Columns, Opinion, Tough Love

Diet culture has no place on the big screen | Tough Love

Hollywood has a reputation for employing actors and actresses who can not only play the part but look the part. While for some this includes something as simple as keeping up an aesthetic or hairstyle, others have resorted to the realm of cosmetic surgery to meet the Hollywood standard. Operations range from minor procedures, such as lip injections, classically sported by icons like Kylie Jenner, to something more extreme like rhinoplasty, liposuction, or implants.

The concept of changing one’s self to fit a role or desired image is not something completely niche in the film and TV world. From celebrity icons like Marilyn Monroe to more current actors like Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet, nearly everyone has experienced some scrutiny over their looks.

More recently, this call for change has been directed at Bryce Dallas Howard, who is perhaps known best for her work in “Twilight,” “The Village,” and wildly popular shows like “Black Mirror.” Howard’s most notable work, however, comes from her lead role in the “Jurassic World” series as Claire Dearings.

While the “Jurassic Park” franchise has proven to be a box office smash with a total gross of over $6 billion worldwide and sitting at number seven amongst the highest grossing films of all time, during the filming of “Jurassic World: Dominion,” Howard was asked by directors to lose weight. Though you are probably wondering what weight has to do with a movie focused on dinosaurs, executives were very clear with Howard that she was to lose weight prior to filming the latest installment. In a sit-down interview with Metro, Howard shared that since the start of the remakes, she has been under scrutiny from unidentified executives to lose weight.

“How do I say this … [I’ve] been asked to not use my natural body in cinema,” is what the actress told a Metro reporter when asked about her experience working on the series.

Howard revealed that her body — which ran many miles and performed a plethora of action-packed stunts— was a main topic of discussion by unidentified executives. In response, Howard told Metro that by adhering to a strict diet, she was able to complete some of the obstacles her character faces in the film. Howard naturally has a more athletic build, but still, there remains pressure over her head and the heads of all women in Hollywood to remain extremely thin.

Smaran Ramidi | Senior Graphic Artist

When I look at characters like the one played by Howard, I see someone who is emblematic of strength, courage and power. Something made possible through adequate nutrition and a good balance of work and rest. In particular, when younger and more impressionable girls look at someone like Howard’s character, it is more likely that they are focused on character development and cool stunts, rather than whether she is thin or curvier.

When we as a society put such great emphasis on only featuring actresses who have very petite builds, we send the message that to be strong, you must be at your thinnest. I distinctly remember a similar scenario involving Jennifer Lawrence, who is most famous for her role of Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games,” where the young actress was also pressured to lose weight to fit a certain “look” directors were going for.

“I’m never going to starve myself for a part . . . I don’t want little girls to be like, ‘Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I’m going to skip dinner.’ That’s something I was really conscious of during training, when you’re trying to get your body to look exactly right. I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong — not thin and underfed,” Lawrence told Elle Magazine back in 2012 about her experiences filming the most recent “Hunger Games” film.

This is a type of sexism very rarely touched upon, because there is this persistent idea that thin somehow equals beautiful, in the case of women anyways. In one of the earlier “Jurassic World” films, I distinctly remember seeing Claire Dearing running away from a dinosaur in a fabulous pair of very high heels. While she escaped flawlessly, performing a great deal of strength and athleticism, producers were still critical of her body’s physical appearance.

To add more insult to injury, Howard was reportedly being paid less than her male co-star Chris Prat, at the time of the release of “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” though they both share equivalent amounts of screen time. Variety Magazine revealed Howard received only $8 million in comparison to Pratt’s $10 million.

I continue to wonder how we can expect women to make something of themselves in Hollywood when we ask them to starve themselves and then subsequently pay them less for their work. Why is strength only seen as attractive on men in the film industry? What makes Chris Pratt’s athleticism more enticing than Howards? It is likely related to stereotypes and deep-rooted misogyny which keeps women small, both in frame and fame.

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