Of the starlets currently ascendant in Hollywood, none seem to elicit more fanfare than one Jennifer Lawrence. Nicknamed “J-Law” by a fawning press and fanbase, the cherub-cheeked celeb captures hearts and loins worldwide with a combo of feisty, forthright character roles and gorgeous genes.
More recently, in the spirit of her Hunger Games character, Katniss Everdeen, she hit headlines and heartstrings with a two-pronged stab at what some might term “social justice”. Her first prong came back in November when—in the wake of Miley Cyrus’ twerktastic MTV VMA perfomance—she made her voice heard against the “disgusting” deluge of gyno-sexualisation flooding the media today:
Speaking at the London premiere of Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the 23-year-old Oscar-winning star, said the sexualisation of young women has become so prevalent, women no longer challenge it.
Though she didn’t mention Cyrus by name, Lawrence said: "For some people, that’s how they feel best, that’s how they feel sexy."
I have to say, I totally get where she came from with all that, what with all the supple starlets I see sprawling their young, half-naked forms across many a medium.
In fact, it reminded me of the time J-Law first came to my attention, playing the shapely, scantily-clad mutant girl Mystique in X-Men: First Class; beyond my general interest in the franchise, my curiosity was roused by, among other things, wanting to see more of this eye-pleasing newcomer.
As such, I wondered whether Lawrence had taken leave of her perceptual abilities with those statements of hers, given how much of her career seems to involve selling come-hither gestures and glimpses of her flesh: one Katniss doesn’t erase a portfolio of Esquire snaps. In light of this, I put J-Law’s jawing down to a radical lack of self-awareness, if not a cognitive dissonance akin to that of the French maid from Tittybangbang: “Don’t look at me—I’m shyyyyyyyy!”
Then came the second prong shortly before Christmas, when J-Law bemoaned the ever-pervasive phenomena known as “fat-shaming”:
Lawrence went onto explain: ‘I think the media needs to take responsibility for the effect it has on our younger generation on these girls that are watching these television shows and picking up how to talk and how to be cool.
‘So all of the sudden being funny is making fun of the girl that’s wearing an ugly dress.’
Adding emphatically: ‘And the word fat! I just think it should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV.
‘If we’re regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words because of the effect it has on our younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling somebody fat?’
The star has previously spoken out about her normal body image and the pressure to lose weight for her role in The Hunger Games.
She told the BBC: ‘When we were doing the first The Hunger Games, it was a big discussion, ’cause it’s called The Hunger Games—she’s from District 12, she’s obviously underfed, so she would be incredibly thin. But, I just kept saying, ‘We have the ability to control this image that young girls are going to be seeing.’
‘Girls see enough of this body that we can’t imitate, that we’ll never be able to obtain, these unrealistic expectations, and this is gonna be their hero, and we have control over that.’
I’m sure this advocacy garnered a thumbs-up from those whose idea of a Hunger Game involves shoving fingers down their throats. However, from me, it elicited nothing but a raised eyebrow; unwittingly or otherwise, both this and her previous prong seemed to work towards a dual end—thinning out her competition whilst fattening her fanbase.
Perhaps that sounds a tad too cynical; perhaps J-Law’s immersion in the world of showbiz and celebrity, where airbrushing and Photoshopping run rampant, simply insulates her from less ridiculous conceptions of fatness. Still, in effect if not intent, Katniss posing as St Fatniss, patron saint of plump and frump, does those she claims to champion something of a disservice. Though a little more filled-out than your standard young screen siren, she ultimately sits safely in the svelte zone, leaving more than enough space to squeeze in some hand luggage; thus, to less starstruck eyes, her ruminations on her weight and desirability amount to little more than Miss-World-style humblebragging at best, and a nitpicking neuroticism not foreign to females at worst.
Want an economic analogy? Picture a trust-fund baby, safely among “the 1%”, whining about the poor health of their bank account.
This discrepancy between professed self-image and reality has also been spotted by one Jenny Trout, a blogger grappling with more sizeable weight issues:
Imagine if Melissa McCarthy had made so many public comments about food and McDonald’s. It wouldn’t be cute or funny, it would be schtick. Look at the fat woman, being human and hungry for something bad for her! How grotesquely humorous it is when fat people eat! When Jennifer Lawrence makes these comments, it’s acceptable, because her body is still pleasing to our cultural expectation of voluptuous, slim-waisted, long-necked female beauty.
Comments about how much food Jennifer Lawrence loves to eat further builds the unicorn-like mystique of actresses who maintain cultural expectations of slenderness while claiming that they eat whatever they want and never work out. Is it more damaging to a fat woman’s self-esteem to see a thin woman on a movie screen, or to see that thin woman calling herself fat and claiming her celebrated figure is the product of eating McDonald’s and hating exercise? I’m fat. I eat a lot of McDonald’s. I do exercise, though I sometimes hate it… so, why then, when I admit to these things, am I a public health crisis, and slender, beautiful women who say them are positive role models? I’m pretty sure you know where this is going.
The reason Jennifer Lawrence is allowed to be a body-positive role model to young girls and “chubby” women is because she is representative of conventional beauty. She is a thin woman, exhibiting the thin privilege (and I know how much people hate that phrase) of making self-conscious body remarks while the rest of the world rushes to assure her that she’s gorgeous. Jennifer Lawrence’s public image has been built on a foundation of fat girl drag. She can call herself fat in interviews. She can actually believe she is fat, if she wants to. But she is not a fat woman, and her experiences do not speak to the experiences of actual fat people, no matter how strenuously Tumblr works to make it seem so.
In the shoes of Jenny Trout, I’d take talk of plus-size “body-positivity” seriously from someone like, say, Bunny De La Cruz…
…but from Lawrence?
Not so much.
Plus, if the director of American Hustle carries any credibility, it sounds as if J-Law doesn’t always take her own weight-positive rhetoric seriously:
Jennifer Lawrence may have been lucky enough to smooch Christian Bale in the Golden Globe-nominated film American Hustle, but director David O. Russell admits it wasn’t exactly how she pictured it. During the Australian Academy of Cinema & Television Arts Awards in West Hollywood Friday night, the director told Us Weekly what the Oscar winner really thought about kissing him.
"’I finally get to make out with Christian Bale and he’s a really fat guy,’" Russell recalled Lawrence, 23, saying while filming the crime drama. She said: "’He’s Fatman, not Batman.’" (In 2012, Bale showed off a much more muscular, toned physique when he played Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises.)
Bale, 39, went through a major transformation to land the role of con-artist Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle. The English actor gained a noticeable amount of weight, and even exposed his new gut by wearing his shirt open in one particular scene.
An inside joke? Not unlikely. Still, if true, it rather undermines what she said against throwing the word “fat” around in any context. I wonder if she sang “Dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner…” on set, too, whenever he walked past.
On top of that, it also lends my eliminate-the-competition theory a pinch of plausibility. Self-objectifying, fat-joshing celebs speaking out against such behaviour—just why would they do that?
For those starving for less questionable aesthetic ambassadors, I fear the Hunger Games will continue…