Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Big Fat Truth

First Vanity Fair slighted the fledgling young actress by leaving her off the cover of their pre-Oscar "New Hollywood" issue.  Then the news wires and entertainment shows were abuzz about Howard Stern's comments about her weight.  Gabourey Sidibe's foray into acting, while heralded for it's substantive quality, has also highlighted the question about looks, weight, and size in 'Hollywood' - used collectively for the entertainment industry.

Howard Stern, who is popular especially for instigating controversy, described the Oscar nominee as 'enormous' and predicts she will never get another acting role.  Stern's comments, while likely to discomfort and to hurt feelings, were neither inappropriate nor baseless. She is enormous.  The fact of fat is no more inappropriate than the fact of race. You're either black or you are not. Beyond the middle ground of 'plump' or 'curvy,' you're either fat or you're not. As for whether Ms. Sidibe will ever work again, I suppose none of us can be sure, but to bet against her would not be a careless bet.  The title character in the movie Precious was a 300+lb black girl.  I don't remember seeing that before, and I don't expect to see it again any time soon.  Based on their ratio in movies released every year, there are not a lot of roles for black women. Even the normal-sized ones.

Rather than villifying the shock jock for his comments (on his show on satellite radio), we should be having a conversation about whether or not the people we see on television and film truly represent the larger (pun intended) public.  Do Hollywood women represent the average American woman at 162.9 pounds and size 14?  Does Hollywood even need to be representative; or are we okay with images that are aspirational and fanciful?  Maybe we should be talking about why a display of temper by a popular athlete is chastised as a poor example, but there are no requirements for those in the limelight who display poor messages about health and wellness.

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