When I read this piece on Daily Beast by Ashley Judd, I thought it was worth bringing here.
Her article led to Daily Beast posting a follow-up--
Generally I don't get into these kinds of debates as she's a celebrity, she is under more pressure to always look her best, does it really impact me or readers here? Well it does in the sense that when the media ridicules or puts down women for their appearance-- especially as it relates to weight, beauty, health issues, or aging, they do impact how we see ourselves. It doesn't just happen to movie stars.
Think how often Hillary Clinton has been put down by one media or another for her hips, her legs, her hair style, or her aging. It takes a confident woman to go through that and stay true to their own style. Then there has been the physical putdown of Meghan McCain who, if you have seen her know, is a beautiful woman. That's not good enough for some people and the media, as they decree her to be fat and bring it up regularly as a way to ridicule. And if you follow the media's talk about women, a size 10 is plus sized.
Where it comes to aging celebrities, how many times have you heard someone put down Clint Eastwood for looking old? Not happening. But a woman in his age bracket better be skinny and have done some face work or she will be virtually asked to put a sack over her head. If the celeb has had work done, the appearance police will evaluate whether it was a good job. Woe to that slim celeb (of any age) where her muscles show. Woe to the celeb male where they don't.
In some ways it would seem it shouldn't matter to women like me. We don't have to get out into the celeb world and be photographed regularly. The thing is do ordinary women then avoid being photographed in their own world?
How many young women, who are raising kids, feel fat compared to Cameron Diaz; how many will have zero photos of those years because they felt fat? Or when they get old, refuse to be photographed because they look their age and did not have surgery? Someday in a family album they will be as though they never existed, weren't really there-- and if you think that doesn't matter, consider the future generations who won't have known that person but might have a feel of who they were by those kind of photos.
Last lady on the right is my great grandmother. I never met her, not even as a baby but have seen a lot of photos of her proudly with her family and did she mind that she looked old, probably had no teeth by that age? If she did, she didn't let it stop her.
Some of this drive for perfection comes from advertising and our entertainment choices. Smile and if your teeth aren't perfectly even and nearly glowing with whiteness, shame on you and get ye to the dentist or the newest teeth whitening treatment. I had no idea how much was out there until I was in the toothpaste aisle and saw all the whitening products for teeth and that doesn't count the money going to dentists for even more advanced whitening. If those teeth aren't totally white, do NOT let anybody take a photo of you smiling.
For every Oprah (who is always battling her weight) there are more slim and beautiful TV and movie success stories. In a lot of the books out there, the hero is muscular and handsome-- heroine slender and beautiful. I can only think of a few exceptions like Bridget Jones Diary who was trying to lose weight but looked like an average woman-- oh the misery. In books off the top of my head, I can think of two obese heroines-- Little Giant of Aberdeen County and The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (and to play the role in the HBO series, the actress had to be inflated to fit the part. No really fat actresses to do it?) Jane Eyre is supposed to be plain but when you see a movie of the book, no plain women playing the part, are there?
Recently in the writer forums at Amazon I heard women complaining about there being only one male model who is regularly used on the covers. And it's true. He is everywhere from indie to paper covers and frankly he's found a market that it's too bad more interesting looking men and women don't mine by providing photos of themselves that would be suitable for say historic or contemporary book covers.
Besides, access, there's a reason he's on so many. He looks like who is in the books. And that includes some of mine as I have him on two because he does look like those heroes. I could have two more if I decide to publish my historic books and create my own covers for them. Why did I write about those kind of heroes? Well they came to me but why did they come to me?
One factor is that it's what readers want. I wrote one book with an ugly hero (who the heroine, of course, saw otherwise) and I have yet to find a cover model who could make it work to do a trailer-- and I will be doing a trailer for that book. I see men in real life all the time who don't have perfect features and yet have that certain something. Try finding a photo of one where you can buy the rights to use-- at least for a price independent writers can afford.
One writer said we can blame this on Clint Walker and she might be right for my age group. I had such a crush on him when he was doing Cheyenne (western TV series for you younger readers). Oh my and when he took his shirt off, well it's not too surprising a man looking a lot like him is making money these days pretending to be the hero about whom the writers wrote. I so wanted Clint Walker to be my husband someday and was quite disappointed to find the actor who played him was already married.
I am not sure why we like our advertisements full of, our movies populated by, our books about perfect looking people when none of us are. Maybe it's part of the fantasy. Well if it is, it's a problem when we take it with us off the pages or away from the screens.