Photo Credit: Courtesy of ABC Family
Back in the Season 2 opener of 30 Rock, viewers saw that Jenna Maroney had packed on a few pounds during hiatus from The Girlie Show, thereby jeopardizing her role on MILF Island. (Teaser: 25 super hot moms, 50 eighth grade boys, no rules.) In response, her acerbic boss, Jack Donaghy, comments, “She needs to lose 30 pounds or gain 60. Anything in between has no place in Hollywood.”
Oh, what a wise man Jack Donaghy is. (Other great quips include: “Lemon, the grown-up dating world is like your haircut. Sometimes, awkward triangles occur.” There's also this dialogue: “Lemon, I'm impressed. You're beginning to think like a businessman.” Liz: “A businesswoman.” Jack: “I don't think that's a word.”) He’s absolutely correct--on the weight-gain observation, at least: When it comes to women’s weight in Hollywood, it’s an all-or-nothing situation. You either look like Calista Flockhart in Ally McBeal and your weight is never mentioned, or you look like Nikki Blonsky (see photo above) in HUGE--a show on ABC Family about life at a weight-loss camp, which premieres tonight--and your weight is the focus of the show. Ninety-nine percent of TV shows feature slim actresses (too many to count), and the remaining minority are weight-centric plots or reality shows based on massive weight loss: Drop Dead Diva, Ruby, Mo'Nique's Fat Chance, Dance Your A*s Off, The Biggest Loser, More To Love. There simply is no in between. We’d never see a show like Grey’s Anatomy in which the majority of the cast is 5’4” and 160 pounds (not super thin, not overweight, but simply average).
This got us thinking about the other Unwritten Weight Rules for Hollywood Actresses:
Older, respected actresses get a free pass.
When’s the last time you saw a tabloid headline calling out, “Hey Meryl: It’s Called Lipo” or “Betty White in Need of a Slimdown”? It would never happen, even though younger actresses have had far worse said to them. (Think Jennifer Love Hewitt and the whole ridiculous cellulite debacle.) Helen Mirren’s body gets talked about, but only because she’s “hot” for 64. Keep in mind, though–you have to actually be considered old in Hollywood to earn the bliss of a career free from body snarking. For example, Oprah is immensely respected, but her weight is discussed near and far (granted, she often initiates the discussion.) Kirstie Alley is another example of a talented actress who is, in fact, “older” (than, say Scar Jo), but not exactly old.
Actresses of color don’t have to be super skinny or weight-obsessed.
This isn’t to say Black actresses are immune to body commentary OR to the pressures of being thin. Indeed, Halle Berry, Thandie Newton, Angela Bassett and many others maintain slamming figures and, I’m sure, feel obligated to do so. But for the most part, actresses of color are “allowed” to carry off fuller figures than white actresses and still enjoy success. Jennifer Hudson played Carrie’s assistant in Sex and the City and her weight was never mentioned (though, yes, she has since slimmed down and even signed on as a Weight Watchers spokeswoman). Sofia Vergara of Modern Family has a fuller figure that would be considered “plus” on a white actress. (Catch her in a bathing suit at 2:58 in the season finale. She looks gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but they’d NEVER show a white actress with this body type in a positive light.) Queen Latifah has enjoyed many roles without a focus on her body–she’s simply a plus-sized actress livin’ single or hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. (The exception: Her stint as Jenny Craig spokesperson. But even then, her goal was not to slim down, but to be a “healthy" size.)
An actress can be overweight, so long as her size is integral to the plot.
Ever heard of My Big Fat Greek Wedding? ‘Nuf said.
Male actors need not be concerned about the scale.
There are no fat jokes in Get Him to the Greek, despite the fact that if an actress was Jonah Hill’s size, she would be shunned, save for Celebrity Fit Club. Overweight sitcom husbands always have model-thin wives. The list of hefty actors who consistently land gigs with nary a comment about their girth is too long to list, but some examples include James Gandolfini, Kevin James, John Goodman.
What are some other weight-based double standards you've seen in Hollywood? Chime in below!