Redefining the starving artist

Like some sort of walking zombie, Lara Flynn Boyle stood on stage at the Golden Globe awards. Desperate for food, she appeared to be no different than some of the starving children on the television’s, the only difference being that she chose not to feed herself.

We had to stop the movie we were watching and rewind to verify that Angelina Jolie’s arm was truly that bony in Gone in 60 Seconds. It was like some sort of disturbing zombie, some sort of ethereal creation on the screen, floating there because she certainly lacked the strength to stand on her own.

There’s a character in Valentine who’s called fat, she’s the fat one, the one with the big ass. She wears it on her sleeve like a cancer victim, like there’s something wrong with her. This actress, the relatively unknown Jessica Capshaw, has a healthy body. The words fat or big or anything from that same vein – they’re not even applicable in her situation.

Kate Winslet, after having a child and having long been a protestor against Hollywood’s ridiculous assumption about what women should look like, admitted that she was dieting to lose some of the baby fat that she’d gained during her pregnancy for fear she wouldn’t be able to get work in the middle of California.

When Reviving Ophelia came out several years ago, it was perhaps the biggest name of an emerging study of just how much the media’s images of women were destroying developing young girls. Suddenly, a much-needed howl of protest from women (and some men) were accusing the media of using such unrealistically thin, such unbelievably waifish individuals that the girls with no other women to look up to in pop-culture were attempting to emulate that singular body type. And of course, that sort of rabid emulation that comes with a common teenager’s developing self-esteem led to eating disorders and crushed self-confidence.

The media attempted to defend itself as inanely as it always had. Seventeen claimed that they could only find thin models, that’s why they used them, others claimed that such thin bodies weren’t the fault of the starving Calista Flockhart’s of this world, others suggested that the media didn’t impact as much as was claimed, but nothing was ever really done about the problem. And then, as is predictably the case in America culture, if one side needs to be looked at, then so does the other, and thus boys, especially after school-shootings, started to be analyzed.

And the teenage girls were forgotten.

There is obviously still a large collection of rotting zombies walking around Hollywood, continually getting work as actresses. The problems haven’t gone away because of Reviving Ophelia or any of the other books that came out decrying what the media was doing to the psyche of young women. But while the problems remain, the much-needed protest of Hollywood and the media in general has disappeared, the tension about how damaging these images are has been reduced to a frictionless condition. Without any sort of cogent protest, without any sort of focused complaint, who honestly believes that the media will ever even consider a change?

The problem with the media is that it never changes. It’s so willing to follow itself that it will never dare to branch out and try something different. The same issues are always written about, the same photos are always published, and in our cut-and-dry popular culture, media mavens are only willing to do what the next one is doing, not ride the cutting edge.

Be that cutting edge daring to use the scandalously normal Kate Winslet, use models that don’t necessarily avoid food for days at a time, or perhaps just attempt to have more of a diversity in the women that make “it” and by diversity, that doesn’t mean having ultrathin black girls next to ultrathin white girls. There’s no real good reason why the media can’t be slightly more representative of society as a whole.

Our society isn’t one of zombies, it isn’t that solely consists of Lara Flynn Boyle’s and Angelina Jolie’s, because while they certainly have their spot in this world (as anorexia victims), Kate Winslet’s do too. It is troublesome that they don’t seem to have their spots, it’s worse that the only people that do are so unrealistic as to be called unbelievable by some, and it’s most disturbing that an important movement within the media was quelled long before it had enough time to gestate.

Sam Wilkinson is a Collegian columnist.