Talent upstaged by dress size, again

Photo Courtesy of L'Oreal Paris U.K.

Photo Courtesy of L’Oreal Paris U.K.

Like practically every woman and gay man in the Western hemisphere, I clear-cut my social calendar this past Sunday night to indulge in watching the Golden Globes.

“How about dinner out?”

“No way! It’s the Golden Globes!”

“The show doesn’t start until 8 or 9. We can be home by then.”

“Honey, I can’t miss the pre-shows!”

The awards themselves are sort of meh but those pre-shows! The Golden Globes and the Academy Awards are, as the saying goes, the Superbowls of Fashion. Who’s wearing what? How’s the hair and make-up? Who looks noticeably younger/older/thinner/fatter?

Walking the Red Carpet is a bloodsport. (And not just on account of the sadistic Christian Louboutin stilettos worn by the actresses—as Emma Thompson so aptly pointed out by striding up to podium carrying hers.) No matter how many years of theatrical training. No matter how many arduous auditions. No matter how many statuettes, actually. It all comes down to this: Were you a Hit or a Miss on the Red Carpet?

There’s a lot of wind generated on the subject of kids, especially girls, growing up with a healthy body-image. How can you argue against that? You can’t. Of course kids should be comfortable in their own skin. Of course they should appreciate the great gift of a healthy body that allows them to be active in the world.

But then we have these addictive things like award show Red Carpets and the myriad tv programs, articles and blog posts they spin off that critique nothing else but how the actress looked. All the earnest talk about healthy body image is one giant bore-a-thon when compared with the sizzle of skinny sexy bodies on the Red Carpet—and the bloodsport of skewering the ones who failed.

The dresses, jewels, and faces change every year, but one thing remains constant: the parade of skeletal woman. Sandra Bullock, Zoe Saldana, Robin Wright…the list goes on. Co-hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler managed a few zingers at the Golden Globes. Alluding to the brouhaha about Matthew McConaughey’s dramatic weight loss for his role in Dallas Buyer’s Club, Fey remarked, “Matthew McConaughey did amazing work this year…he lost 45 pounds. Or what actresses call ‘being in a movie’.”

Curvier actresses get a freebie if they’re pregnant (Drew Barrymore) or are comedians (Melissa McCarthy). Perhaps it’s just an expression of affection to their unborn but when the ‘with-child ‘actresses pose for photos, they deliberately cradle or actually point to their rounded bellies, implying, “In case you think I’m fat. I’m not. Once I drop this kid, I’ll be back to my usual size zero.”

Not surprisingly zaftig actresses like Lena Dunham always get slammed for their Red Carpet appearances. Dunham’s shape is probably representative of the average American woman. (Certainly it’s a lot closer than the spray-tanned skeletons mincing down the Red Carpet.) And yet, she practically looks like another species in that context.

It may not be the wisest thing but we do allow celebrities to influence us. If we didn’t then there would be no reason for companies to pay them handsomely in product endorsement fees. It would be ridiculous (and impossible) to ban Red Carpets and the excessive commentary about actresses’ looks. But for kids still figuring out who to be and how to be, the over-emphasis on looks over talent and achievement is bound to be confusing. On the one hand we tell them, “True beauty is on the inside”. All the while, the world is screaming, “Would it kill you to lose 10 pounds?”

Dressing the actresses in burlap sacks is not an option. Though maybe, in addition to the mani-cams and pedi-cams and 360º dress-cam, and the whole ‘Who are you wearing?’ fandango, they could flash viewers with few other vitals, like IQ, years of training, number of nominations, and number of wins. It’d be a start.

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