There’s been a sudden and very noticeable change in the representations of women in the media recently, highlighted by two recent TV shows ‘Girls’ and ‘My Mad Fat Diary’. Successful comedian Melissa McCarthy has also become a big deal in the world of Hollywood after standing out in 2011 comedy Bridesmaids as unconventional Megan.
Do I spy a change in the attitude towards women and body image in the media?
For a long time young women have been made to feel like it’s not OK if you’re not of model proportions, and we’re bombarded with imagery in the media that is a constant reminder that unless we’re slim and beautiful we’re inferior. And personally I don’t see that changing.
A recent news article caught my eye which sparked my desire to write about this. Film critic Rex Reed has recently been slammed for his comments about Melissa McCarthy, stating that she’s a ‘tractor sized’ ‘female hippo’, and it’s left me wondering when a woman’s body image became more important than her talent and ability.
Melissa McCarthy, in my opinion, is a fantastic comedic actress. She plays masculine, funny characters very well while in reality she’s softly spoken and feminine; you only have to look at her interviews to see that. So why then, do people feel the need to bring her down by commenting on her weight? It just doesn’t make sense to me; if you don’t like her acting, constructively criticise her acting…her weight has no relevance to her ability as an actress.
Perhaps it’s man’s futile attempt at control? Now we have equality, the only way they can see to control us is to make us feel like we can’t achieve, and to do that they slam successful women for their weight which they know is a touchy subject. The same can be said for Adele; a phenomenal and extremely successful singer, yet the internet has been crawling with ‘fat’ jokes ever since she became a success. One can only speculate as to why, but it’s not too far fetched to assume it’s a form of control.
Recent American series Girls, written and directed by Lena Dunham, who also plays central character Hannah, is proud in its portrayal of a curvier woman. Dunham has spoken many times about the show and her character, who has been described as refreshing and ‘a body you wouldn’t be surprised to be staring back at you from the mirror’. Full of nudity Dunham has no problem showing off her curves, and she’s proud in the skin she’s in. Could this see a change in the media’s portrayal of women’s body image? Hannah is representative of at least a small part of every young woman. She’s chaotic, selfish, confused and a little bit lost. Girls is about real human beings, not TV stars or over the top, unrealistic representations, and it provides us body conscious young women some entertainment that doesn’t make us feel like we need to change. We can relate to it, it’s empowering and Lena Dunham is a great role model.
Studying media production with the intention of aiming for a career in film; constantly seeing successful women being slammed for being too fat instead of praised for their hard work and achievements is quite a pressure! Lena Dunham is just 26, she’s written, directed and starred in a feature film (Tiny Furniture) and followed that up with a television series also written and directed by her which is heading towards it’s third series, not only has she somewhat revolutionised (on a small scale) the way we, the audience, view women in the media but she’s been incredibly successful at such a young age.
My Mad Fat Diary is another recent television series that not only deals with young women with body image concerns but also mental health. Again it speaks to almost all young women on some level whether they’re body conscious or have suffered with mental illness, and like Girls it’s being taken seriously as a media text, and it too stars a young woman who’s not stereotypically ‘attractive’.
Although I don’t think the constant media slatings like that of Rex Reed towards Melissa McCarthy will ever stop, I do think that the way we look at women in the media is changing, particularly with the increased use of unconventional ‘larger’ protagonists. We’re slowly but surely stepping away from the size zero ideology. There will never be a day when body image is treated as irrelevant, no larger woman can be successful without being slated for her weight because it’s a cheap, easy comment to make if you want to directly and purposefully hurt someones feelings, and it probably always works! But nevertheless attitudes are changing somewhat, and you never know, some time in the future it might not matter if you’re a size 10 or a size 18…all that will matter is the fact that you’re talented at what you do.