform multiple physically demanding parts a year in un-air-conditioned movie studios AND were older when they died (at 59 and 57, respectively), is just ridiculous.

    Also, do they know what shit Gable was put through making his last film, The Misfits? (Not to mention the fact that he was apparently crash dieting right before he made it.) Neither Hanks nor Washington would have stood still for anything like that, and they don’t ever have to, because they’re not under slave contract to a studio that can make them bend over and take it, plus they have enough money that they never have to work again at all if they don’t feel like it.

    And I love the pictures, SM, heeheehee.

  46. OtherPippa, I can answer that one for SM: I wish I knew, but it’s not either of ours. It belongs to the place where I had my wedding.

  47. This post was amazing. Such a sharp, witty and brilliant deconstruction of moronic commentary (that I fear many people read and nodded, thinking “ah yes, insightful.”) So well done.

  48. “The bigger people are, the more concern there is about high blood pressure or the possibility of strokes or heart attacks” during a shoot…For all but the oldest stars, however, an extra “10, 20 or 30 pounds” is usually not a major underwriting concern, Mr. Kingman said.”

    I didn’t read the article article, but I love the language in this quote. “The bigger people are, the more concern there is” this is an exact and true way to frame this. There may not be more high blood pressure, strokes, etc. but there is a hell of a lot more concern.

  49. I’m an asshole, because the first thing I thought was that photoshopping your avatar over your face counts as retouching. lol

    Yup, that’s kinda the joke and all.

  50. SM, you are such a smart. Please submit this in an LTE. The Times editorial department seems to love publishing letters that point out flaws in their perfect progressivism; I bet they’ll be all like Thank You Ma’am! May We Have Another? Which they’ll no doubt need one day.

  51. I believe there was an old Harold Robbins spy novel where one spy was a middle aged chubby woman. It was said she was the best spy because no one noticed her at all.

  52. An interesting side note about gender and weight: A while ago, Jason Segel gained about twenty pounds and his girlfriend dumped him for it. Every single response to this I’ve seen declared what she did to be bullshit (because it is). Given that we’ve seen entire magazine articles and internet posts dedicated to advising a man to make his girlfriend lose weight or dump her, anyone want to take bets on what the response would have been if it had been Segel who’d done the dumping?

  53. Lenore, I’m not sure if that is true.

    From Wikipedia:

    “[Linda Cardellini] and Segel dated for a few years following the show’s cancellation. It was rumored that she dumped him for gaining twenty pounds, but it has since emerged that the statement was in fact a joke taken out of context.”

    However, the rest of your point still stands!

  54. OK, this post and the comments are officially making me more certain that what I really want to do When I Am Rich And Famous* is start a foundation to fund and promote movies that are made from/with a female gaze.

    Well that and buy a castle to live in.

    *Preferably by becoming either the next Dr. Seuss or the next J.K. Rowling

  55. He doesn’t have a beard or a volleyball or anything.

    *hysterics*
    We should feel deprived, somehow, shouldn’t we?

    *Preferably by becoming either the next Dr. Seuss or the next J.K. Rowling*

    We’re movie stars, we’re movie stars
    We drive fast cars and play guitars
    And eat hors d’œuvres at fancy bars
    But such perfection still leaves scars …

    If we act, we’re sure you’ll agree
    We’d better “starved” than called “fat” be
    We can’t be fat while on TV —
    We can’t be fat at all, you see.

  56. “The reason it is “somehow less noticeable” to you that there are no fat women onscreen is that the entire history of cinema is designed to reassure you that you don’t have to look at fat women.”

    Perfect. Just perfect.

    Gawd forbid any dude, anywhere should ever be induced to look at a fat woman.

  57. The sad thing is I’m so used to hearing men say jaw-droppingly stupid and privileged things like that that I hardly even notice any more.

    Cassandra, can I have some of what you’re having?
    I’m worried about my BP from that annoying “noticing” habit I’ve got, even though I am tall for a girl and not male.

    (P.P.S. Apropos of little but droolage over charm – y’all haven’t lived until you’ve had Denzel be tall at you. It’s a long story and I stood there like a literal idiot, all language brain cells having short-circuited, but I think I will still remember the experience after I am dead.)

    (P.P.S. This is the funniest thread I’ve read here in awhile. That is saying a lot.)

  58. The interesting upshot of this camera-as-male-gaze deal

    In an attempt to add something intelligent to the conversation instead of lazily just appreciating the rest of the razor-sharp wit here:
    One of the things I discovered that helps keep me sane in our “camera adds 20 pounds, but they’re most undesirable on women” culture is learning that cameras LITERALLY distort the human frame because the lenses are convex.

    I would venture a guess that the ranting about this is vigorously suppressed — I mean, you NEVER hear about it, right??? — because I’ll bet it was originally invented to make shorter, thinner male actors look bigger and taller.
    You know, like manly men always should.

    The fact that women eventually had to appear in the movies for sexytime’s sake and the lenses had the same effect on them because women are also carbon-based lifeforms?

    *shrug* Easy answer. Just make the women fatties lose 20 pounds. The camera isn’t the problem. It’s that their bodies are wrong.

    (I occasionally ponder the relationship between that mechanical distortion and the one underlying the US size 2-8 borderline rectangular shape from which other sizes are (dis)proportionately reduced or extrapolated
    If one is having a crappy time clothes shopping, perhaps it’s NOT that one’s body doesn’t fit the clothes. It’s that THE CLOTHES DON’T FIT ONE’S BODY. Simple, but apparently a construct so counterrevolutionary as to be horrifying to active participants/reinforcers of mainstream culture.)

    I’ve been following DiCaprio’s career and, um, body shape since I was a smitten preteen

    *more hysterics*

    For sure. Leo at Any Size FTW.

  59. One more thing.

    “Behold the grammar of privilege: it rests in the absence of the phrase “to me” and the presence of the word “somehow.” The “somehow” is the male gaze.”

    This. Just. KILLS.

    It makes a quantum leap past media literacy to the foundation of an entire curriculum in social psychology.

    If I had the money I would build the educational institution to support it.

    Also, MUST HAZ BLUE KOW-KOLLAR DRESS. Where did u getz? Will brybe for info.

    Plz??

  60. It’s a long story and I stood there like a literal idiot, all language brain cells having short-circuited, but I think I will still remember the experience after I am dead.)

    littlem, you are killing us right back. This is awesome.

  61. @littlem, I don’t mean to be dumb or argumentative, but is it really possible for the convex lens of the camera to make actors look fatter? If that’s happening, shouldn’t all the chairs and cars and accessories in movies look fat too? I don’t quite get it.

    Great takedown of the article, SM. And the NYTimes reader comments were mostly surprisingly reasonable!

  62. Hello,
    I’m new to Shapely and FA, and loving the writing….

    As for this issue, one of my college students, a very nice young man, said the first time he saw Susan Boyle, “Nothing they do can make her good looking.” He wasn’t being snide, he said it with a kind of wonder in his voice. And of course “they” could make her look what passes for acceptable in the media without even having her lose weight, and what shocked me wasn’t the young man’s comment, but the fact that he obviously has NO IDEA how manipulated “beautiful” women are pre-photo and how photoshopped the resulting photos are.

    As the media’s male gaze becomes every more digital, we normal women will be made ever more freakish….

  63. Also, MUST HAZ BLUE KOW-KOLLAR DRESS. Where did u getz?

    It’s from Coldwater Creek, but not available anymore, and believe me, I KNOW HOW FRUSTRATING THAT IS.

    Even more frustrating for me, because I knew about it before it was gone, but hesitated to order. By the time I decided I needed it even if, for obvious reasons, I couldn’t wear it to FJ’s wedding (my dress-buying excuse), it was gone.

  64. This is only sorta related, and I really need to write a blog post about it, but I was in the grocery store briefly the other day (we were out of fudgesickles and eggs) and I stupidly picked up a Shape magazine with a coverline of Jenny McCarthy saying “I weighed more than 200 pounds” and it was JUST BEFORE/AFTER SHE GAVE BIRTH.
    WHAT WOMEN CAN’T WEIGH MORE THAN 200 POUNDS EVER, EVEN IF THEY ARE AT PREGNANT AND ABOUT TO BIRTH A BABY?!?

    I give up. (Not a bad thing, really).

  65. Lois Waller:

    Ah, I had not heard that was actually refuted. Thanks for letting me know! But still, my basic point stands. If that had been a joke taken out of context about a woman, how much indignation would there be?

  66. Ordula, I think you may be referring to the “Mrs. Polifax” novels! Even if you’re not, everyone should check them out. Thank you for reminding me! It’s a long series of light-hearted mysteries about a naive, chubby, middle-aged widow who solves crimes for the government. Very funny and refreshing.

  67. Mrs. Pollifax! Yes! Read them all!

    Except I’m not sure naive is the word for it – she’s grandmotherly, but she also has a black belt and works undercover for the CIA. So less Miss Marple than Julia Child/James Bond.

    *ahem*

    Brilliant article, sweet machine. I found this sentence telling from Cieply’s original:
    “But a new willingness to cast heavier men “may have happened organically,” Ms. Fasano said, as Hollywood over the last few years has been plagued by what has widely been seen as a shortage of reliably appealing stars.”

    So:
    People still go see fat actors they love. They still pay money and enjoy their work – you know, the actual performance, the “acting” if you will. Yet they’re not all perfect at us!

    I think something the good critic neglects to consider is that physicality brings something to the roles being played beyond audience’s sexual attraction. Being larger in itself doesn’t make someone a better/worse actor, but being comfortable in your skin, or “in your body” sure could. And that’s not even taking into account the way diets can destroy your concentration and focus, make you tired and grumpy and off. Would Russell Crowe be such an everyman in that photo if he were skinnier, shirtless, greased up, shaved? Like we know journalists are in real life, right?

    http://reneeashleybaker.files.wordpress.com/2007/12/woodward-and-bernstein.jpg

  68. Yeah, Seth Rogan looked better pre-weight loss, if you ask me.

    Ditto. And I’m so sick of everyone talking about it…if you saw him on the Daily Show, I just wanted to punch when he said someone behind the scenes said, it must be so much easier to climb up stairs now? And Rogan thought out loud, how huge was I????

  69. Ugh, such a stupid, lazy article. NYT, when I wished that you would get internet-savvy I didn’t mean the troll-ish, publishing something purposely offensive to get pageviews kind of savvy.

    Also, yeah, I love the whole “but ASKED the publicist..they would never lie to me!” about the photo retouching. If journalism were asking a paid flack for a comment then unquestioningly publishing it, J-school would be a lot easier.

  70. This was a well-written funny furious feminist piece (and all those are terms of admiration)!

    I just wish you had some way of tagging or whatever its called (like buzz or stumble or something?) so this can get more expoure.

  71. Oh my God, that article was SO disgusting, and your response was SO right-on. If I were still in my “write furious troll-like responses to NYT contributors and letter writers, not actual letters to the actual paper” phase, Michael Cipely would be in such deep shit.

    It’s attitudes like that which are strongly part of why I decided early on in my film studies that I did NOT want to be part of the film community. It has become so taken for granted, just so unspokenly natural, that all women in films are thin and beautiful, that stupid self-entitled men like this author are really PANICKED about male actors gaining weight. Thin women are just an afterthought to male viewers and critics, exactly like you said. I remember in my college film classes, though, at the height of my bulimia, watching Goddard and barely being able to stomach it, wondering, “How is it essential to the plot that she is SO THIN?” Where men take this as undisputed fact of film and don’t even notice it, that was all I could focus on, because I was so preoccupied with wanting to look a certain way and feeling totally inferior because of my non-cookie-cutter body. (I hate Goddard anyway from a purely academic viewpoint, and not just for that reason.)

    Male gaze and this cruel blindness to any variation in female body shapes is so ingrained in all art forms that even most female viewers are forced to think the same way- and some aren’t even aware they’re feeding into it. I remember when a female writer/director came to speak to one of my classes and show us some of our shorts, all of which featured anorectically thin women. And she actually said to us that she’d been criticized for using such extreme thinness, and her response was, “Well, I just really like the way thin women look on camera.” UGH!!!!!

    I’m thoroughly disgusted but not entirely surprised that the NYT would publish something like this. While it’s certainly an idiotic article, it’s not the first time the paper has indulged totally oblivious self-entitled men waxing philosophical on why the world is not exactly to their specifications, in the form of unattractive women, other peoples’ children, and minorities.

    Disgusted with the NYT, disgusted with movies- pretty soon I will really be some kind of J.T. Salinger-like recluse.

  72. WRT2, I noticed that cover story too (I didn’t read it, because I knew she was a Weight Watchers spokesperson and the article was bound to be tiresome… but I am not the least bit surprised that the 200 lbs. was a pregnancy weight) and my initial impression was that the cover photo had the fuck photoshopped out of it. There are all these really stark contours, and I grant you she is probably an extremely thin woman (gotta love that entertainment industry), but it was really striking to me. Boo.

    For all I know, Self is a great magazine. But I will never know because their cover photos and the spin put on the cover headlines is way too “thin at all costs” focused for me.

    Great post, Sweet Machine. I agree with Stacia about my favorite part. The “all about health” argument was particularly ludicrous in this case. Is it just me or are these people getting kinda shrill and desperate?

  73. *sigh*

    Neither John Travolta nor Jason Segel need to be “re-touched.” Unless I’m doing the touching and re-touching. They’re my #1 and #3 men, respectively.

    On one hand, I think it’s about time that famous men started feeling the pressure to be perfect and the sting of the media and fans monitoring everything they put in their mouths and every pound of flesh they gain. Because, for a long time, they got away with their imperfectness while famous women were carefully inspected and trashed for possessing even the tiniest flaw. That rash of “Heavy guy with a skinny, hot wife” sitcoms was just maddening. (Kudos to Days of our Lives for, several years ago, being the only TV show to portray a believable, happy couple in the reverse – hot, in-shape husband, heavy wife. And I haven’t watched it in years so they might have returned for all I know.)

    On the other hand, I don’t think men deserve that kind of judgment any more than women do. Who decides what is attractive? I, personally, like men with some meat on their bones, which explains why I find guys like Travolta and Segel so appealing. (Besides the fact that they both seem like genuinely good guys.) And, despite what the media would have us believe, there are actually men in this world who find heavier women quite sexy. So, why do we constantly have to read stories that focus on making fun of celebs who aren’t total hardbodies? It’s like we’re all here saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and they’re yelling, “NO, YOU’RE WRONG! There is a standard of beauty and you all must accept and live up to it!”

    By the way, love that blue dress.

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