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Minding the Media: 5 Things Jessica Simpson’s Curvy Controversy Reveals

In the past two weeks, everyone’s been talking about Jessica Simpson, whether it’s the news media, blogs, celeb weeklies or entertainment TV shows. Even other stars are sounding off. They’ve praised Simpson’s physical appearance, while some in the media have expressed shock, awe and disgust.

But what does this uproar over weight really tell us?

  1. Weight always incites an investigative witch hunt. Whether it’s excruciatingly emaciated stars or frighteningly “fat” celebs, the discussion of weight is always top priority for the entertainment media. In fact, such colossal concerns make it on a magazine cover over the president of the United States of America. Talk about priorities.

    Once a famous person’s weight gain is broadcast to the world, it’s time to figure out how and why said celebrity has packed on the pounds. So “reporters” scramble, with all their investigative might, to discover how on earth this could’ve happened. How could Simpson deviate from Hollywood’s slim standards?

    Some blame it on Simpson’s unflattering outfit for accentuating the negative; others report that junk food and alcohol are culprits (even listing what Simpson ordered from hotel room service and providing the calories); still others point the finger at boyfriend troubles (see here).

  2. Whether you’re fat or thin, you still can’t win. A celeb typically is considered overweight or too skinny—sometimes in the same week. It re-emphasizes what some parts of the media truly are: arbitrary, nonsensical outlets that promote something as “news,” no matter how demeaning or ridiculous. Fast-forward several months, and the media might be skewering Simpson for getting too thin or praising her for becoming the poster child for healthy weight loss.
  3. We’ve clearly run out of things to say. Simpson’s weight gain has been splashed all over the news, magazines and TV. Don’t we have better things to talk about? I won’t even mention normal newsworthy topics — like the ballooning stimulus package — because it’s nice to have a temporary escape from tough times. Fortunately, the entertainment world never disappoints. If only we could find a happy medium—something more frivolous than the news and less ludicrous (and cruel) than someone’s weight.
  4. Simpson’s coverage mirrors our lives. Call her a regular woman (one you’d love to look like) or an outright fatty—either way, Simpson is a symbol of what happens to women when they veer slightly from society’s view of attractiveness.

    What’s truly revealing about the continuing coverage of Simpson’s curves is that Hollywood isn’t some microcosm or weird world with unrealistic pressures; it mirrors our society and our everyday lives. This scrutiny is a common occurrence that touches every woman at some point in her life. How often have we beaten ourselves up for gaining weight or not living up to a certain standard? How often have we gossiped about a colleague who’s gained several pounds, reveled in the idea that someone we don’t like has put on a few or wondered why a family member has let herself go (Entertainment Tonight used that question for its top story, asking if Simpson had “let herself go”)?

    Yes, this coverage is atrocious and hurtful, and we can criticize it (and we should!). But what’s really hurtful is that it’s devastatingly similar to our own lives and how we treat ourselves and others.

  5. There’s another annoying double standard. When was the last time a man’s weight gain made the media rounds? Has anyone ever delved into why a male celebrity suddenly gained weight? Unfortunately, we’re all too accustomed to women’s bodies being placed under a microscope and either commended or condemned. It’s funny how that works, and it’s every bit as irritating.

In Other News

Jessica Alba’s Post-Baby Weight-Loss Secrets

So, what’s Jessica Alba’s swift and simple slim-down secret? Intense exercise and tears. In this month’s Elle, Alba talks about her experiences preparing for the Campari photo shoot (which was airbrushed anyway): “[The workouts] were horrible. I cried. And I haven’t worked out since…I’m not completely back to where I was. It’s not the same, but it’s not that serious. I’d rather spend an evening with my baby and give her a bath and read her stories and watch her roll around than go work out in a gym.”

The Photoshop Follies: Vogue’s Drastic Photo Measures

In the magazine industry, we’ve learned that what you see is never what you get. Case in point: Vogue combined actress Sienna Miller’s head with a different photo of her body:

Vogue Cover, Sept 2008

Another Star Who Doesn’t Look Like Herself

Bazaar, Sarah Jessica Parker

Can anyone guess this famous actress?

Surprisingly, it’s Sarah Jessica Parker. But, truth be told, every time I look at the cover, I see a different star! Thanks to the magic of Photoshop, everything that’s particularly charming and interesting about SJP’s beauty has been erased. Instead, she resembles a composite of various 30-year-old celebs (and a few Stepford wives thrown in for good measure). Why even ask a star to pose on the cover when you’re going to eliminate the very features that make her distinguishable?

Minding the Media: 5 Things Jessica Simpson’s Curvy Controversy Reveals

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Minding the Media: 5 Things Jessica Simpson’s Curvy Controversy Reveals. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 10 Feb 2009)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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