Magazine article Variety

Body Image: The Next Battle

Magazine article Variety

Body Image: The Next Battle

Article excerpt

Growing up, Sophia Loren was called the little toothpick, "stuzzicadenti," starving as she was in her native Naples during wartime.

And, then, she blossomed. She became a beauty: wasp-waisted, full-bosomed, hippy. Despite "a nose too long, and lips too wide" (according to Loren herself at a recent tribute in Schenectady, N.Y.), that body and the way she used it propelled her to international stardom. Watching Loren mam bo in 1950's "Scandal in Sorrento" (tagline: "So much WOMAN! So much SPECTACLE! So much EXCITEMENT!"), it's clear that she's no longer the toothpick. Instead, she's a colossus whose body is a vessel of power for a future Oscar winner who knew how to deploy it - and didn't underestimate its effect on the men around her.

Contemporary Hollywood would fumble with all that gorgeous flesh. That body is too powerful, too full: female but invulnerable. Perhaps only Sofia Vergara, consistently among TV's highest-paid actresses, has become the exception that proves the rule: Viewers adore women with meat on their bones, but the vast majority of Hollywood stars conform to a fascism-of-size that somehow perceives anything larger than a size six, or over 125 pounds, as overweight. Pearshaped? Forget about it.

Last summer's Oscar-winning "Mad Max: Fury Road" lays out the matrix of cinematic body types - the grotesquely obese providers of mother's milk, the stick-thin supermodel breeders and the isolated sun-dried crones. And then there's Charlize Theron, the A-list beauty who could, according to one reviewer, "be playing forward for the U. Conn women's basketball team."

Even in the dystopic future, it's the drippy supermodels who are the most desirable, appearing like vulnerable gazelles on a desert populated with spotted hyenas. And yet costume designer Jenny Beavan, the woman who clothed all the adventure's varied body types, got a huge taste of body shaming at the Oscar ceremony. How dare the 65-year-old, grayhaired professional choose to not conform to Hollywood expectations of female behavior by shellacking herself into an inappropriate evening gown? Instead, she dressed in biker chic like the majority of the team, in pants and vegan leather reminiscent of their movie. The below-the-line talent's Oscar-winning achievement was diminished in the press and social media by what she wore and how she looked.

Beavan answered the criticism with a Max-ian boldness: "I'm short, I'm fat. I really would look ridiculous in a gown." Bugger off.

Beavan's I-don't-give-a-f-k attitude is, thankfully, catching on. Margaret Cho talks about the torture she went through when she got her own sitcom, 1994's "All-American Girl," but ABC then harped on her to lose weight - to play herself. Melissa McCarthy is both a film star and a TV star, whose line of plus-size clothing, Seven7, is a hit. Plus-size model Ashley Graham recently graced one of three Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue covers (also on the covers were UFC champion Rhonda Rousey and more traditional choice, model Hailey Clauson).

The outspoken Amy Schumer posed nearly nude for Annie Leibovitz, having proclaimed at an event last year: "I'm 160 pounds and can catch a d-k whenever I want. And no, Fm not going to apologize for who I am, and Fm going to actually love the skin that Fm in. …

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