Their body, your opinion
Who’s next on the media chopping block?
CW: body shaming, mental health struggles
It is no secret that the media influences what the current ideal feminine figure should be. Although socially we are beginning to accept more body types, more than a few female celebrities have been made prime candidates for body politics. Women who were extorted by the media and determined to be fat or obese got the brunt of media manipulation, twisting how other women think of themselves in comparison.
The Jessica Simpson weight debate splashed across the covers of many tabloids in the early ‘00s after her leading lady role in Dukes of Hazzard. Simpson was viewed as an incredibly desirable heroine within the film, then gained weight after the movie. The shocking part of Simpson’s “extreme weight gain” was that there really was no weight gain at all. Even if Simpson had gained considerable weight, it wouldn’t be an excuse to extort her body for the entertainment of others. Bodies change, and it is unrealistic to assume that your body will stay the same throughout your entire life. A prime example of mockeries made against Simpson’s weight was when she was very famously depicted as obese in Eminem’s 2009 music video, “We Made You,” which is incredibly offensive. All of Simpson’s media coverage is still related to her weight; since her recent weight loss she has been applauded, but when she gains weight, she is scrutinized. Just about all of Jessica Simpson’s acting career has been side-tracked by the influence of the media and how they objectified her body. Not only does this approach terrorize Simpson, but it has promoted a dangerously unhealthy diet culture where only thin is considered beautiful.
Britney Spears has also been mercilessly ridiculed for her body weight before and after her 2008 breakdown. As one of the most influential pop figures of the ‘00s, Spears was hypersexualized by the media, then fat-shamed and extorted to make people believe she was undesirable. While hyper-sexualization and fat-shaming can be upheld or exposed in the media, both have side effects as contributors to body politics. When Britney performed at the 2007 Video Music Awards, which was set to be her comeback performance, she was met with intense fat-shaming for her looks which caused further media scrutiny. Soon after, her 2008 breakdown occurred where she shaved her head at a saloon before attacking a paparazzi member with an umbrella. Rather than the media being concerned about her mental state, they focused on her newly shaved head and appearance at the attack. The whole instance is an example of how the media can trap somebody in the public eye by influencing how the rest of the world views them. The 2008 breakdown is a perfect example of how the media kicked Spears while she was down – something that has not fully been recovered from as her father used this to justify conservatorship of Spears. While the #FreeBritney movement has garnered much support for Spears over the past few years, the media’s influence on Spears deeply and negatively impacted her well-being. The media could have done investigative work into her conservatorship and helped her rather than critique her adherence to the current ideal feminine figure and behaviour.
Kelly Osbourne was in the spotlight from a young age with rock super-star father Ozzy Osbourne, and was a star on the TV show The Osbourne’s. This show was the first celebrity reality TV show that showcased a personal view of the lives of a famous rocker family on their days off. Kelly was only a teenager when the series first began airing in 2002, a highly influenceable age due to the adjustments and growing pains of becoming an adult. Ridiculed for style and weight, Kelly was relentlessly gone after for her looks. When Kelly had a drastic weight loss in the ‘10’s for her debut on Fashion Police, many continued to thin shame her for the weight that she had lost. The media is consistently fixated on what they look like rather than their own ambitions, achievements, or well-being.
10 years ago it was socially normal to perceive somebody solely based on their looks, and not much has changed from that mindset. As people are starting to call out the media’s depictions of women, they are slowly beginning to gravitate away from outrightly shaming the way individuals look based on their appearance and weight. A common theme for all of these women was that they experienced more scrutiny about what they looked than what they were doing – something consistent in female media spectacles today. These incredibly harmful attitudes towards women’s bodies should have been stopped before they even started. Dismantling body politics will help break down the cultural acceptance of commenting on weight loss and weight gain and, who knows, it could even redirect the media’s focus towards actual news.