I, like pretty much everyone else I know, am a little bit in love with Jennifer Lawrence. She’s a Hollywood starlet who doesn’t take herself too seriously; she falls up stairs and swears in interviews and seems genuinely baffled by the fact that she’s an Oscar-winning household name. All these things make her an immensely likeable person.
But also: That girl talks a lot of sense.
When asked recently for her thoughts on young girls experiencing body image criticism, she made a number of insightful comments about the media ideal and the Hollywood standards of beauty.
It’s estimated that we encounter anywhere between 247 and 3,000 marketing messages every day. That’s not to mention the endless images of thinness and perfection that seem to be permanent fixtures on our TV screens, in magazines and almost everywhere else you look -- which is pretty strange, because “the body type portrayed in advertising as the ideal is possessed naturally by only 5% of American females,” according to the Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders.
So when J-Law pointed out that this “shouldn't be the real world,” I -- naturally -- was in pretty firm agreement. However, what’s even more interesting is where she went from there, suggesting that “it's going to keep being the real world if we keep it that way.” We need to “stop treating each other like that, stop calling each other fat, and stop with the unrealistic expectations for women,” she said.
It goes without saying that these “unrealistic expectations” are a product of the media circus that promotes thin as the only way to be beautiful -- and I think the fact that she’s aware of her role, and that of her producers, in “controlling this image” that girls will be influenced by, shows a level of responsibility that most Hollywood stars don’t seem to be willing to accept.
When Lawrence says we need to stop calling each other fat, or treating each other badly, she’s referring not only to the Hollywood producers who’ve told her to lose weight, or the magazines that have Photoshopped her curves away -- she’s talking to anyone who’s ever engaged with shame culture. Because we’ve all probably done it at one time or another. Most of us have called someone else “fat” or made a snarky comment about another person’s appearance, to their face or otherwise.
It’s talking about things like this that make Jennifer Lawrence a role model, in the real sense. By identifying with her fans and helping them to be critical not only of Hollywood ideals, but of their own behavior and the way they treat each other, she’s taking a step toward improving body image and self-esteem across the board.
Of course, it’s not going to be easy. She’s one voice in a world that equates thinness with success and perfection with “doable” -- and until the media landscape changes to reflect real people, in their thousands of different ways, it’s always going to be an uphill battle.
Still, I’m so glad to see a prominent voice getting involved in the debate and making the point that every single one of us has the opportunity to stop body-shaming in our own back yard. That, to me, is exactly what stars ought to be doing -- and for that, J-Law, I salute you.