The Media and Body Image

I’m really not a fan of womens’ magazines – I stopped buying them when I was in my 20s because I’ve never been a soap opera fan and wasn’t interested in reading speculations attributed to “a close friend” about the lives of the people who were paid to act in shows I never watched.

And you can only buy so many housekeeping magazines before they get old as well, though I do sometimes get them if something catches my eye.

That said, family and friends who know I have this blog often give me magazines that have body image related stories in them. So I think – well at least I’ve helped those people see the media feeding frenzy about other people’s bodies for what it is – mission accomplished 🙂

So anyway, I have about 20 mags sitting in a pile on my desk and it’s time to wade through a few of them over the next few days so I can put in the recycling bin from whence they might be turned into something useful.

The first is the New Weekly from October 6 2008. Their cover is “You’re too Fat for TV” – specifically Tori Spelling and Tyra Banks. Inside their headline says : Hollywood Outrage! Talent means nothing for women in Hollywood if the scales don’t pass the screen test. It’s helpfully accompanied by a story saying Tori decided to “let out her waistband” after giving birth to her daughter 4 months ago, and that thinks she looks good at the size she is.

Interestingly, there’s a two page spread just a couple of pages earlier trumpeting how Jessica Alba looks fantastic in a bikini just four months after giving birth.

The page on Tyra quotes a source saying “She doesn’t have the best personality so if she starts getting too heavy it could be a problem.” And apparently “network heavies” from both her shows are pushing her to lose weight.

The next page is on Kirstie Alley. Apparently she’s now too fat for her show Fat Actress. Her photo’s emblazoned with the words Kirstie can’t curb her junk food cravings.

Tiffani Thiessen is next, apparently “now that TV bosses are thinking thin” they think she’s too fat.

Then there’s a bottom-of-the-page summary of eight other actors “ordered to lose weight – shape up or ship out”. they are Portia de Rossi, who only talks about being anorexic on Ally McBeal; Courtney Thorne-Smith who says she left the show because of the pressure to be thin; Mandy Moore who was told to lose weight and says she knows she’s different from the typical Hollywood ideal and everyone should just accept it; Ali Larter talking about crying from embarrassment about faxes sent between producers and her agent to tell her to lose weight; Emily Blunt reporting that she was asked to lose weight to be “on the edge of sickness thin” for her role in The Devil Wears Prada; David Eigenberg, who was told to lose a couple of pounds when on Sex and the City; Kelly Clarkson who has lost a high-profile ad deal because she’s “too curvy” – and she doesn’t care (go Kelly!); and finally Christina Ricci who laments the years she wasted thinking about her skin or her weight instead of enjoying the moment.

Next we get to Laura Prepon whose bosses told her to keep the fridge door closed because they thought she was getting too fat for her character.

Katherine Heigl has apparently gained weight because she quit smoking, and it’s affecting her TV career – apparently the producers are considering killing off her character.

And finally Leona Lewis has lost weight to break into the US market, and a dietician says she seems to an ideal weight for her age.

As you can see not many of the stories say anything at all about the women being threatened with the sack if they don’t lose weight – though that’s exactly what the headline said. Another distorted headline, another distorted story.

There was also no discussion at all about the women’s talents, skills, very little about their beliefs, values, contribution to society, or really anything at all about the person they are. Tori Spelling is probably enjoying being a young mother of two small children, putting their needs ahead of her image, just as she should be. Tyra Banks is probably focussing more on what she wants her TV shows to say about her industry and her culture than about her scales’ numbers. Katherine Heigl is clearly way more concerned about her long-term health than what someone else thinks she should weigh.

And I’m sure you can see the rest of the missing pieces in all those stories. How sad that the only way they can see these gorgeous talented women is as one-dimensional objects.

I’m really clear that if mags like NW focussed on the womens’ talent instead of their looks, then Hollywood wouldn’t give a damn about their weight because no one would be writing about it. I for one am so sick of magazines telling one lie after another about people – how would those editors and writers like it if they were the subject of yet another sad bag of lies, innuendo, and invention?

Reminds me why I don’t waste my hard-earned on these rags.

I’m off to dump this in the bin, it makes me feel queasy.


  1. Devin on June 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    i love what you had to say. Its something that needs to be changed within our media. I really want to do that, check it out and see if you could pass it on. i know i am a stranger but We both agree on the same things.

    • Sandy on August 5, 2012 at 12:52 am

      Good luck with your program Devin!

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