Before The Hunger Games came out, we as fandom lived in a bubble. Most issues with the look of the cast were pretty much ironed out many months prior within the fandom. So when the bubble burst, and The Hunger Games was presented to the world, these issues came back like a slap in the face. Them There Eyes has already discussed the race issue, but we also have another: Jennifer’s weight.
I sincerely feel uncomfortable just writing those two words together because who am I to be talking about her and something so not my business as that? But apparently many “professionals” don’t have that problem.
Several movie critics (both male and female, mind you) have criticized Jennifer for “not-looking hungry enough”, for having “seductive curves” or for being “big-boned”.
Let’s step back for a second and look at The Hunger Games, the book.
“I stand straight, and while I’m thin, I’m strong. The meat and plants from the woods combined with the exertion it took to get them have given me a healthier body than most of those I see around me.” – The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins, p. 94
While Katniss is from an impoverished and food-scarce place, she herself eats better than most, bringing home fresh game daily. That’s a lot of protein. And combined with hiking in the woods (cardio and lower body strength) and shooting off arrows (arm strength), also everyday, one would expect Katniss to be at least fairly toned, not emaciated.
Yes, some actors have been known to lose an extreme amount of weight for artistic purposes (Christian Bale in The Machinist comes to mind). But aside from the damage such an extreme does to a person’s health, the kind of weight loss some people seem to think Jennifer should have gone through to play Katniss is incredibly inapproriate for the role.
Never mind that Katniss shouldn’t be emaciated to begin with. Jennifer Lawrence is leading a young adult franchise. This particular young adult franchise has the distinction of being driven by a female protagonist that is atypical of what Hollywood has produced in the past. Katniss Everdeen is a strong female character who, for some, feels more real than the female protagonists that have come before her and has given many young women a hero and role model to look up to, flaws and all. There is a certain responsibility that comes along with this, and Jennifer has taken it on gracefully. What kind of message would it have sent to young girls all over the world if their Katniss Everdeen looked anything short of healthy*?
Yes, it does look like Jennifer had lost some weight and toned up to play Katniss. Understandable, considering she had undergone a lot of training to be fit enough to play Katniss. Also lots of running in the woods during shooting. But this is also an environment where teenagers have watched their Disney stars develop eating disorders. Demi Lovato has been incredibly outspoken about what she had gone through, even slamming Disney only a few months ago for having a callous joke about eating disorders on a TV show for young people. Maybe you should think again when you focus your movie criticism on an actor’s body and not their acting ability. Has our idea of what is thin been so distorted that this is what movie critics are harping on about? It is just another message to kids that looks and weight will trump talent every time if you’re a woman.
And I have no idea how a woman is supposed to reverse going through puberty and giving biology back her curves, which I guess are “seductive” from merely standing there since there isn’t anything about Katniss that is seductive. Who knew that’s all you had to do to be seductive? All I can think of is my poor friend from middle school and other young women like she was who were self-conscious about getting her curves at age 12. Apparently having gone through puberty by 16, the age Katniss is supposed to be, is unheard of and unrealistic. If you want actresses who don’t look like they’re supposed to be 16, just turn on the CW.
It feels so ridiculous to me to even feel the need to defend Jennifer’s body (haha Jennifer’s Body). The first time I ever saw Jennifer Lawrence, during the red carpet of the 2011 Oscars in that infamous red dress, I hadn’t known a thing about who she was except for one thing: she was gorgeous. This is a post I never thought I’d have to write.
The silver lining of this is that the backlash from fans regarding these criticisms has come in full force. We as a fandom have come out and made our voices heard that talking about Jennifer in this way is NOT OKAY.
And I won’t even go into the irony of the media’s obsession with Jennifer Lawrence’s body and the criticism of vanity in The Hunger Games, because that’s just too easy. Y’all are just proving Suzanne Collins right. Jennifer has always been outspoken about her attitude toward food: she loves it, you can’t take it away from her, don’t even try.
Now I have that Hole song stuck in my head
*Many people with fast metabolisms can be naturally underweight and very thin and still be healthy and beautiful, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.