Thursday, September 18, 2008

Even people who get it don't get it

Saw this article in the LA Times today and got encouraged, then read the article and got unencouraged.

In a nutshell: Mary McNamara has just noticed that TV actresses are, like, really thin (no, like *really* thin!) (no, seriously, you guys!), and it's bothering her because it's interfering with her viewing pleasure.

I do think it's good to point out the very extreme average thinness of TV actresses as sort of a reality check, to guard against young women thinking that size 2 is the norm. Too bad they seem to get that idea anyway. But that's OK, according to Mary McNamara, because the thinness of TV actresses doesn't contribute to eating disorders. Her evidence? "We are in the midst of a childhood obesity epidemic." Oh. But, I mean, isn't it possible that there's still a real issue here and that we could start to alleviate some of the societal pressures leading young women to develop a poor body image if we had some size diversity on TV (and not just via fat villains, but maybe some real, complex, sympathetic characters in a range of different shapes and sizes)? Apparently not, according to Mary McNamara; after all, "even the Gap carries size 16 nowadays". Thanks a lot for your insightful analysis, Mary.

A lot of people don't seem to understand that insulting thin people isn't really helpful, in much the same way that insulting fat people is also unhelpful. In this article you get insults a-plenty. You get adjectives like "horrifyingly thin" and "frightening," lame cliches, and nuggets like this: "The ladies of 'Desperate Housewives' are so far gone in terms of resembling humans that it's almost laughable to mention them." Yes, the women mentioned in the article are extremely thin. But there's no need for insults. And furthermore, some LA Times reporter has no idea (and no business speculating) on whether a person has an eating disorder. Yes, you might say, but so many actresses are thin that it can't be a coincidence, so they must have eating disorders! Well, some of them undoubtedly do. But let's not forget that very thin women are more likely to get TV roles than larger women. That doesn't mean the thin women all have eating disorders -- there's an element of biased selection going on as well. Correlation does not equal causation. You've heard it here before, folks.

But getting to the main premise of the Times article (I think), the big problem with super-thin actresses is that Mary McNamara isn't enjoying 90210 as much as she would like to, because she is too distracted by the thinness. I'm just going to put an idea out here, as an avid watcher of an awesome show with an awesome lead actress who happens to be really thin (season finale tonight on USA; be there or be square): Maybe Mary McNamara finds it difficult to "concentrate on the drama of the story" on 90210 because 90210 sucks.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Update: fixed the LA Times link.