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Bridget Jones: A Dose of Reality

Hollywood's weight problem.

by S.E. Shepherd
May 9, 2001

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Bridget Jones: A Dose of Reality_S.E. Shepherd-Hollywood's weight problem. Much has been said about Renee Zellweger’s portrayal of Bridget Jones. First there was the fact that she’s an American. There was much outrage that an American actress was to play the British Jones. But according to some articles I’ve read, the majority of English moviegoers feel Zellweger does the London accent right. Secondly was Zellweger’s weight. Renee Zellweger had to actually gain weight to play the 140-pound plus Bridget Jones. In a sense, she had to become uglier.

In a world where perfect bodies are broadcast 24 hours, seven days a week, and every movie star’s weight becomes tabloid headlines, how nice it was to have an actress fatten up to play a “normal” woman. Our society has become obsessed with physical perfection. Not since “Circle of Friends,” with a baby-fat Minnie Driver, has a movie allowed a leading lady to appear weighing more than 120 pounds. Both Driver and Zellweger had to lose weight before being considered for other leading roles. On the flipside, we have Callista Flockhart, of Ally McBeal fame. While rumors of anorexia and other eating disorders circled her climb to fame, Flockhart was still able to land a role in “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” without gaining an ounce.

I realize this is Hollywood, land of dreams and fantasies, and everyone wants the leads to be glamorous, and leading ladies had to be stunningly beautiful since Marilyn Monroe and beyond, but we are becoming a nation fixed on the idea of perfect bodies. Look at the cast from “Survivor 2,” a supposed “reality” show. Anybody out of shape there? Does anyone look like Richard or Susan of last season? No, and the more beautiful they are the more likely they are to last (save the token old person, Rodger). We have an unhealthy obsession with healthy bodies.

I am not a fan of Howard Stern in any sort, but with the wonder that is cable, I am able to glance at his TV show on the E! Entertainment Network every now and then. Many women appear on that show and reveal their bodies to him and a panel of “judges” to see how they rate as far as sexual appeal. Some even go in hopes Howard help will pay for surgical enhancements, be it breast implants or whatever. You can call this misogynistic, sexist, exploitative and everything else; the point is women volunteer for this humiliation because society is telling them they need to look better.

Movies, from the infancy of the industry, have been about escapism. The dashing young man always swept away the beautiful young lady, and we’ve allowed ourselves to believe we could be one or the other. TV started out being more “real” because shows were live, and bloopers and blemishes were broadcast without any filters. But TV too, is a form of escapism, and even “reality” shows are spruced up and made over in hopes for better ratings.

Nobody wants their TV and movie stars to be ugly, but isn’t it nice to know the average-looking guy gets the girl every now and then? And isn’t it refreshing to see a less-than-perfect girl win the man of her dreams? Ah, if life were only more like Hollywood.

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