Minding the Media: Body Image in Popular Culture
Which celeb do you consider curvy?
A) Jessica Biel
B) Kim Raver
C) Anna Faris
D) Sophia Bush
E) All of the Above
F) None of the Above
If you answered “all of the above,” then you’re correct! All of these women in one magazine or another were called “curvy.”
Bazaar thinks Biel has a “curvy figure”; Glamour raves that Raver has “serious curves;” and according to InStyle Makeover, Faris has a “curvy bod,” notes Wendy Felton of Glossed Over. Health magazine also refers to Sophia Bush and her “healthy curves,” even after she discussed Hollywood’s skewed standards:
“But it’s weird: In our business, I’m a size 2 and considered curvy.”
Underneath the title “Sophia Bush loves her curves,” Health also writes:
“The star of One Tree Hill is proud to have a butt — and an incredibly toned body, which she gets from boxing, yoga…and a refreshingly unscrewed-up attitude toward food.”
If these uses of “curvy” are confusing you, you certainly aren’t the only one. It used to be that “curvy” meant a womanly, rounder body type. But its definition clearly has changed throughout the years.
For instance, gleaning the meaning from Health, it appears “curvy” has become synonymous with toned and thin. Those who are frail or rail-thin are simply considered svelte or skinny; anyone who looks healthy, yet still quite thin has curves. The same can be said for Biel, Raver and Faris, who are all very thin but look like they exercise.
Or, perhaps, healthy-looking (or workout buff) isn’t even a criterion. In the same post, Felton writes:
“It used to be the word was bestowed upon those lovely women who, nonetheless, were heavier than the Hollywood-lollipop standard. Now? The definition has loosened. It seems any celeb who hasn’t retained Rachel Zoe as her stylist could one day be worthy of the term.”
But it isn’t all skinny starlets who are considered “curvy.” In the same curvy category, you’ll find Gisele Bundchen and Jennifer Hudson, confusing us readers even further.
Magazines constantly toss out words like “fat” and “anorexic,” so perhaps it’s not that shocking that the original meanings are vanishing. As the image of “thin” shrinks (as a result of the ever-decreasing world of fashion and Hollywood), it seems only natural that other words and images would follow suit. The pattern goes like this: The women in magazines get thinner. Then our perception of “thin” gets even smaller. And, appropriately, the definition of “curvy” has no choice but to get smaller, too.
But should we even pay these migrating meanings any attention? Hollywood and the fashion industry always have had wacky notions of women’s ideal appearance, which often change capriciously.
Does the change in “curvy” harm our body image and view of ourselves? Everything from Hollywood — be it clothing trends, appearance, the newest “it” diet or exercise routine — eventually, without fail, trickles down to us. And this might have its own collection of consequences. Felton asks: “Is the pressure to be slim increased by expanding the definition of “curvy” to include slender women? Are women with different, heavier bodies being squeezed out by the broader definition of the term that once belonged to them? Does it even matter?”
It does and it has to. Though the ideal body shape and size have changed throughout the centuries and will undoubtedly alter again, these everyday words (curvy, fat, anorexic) carry significant weight. With these words, we try to navigate what is normal, what is desirable and, only naturally and unfortunately, we then judge ourselves.
In Other Headlines
- A Model’s Notorious Navel
Victoria’s Secret Model Karolina Kurkova has a disappearing belly button, reports The Daily Mail. One beauty insider dishes that they maintain a set of navels in different positions to airbrush on for bikini photos. I’m not sure what’s more disturbing: that there’s a set of foreign navels on hand to perfect the already beautiful Kurkova or that a belly button has made the news.
- More Anorexic Stars
Thanks to In Touch Weekly’s investigative reporting — a magazine that continues to act as watchdog, scouring the world of celebrity for unhealthy stars — we learn that various too-thin celebs refuse to admit they’re anorexic. How could they!
- Celebs & Cellulite
The Sun couldn’t possibly offer tips on preventing and reducing cellulite without parading a picture of Tara Reid and her “Christmas satsuma skin,” along with other photos of cellulite-suffering celebs. Is this supposed to make us feel better?
Tartakovsky, M. (2008). Minding the Media: Body Image in Popular Culture. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 28, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2008/11/22/minding-the-media-body-image-in-popular-culture/