By Rachel Pratl--I am completely obsessed with movies. I always have been and I probably always will be.
As a complete movie nerd, I dragged my reluctant friends and family to my tiny local movie theater quite a few times over this past winter break. There have been just too many great movies to choose from lately, which left me feeling like a little kid in a cinematic candy shop. Lincoln and Les Miserables dazzled me with the strength of the actors' legendary performances. Life of Pi and The Hobbit amazed me with rich storytelling and eye-popping CGI. Silver Linings Playbook, hands down, my absolute favorite movie of the year, left me with a “great-movie high,” as I have recently dubbed the feeling.
What feeling is that, you might ask? Well, it’s that cheery joy you feel deep down when a movie just moves you, speaks to you, makes you both laugh and cry, but most importantly, makes you think, long after the final credits roll.
As a certifiable cinematic geek, I get pumped about seeing how women will be portrayed in film. This season’s crop of movies appealed to me because the movies were full of actresses I not only adore, but professional women who’ve been very open about how they want to be perceived in the media.
First, I’d like to talk about Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables. Yes, we can all agree, her performance as Fantine was incredible, but so was the message she delivered to girls and women when she refused to disclose her low weight for the film, saying that she didn’t want girls emulating the unhealthy look she obtained for the part. Yes, of course I think it’s wrong that the woman who just won a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actress in the role of a lifetime has made more headlines for her weight loss than her award-wining talent. But I can see the bright side of this sad story.
Careful not to use her celebrity to promote or glamorize anorexia, Hathaway recently said in an interview, "There are so many people out there that will try something unhealthy to lose weight; I don’t want to contribute to that." By not broadcasting her weight loss for a role that demanded theatrical accuracy as a starving prostitute dying of tuberculosis, she asserted her control of her how the media disseminate that news to public, perhaps saving young women from suffering themselves to attain her admittedly unhealthy frame.
Another actress I want to talk about is Jennifer Lawrence, the young up-and-coming actress who just won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy. Ask anyone, or just check my JLaw-gif-riddled Tumblr, it is obvious that I love Jennifer Lawrence. I think she is a brilliant actress and a totally cool, very down-to-earth celebrity chick and I kind of really want to be her when I grow up.
As a young woman with a passion for bettering how women feel about themselves, I also really love her stance on her self-image. In both Silver Linings Playbook, where she depicted a girl-next-door dancer and
last summer’s The Hunger Games, where she played a teenager literally fighting for her life, Lawrence has given young women a positive and healthy body role model. She’s even said on the topic of body-image issues that she thinks "it's really important for girls to have people to look up to and to feel good about themselves. [I'm] so sick of these young girls with their [crazy] diets." Unlike Anne Hathaway in Les Mis, Lawrence claims that she is "never going to starve [her]self for a part," adding that she "[doesn’t] want little girls to be like, 'Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I'm going to skip dinner.’ I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong—not thin and underfed."
As both characters, Jennifer looks fit and strong and athletic--qualities we rarely see admired in women in the media. Above all, though, she looked real. She looked like me, she looked like my friends, and that made me happy; to see myself and the women I love in my life represented in movies and to feel, for once, like, hey, I’m ok. We’re ok.
In my opinion, we need to see more of this in the media. More body acceptance and body love, more respect for women of every shape and size, and less glorification of unhealthy ideals. We can help by looking for it, supporting it, and striving for that better place in the future of all of media genres, where all body types are respected and admired. But, I think that perhaps it starts with celebrities and media execs realizing that how they are depicted affects their audience, an audience which includes children, pre-teens and young men and women (and a pretty impressionable group we are!). It starts with young celebrity women, who know what it is to be harshly criticized by the media, taking a stand and loving their bodies as they really are, so that one day soon, we can get over the “skinny-bitch” thing.
Rachel Pratl is a freshman at Meredith College in Raleigh, NC. She writes a column about women in pop culture for her school's newspaper. In her spare time, she rides horses, works with her best friend on a novel, and obsesses over her favorite TV shows, movies, and books.