Does Hollywood and the Fashion World Have a Morbid Take on Obesity?



What does pop culture tell us about being obese in America?  That’s the question posed in Newsweek’s Fat on Film.  The thought-provoking online article includes a slide show of various fat characters on film, including Gwyneth Paltrow (above) in Shallow Hal. (Did anyone even see that movie?)  The article says the portrayal of fat characters represents several archetypes, stereotypes and beliefs about what it means to be overweight and what role those who are fat should play in society.  In the article, Beth Bernstein and Matilda St. John, who have written extensively about the intersection of fatness and pop culture, explain  how what we see on screen tells us  how overweight people are viewed by Hollywood and, by extension, society.  It’s definitely worth a look.

On a  related topic, I enjoyed the buzz over a plus-size model who rocked the fashion world and blogosphere when her nude photo appeared in Glamour magazine alongside an article on women’s body confidence.  Lizzi Miller — all 180 glorious pounds of her — flashes a confident smile as her stomach bulges over her thong bikini. says…

Within a day, Glamour was inundated with comments, overwhelmingly positive, about the magazine’s showcasing a beautiful model unafraid to let it all hang out.  Web sites such as Facebook, MSN and were consumed with dialogue over Miller’s photo, and dedicated Web space to a renewed debate over women’s body image.

The response was so large and effusive that Glamour editor Cindi Leive says Miller is proving to be a game changer when it comes to fashion magazines — which often pay lip service to the idea of representing all women, but usually opt for the carrot-sticks-and-cigarettes, skin-and-bones types when it comes to cover girls.

“I think it absolutely will,” Leive told Matt Lauer on Today.  “You get a reaction like this and  you can really see it.  It’s also a sign of the times that women are really looking for a little bit more authenticity….Immediately, within hours of the magazine coming out, we had people telling us they were emailing it to friends, and that it was the first time they felt good about their bodies, looking at this picture.”

Lizzi Miller (below) has become known as the “woman on page 194” in some blog posts.  One reader wrote to Glamour saying “Get this hot momma off of page 194 and put her on the cover!”  Other reader comments:  

“Thank you for showing a picture of a BEAUTIFUL woman who has a stomach and thighs that look like mine!  I have NEVER seen that in a magazine before!”

“This woman rocks and we need more women like her to make a mark on what the real woman looks like.”

Lizzi Miller, Glamour (Sept., page 194)

I agree with  It would be nice, every so often, to see a “normal”-sized model in something other than a story about how it’s OK to be fat—er, comfortable in your own skin.

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