If you're one of the 1 million + people who follow Heidi Montag on Twitter, you saw her March 10th tweet: "I was just cast in my first feature film comedy! I start filming Monday!!!!!" A few hours later, she talked about it being one of the best days of her life. No doubt -- this is the young woman who had 10 plastic surgery procedures in one day because she wanted to be a "better" Heidi, and thought it was necessary for her career. Looks like she was right; she's been busy memorizing her script, and experiencing her first day on-set. The movie in question -- Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston's Just Go with It, where she'll play Kevin Nealon's wife. (This is the project that used to be called The Pretend Wife.)
While we might beg to differ on the facial reformation Heidi underwent, and the large breasts she added to her slight frame -- all in the name of professional success and physical obsession -- Hollywood has bought into her notion hook line and sinker. Or, at the very least, Tinseltown is willing to cash in on her current fame as the cute girl who thought she wasn't cute enough, sending the message that plastic surgery is important, or at the very least, that it will help you get 15 minutes of fame.
This part of the business kills me.
Sure, Montag is an extreme example. She is desperate for fame -- a young woman who thinks hiring a psychic to be her manager is a smart move. She signs up for self-mockery in the name of publicity (see her Funny or Die short made by Ron Howard below). But the mere fact that she said these surgeries were necessary, and immediately earned a spoof on a popular website and a small role in a mainstream comedy, has proven to her -- and the public at large -- that she's right.
While there is no professional obligation or financial motivation for Hollywood to change their stance on the female form -- especially since the industry continues to pull in mass amounts of money -- I increasingly wonder if there should be a moral obligation. I wonder if we need to keep speaking up, and if Hollywood needs to be pressured or guilted -- somehow -- into rethinking its message. We seem to be in a neverending circle of thinspiration and public mockery, with nothing ever changing, save actresses continuing to get thinner and buying into increasing amounts of surgery. It gives aspiring actresses like Montag the idea that Barbie-ification is necessary, and relays the message that beauty is scalpel-deep.
Part of the problem is the difficulty inherent in talking about "natural" size. As many rightly argue, there are celebrities out there who are naturally skinny and healthy. To chastise weight insinuates that these women aren't natural, or beautiful in their own DNA-given bodies. But we must take into account the vast number of women who feel pressured to morph their bodies to match. Moreover, not only morph themselves to be like a natural super-skinny person, but to look like advertisements and photographs that have had curves, weight, and asymmetrical quirks Photoshopped out. As soon as a woman struggles to mimic a body that doesn't naturally exist, starvation and heaps of plastic surgery are inevitable.
There's also the problem of adding to the pressure placed on Hollywood's actresses by pointing out these trends, but what else can we do? All too often, a celebrity website or magazine catches my eye, revealing another actress who has whittled their body down as much as possible. Buffy fans watched Sarah Michelle Gellar get smaller by the season, Christina Ricci confessed to an eating disorder and blamed that on her once beautifully curvy body, Lara Flynn Boyle went skeletal in the early 2000s while partaking in much plastic surgery, and on the heels of super-celebs like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, much of young Hollywood is now stick-thin (the 90210 dilemma), which is undoubtedly as much about the pressure to stay thin as it is about Hollywood searching for the skinniest stars. Even Eva Amurri (daughter of Susan Sarandon) found some way to remove a lot from her already gorgeously thin frame, unless her recent birthday photo (right) was wildly altered.
In a perfect world, physicality would be irrelevant because Hollywood would always cast the right figure and talent for the role, and there would be a myriad of shapes and sizes to choose from. But it's not. Where it would be ludicrous and laughed at if a waif of an actor became a male action star, that's the status quo for women, even after the monumental love for Ripley and Sarah Connor. The curvy gals of biopics are replaced by actresses who could better embody Twiggy than Marilyn. The few who choose to not mimic the slightest frames have their body sliced by overzealous photo editors. When Demi Moore's practically fat-free body is being thinned, there's no hope for anyone else.
There are voices attempting to change our discourse on the Hollywood body, or at least reimagine it. Photo-heavy sites like Just Jared opt to share images of women thin, curvy, smooth, or wrinkled without commenting on the differences, but does it make any difference? From my vantage point, the women continue to get smaller, and continue to get mass amounts of work done, no matter how much we discuss how attractive women like Christina Hendricks or Helen Mirren are.
There are many who speak out about this skewed relationship that embraces Hollywood and the female form, and it doesn't seem to be helping. At the same time, however, I don't think ignoring it is the answer either. Someone, somewhere, has to take responsibility, rather than shrugging and letting it be.
Personally, I'm at a loss. For years I've watched it get worse, I've spoken out about it when I can, and then it happens again and again, with increasing regularity and severity. Where some partake in death pools, I'm surprised there aren't thin pools, betting to see which actress succumbs to the pressure next. Seeing Heidi Montag's skewed opinion of the profession become realized kills me, because even if the inevitable (I hope) end of her 15 minutes of fame comes, it has already sent out a message that makes thin-success seem like nothing.
Is there anything that can be done?