Does This Romantic Comedy Make Me Look Fat?


Courtesy of Steven Hultgren (2006)

In honor of the beginning of my SPRING BREAK I thought I would post my most recent essay . . . you guys ready to read about shared resources among Amish communities??? Anyone?  Anyone?

Ok, that was my SECOND to the last essay.  This is my last essay, for my Feminism class.  I’m mainly posting it because my sources are awesome and if you like my content you should really check them out for some female inspiration and insight.

Oh!  And as always, this essay is under my copyright.  If you want to use it for personal use, cite me properly.  If you want to steal it, I know where you live.

Does this romantic comedy made me look fat?

And other media betrayals of women

              For years I have watched my mom pick up one magazine at the checkout stand; Woman’s World.  As a child, I never questioned the cover before me.  Usually a blonde, thin woman, wind blowing in her hair, laughing at something we can’t see, or possibly smelling a bouquet of flowers.  The headlines in bold covered every square inch of the magazine.  “FLUSH OUT FAT!” and “THE 20 MINUTE MIRACLE FOR FLAWLESS SKIN” (Woman’s World Cover, Aug. 2005)!  Then I would always spot in the corner something that never fit:  “PEACHES & CREAM CHEESECAKE” recipe (WW Cover, Aug. 2005).  As a child I thought that these women sat around eating cheesecake all day, worrying about windblown hair and picking flowers.  It wasn’t until I got older that I realized that the women who looked like that cover girl weren’t the magazine’s target audience.  It was they women who were too poor to afford her clothes, too fat to fit in them and too dark to pass for a natural blonde that poured over this magazine weekly, looking for some miracle that could change them from what they were, instead of embracing it.  It is this and other media representations of physically fit, affluent, Caucasian women as the norm that alienates “others” such as women of the working class, racial minorities and women who are considered overweight while undermining the validity of their place in our society.

                In the film Lilya 4-Ever (2002), written and directed by Lukas Moodysson, the film’s lead, Lilya is lured into an international sex trafficking operation.  A man, Andrei, poses as her boyfriend and convinces her to fly to Sweden alone and under a false name into the grasp of sex trafficker, Witek.  He does so by targeting Lilya’s ignorance as a teen that is poor and alone.  “I can get a job and a flat for you there . . . Sweden is a paradise compared to here.  You can really relax there.  And the people . . . even the people are different there.  They’re kind, not like here.  Besides you can earn really good money.  You know, in one month you can earn what a doctor makes here in a year (Moodysson, 2002).  Andrei presents a life of comfort and love to young Lilya, where she would not have to worry about money and has the security of someone who will love her.  He preys on what he knows she is without to trap her into an inescapable scenario of sexual exploitation.

                Lilya exhibits signs of strength throughout the entire film.  For example, she stands up to her friend, Volodya, who tries to kiss her and she aggressively confronts her Aunt for moving her out of her home.  Even after she has been violated repeatedly, she cuts her hair and puts on drastically ridiculous make-up as an act of defiance against Witek.  She even states, “You think I’m your property?  I’m not your property.  You think you can buy me?  You can’t.  You can’t buy my heart and soul” (Moodysson, 2002).  However, despite her rebellion, these people are able to take advantage of Lilya for their personal gain, with the exception of Volodya, who becomes her one and only trustworthy friend.  Lilya appears to be from a working class family in an urban area with little or no economic substance.  The film presents a scenario of escape for both Lilya and her mother of their financial insecurities and isolation.  We never know how her mother faired in the United States however; Lilya’s pursuit for both and the mistreatment inflicted on her by others ultimately leads to her demise.

Another example of unrealistic portrayals of women in media is the famous Barbie Doll.  Susan Jane Gilman tackled the Barbie in her article, Klaus Barbie, and Other Dolls I’d Like to See (1998).  Gilman is not opposed to dolls themselves, she grew up with the more ethnically diverse Dawn Dolls.  However, she believes that Barbie Dolls give young girls unrealistic goals of beauty, especially girls of color.  “We urban, Jewish, black, Asian and Latina girls began to realize slowly and painfully that if you didn’t look like Barbie, you didn’t fit in.  You status was diminished.  You were less beautiful, less valuable, less worthy.  If you didn’t look like Barbie, companies would discontinue you” (Gilman, p.480, 1998).  Gilman considers that by mass producing identical dolls with physically unattainable features and measurements that aren’t humanly possible, it is instilling insecurity in girls at a very young age.  Barbie’s themselves become transmitters for media’s portrayal of beauty and reinforces lack of self worth.

Gilman reiterates that playing with dolls can spark the imagination and engage children in social development.  However, she feels that Barbie Dolls are an archaic portrayal of our racist past and need to be updated or replaced by comparable dolls that no long instill lifelong complexes about self image.  “Barbies, in their ‘innocent,’ ‘apolitical’ cutesiness, propagate the ideals of the Third Reich.  They ultimately succeed where Hitler failed: They instill in legions of little girls a preference for whiteness, for blonde hair, blue eyes and delicate features, for an impossible Überfigure, perched eternally and submissively in high heels (Gilman, p. 480, 1998).  Since the inception of the Barbie came after a period of time that was saturated by Aryanism and Eugenics, it clearly reflects the ideals of purely white society, filled with racism and devoid of diversity.  By perpetuating the use of these dolls from generation to generation, we are passing on a legacy of self loathing, wrapped in a pink plastic convertible.

Lastly, Nomy Lamm takes on media’s ideas of weight in It’s a Big Fat Revolution (2002).  Born with one leg, Lamm actually has never seen it as a hindrance.  Her weight, however, is what she feels society has a bigger problem with.  She writes her article as a revolution, urging women to toss out media’s idealistic portrayals of beauty that are embedded in our subconscious and embrace our fatness.  Lamm states about medias messages of beauty; “They are elusive and don’t necessarily feel painful at the time.  They are well disguised and often even appear alluring and romantic.  (I will never fall in love because I cannot be picked up and swung in circles . . .)” (Lamm, p. 69, 2002).  Whether it is Gene Kelly swinging Debbie Reynolds off the ladder in Singin’ In the Rain or the famous lift in the end of Dirty Dancing, the media portrayals of the petite women falling in love with muscular men leaves underlying feeling of inadequacies for the above average or even average sized woman.  As a plus-sized woman myself, I refused to sit on my husband’s lap for our wedding photos because I’d seen how ridiculous it could look (do you want to actually see the groom?) 

Lamm wants to completely disassociate the word fat from ugly and embraces her body as what she believes is the way she was born to be.  But, even as a revolutionary, Lamm fights her own demons of ideal body image.  “Today I was standing outside of work and I caught a glimpse of myself in the window and thought, ‘Hey, I don’t look that fat!’  And I immediately realized how fucked up that was, but that didn’t stop me from feeling more attractive because of it” (Lamm, p. 68, 2002).  Throughout Lamm’s Fat Revolution, she fully admits that she has battled and continues to battle the pressure to be thin.  She feels media portrayals (or lack thereof) of overweight women have caused to  doubt herself worth and even made her feel guilty about her health, though she has been a vegetarian since the age of ten.  It is Lamm’s crusade to end the body image destruction that goes on in women’s heads, specifically for fat women, rather than just focusing on average sized women that think they are fat.  Though that is also of concern, Lamm’s main focus is the underrepresented population of overweight women.                             

When I remember my mom reading Woman’s World as a child, I see her in her cashier’s uniform on her lunch hour, name tag slightly askew, apron on her lap.  She eats cold chicken packed from home and she puts her tired feet up.  She retouches her lipstick and when she looks in her compact I know she’s thinking her nose is too big, that she looks too tired, but six-year-old me just sees beautiful.  Within our culture we continue to raise the bar on what it takes to be beautiful, affluent, accepted.  Our standards become thinner, richer and whiter and they are standards that the average woman can’t rise up to, they are standards that can only break her. – Copyright2011

References

 “COVER.” Woman’s World 5 Aug. 2005: COVER. Print.

Moodysson, L. (Director). (2002). Lilya 4-Ever [Motion picture]. Estonia: Panorama.

Moodysson, L. (n.d.). Lilja 4-Ever Script – transcript from the screenplay and/or Lukas Moodysson movie. Drew’s Script-O-Rama: free movie scripts and screenplays, baby!. Retrieved March 16, 2011, from http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/l/lilja-4-ever-script-transcript.html

Gilman, Susan J. (1998). Klaus Barbie, and other dolls I’d like to see. In Zinn, M. B., Sotelo, P., & Messner, M. A. (Eds.) (2011). Gender through the prism of difference   (4th ed.). Oxford : Oxford University Press.

Lamm, Nomy (2002). It’s a big fat revolution. In Zinn, M. B., Sotelo, P., & Messner, M. A. (Eds.) (2011). Gender through the prism of difference   (4th ed.). Oxford : Oxford University Press.

Also check out Nomy Lamm at: www.nomylamm.com

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About pageturnershollow

My life is in constant motion and sometimes I just need to take a moment to breathe. I have learned to laugh at the hardest parts or my life and move on with optimism. Most days around here end with laughter.
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2 Responses to Does This Romantic Comedy Make Me Look Fat?

  1. Kim says:

    But the supermodels don’t look like supermodels either without the makeup

    • That’s a really good point, actually. They don’t, most just look like a waifish version of the rest of us! But is that worse? That they are contributing to a society that creates standards that they themselves cannot achieve? I wish I could photoshop myself before I go out! 🙂

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