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Ashley Judd, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Lawrence vs. Our Toxic Misogynist Culture

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood April 10, 2012 at 5:29PM

In the past week, actresses and their weight have been front and center. When moviegoers suggested that Kate Winslet was too fat in the 3-D rerelease of the 1997 blockbuster "Titanic," she responded that she's now thinner than co-star Leonardo DiCaprio. Jennifer Lawrence was described as not hungry enough in "The Hunger Games."

Psychologist Kelly Brownell:

"These kind of messages are toxic. They pressure people, especially girls, to be at odds with their bodies and to fight against whatever natural weight they might have. They force into the public psyche an arbitrary and unrealistic ideal that is attainable by few and leaves a great many scars in its wake."

Women and Film's Melissa Silverstein:

"[Lawrence's] male co-stars look even healthier (and have some seriously big muscles) yet no one thinks they are too healthy or big boned or big boobed or just plain old fat."

Many of us have trouble with accepting a powerful female as feminine and/or sexy. Recall the attention to Angelina Jolie's leg at the Oscars? We laugh, because it's absurd.

The physically powerful female (see Lisbeth Salander) disrupts the idea that men are meant to be the burly heroes. It's sending Hollywood folks to their doctors for $10,000 per year HGH prescriptions--and what starts in Hollywood will trickle down.

These attacks on actresses challenge our ability to accept ourselves and each other. We are not showing young girls (or boys) ways of finding or accepting their own intrinsic value. We put celebrities on a pedestal and feel better about ourselves when they crash and burn. We are impressionable and easily controlled by our insecurities (see: the economy), and it's eating away at us. This is how our culture works. But who does it help?

[More: On Hollywood's gender problem; The sexualization of women and girls on screen.]

This article is related to: Women in Film, Headliners, Media, Angelina Jolie, Kate Winslet, Jennifer Lawrence, Franchises, Politics

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.