Tag Archives: sexualization

The Cast of 90210 – Then vs. Now

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The original 1990s American teen TV soap, Aaron Spelling’s seminal hit Beverley Hills 90210 saw a prosperous 10 years on air. It was (successfully?) revived in 2008, touted as a “spinoff” and not a remake and is currently into its fifth season.  

Admittedly, I have never seen the newest extension, but I do remember the world of the Walshes: the climatic Dylan/Kelly/Brandon drama, Brenda absconding to London in a feeble attempt to write her off the show and loving the brainy and bow-bedecked Andrea Zuckerman for her academic commitment, feminist inclinations and writerly ambitions. The original show, although highly problematic in many areas, actually conveyed development in the main characters to some degree over its arc of ten seasons, that I appreciate in retrospect.

But, more importantly I recently came across a blog post that highlighted the differences in female body types from the early 90s cast to the latest and greatest of today. Even though there is a starring cast member of color and another character is dealing with questions of his sexual orientation (one of the topics the old series never touched; in truth it addressed social issues methodically – broadly and softly), the revival disproportionately focuses around straight white teens,

Check out the side-by-side cast comparison below and how the thin ideal has gotten smaller and more sexualized over the past decade.

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Don’t get me wrong – the female cast members were thin THEN, but it’s clearly evident that not only are the females thinner collectively in the current cast, they are also significantly more sexualized. This supports the idea that in recent years what women and girls are seeing reflected in popular culture among Hollywood starlets and celebrities is a body ideal that has gotten increasingly/excessively thinner and considerably less diverse. Even the men featured in the latest spinoff have displayed, chiseled bodies (in the beach scenes) versus the cast of yesteryear where Steve is the only one sans shirt.

Visually I also find it interesting that the 90s clan take photos where they are physically closer in many of the shots, their bodies are seemingly less on display for consumption.

Glamour’s Jennifer Lawrence is not what I’m “hunger”ing for

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My latest from About-face:

Cleavage-clad Jennifer Lawrence on Glamour cover is not what we’re “hunger”ing for

The cover of Glamour’s April issue features Jennifer Lawrence, the actress who portrays the Hunger Games‘ heroine Katniss Everdeen, in a bosom-bearing one piece outfit. In the book, Katniss is a symbol of strength, but this photo subdues that strength with a side dish of sexy.
Is it not enough to be a strong female, that we must sexualize Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen?

The upcoming movie adaptation of the first installment of the behemoth book trilogy, The Hunger Games, is set to open this week. While the Glamour piece is obviously showcasing the actress (not the character), the prop she’s holding (a bow) blurs the line.

The central plot of the novel involves a futuristic nation, Panem, where the government creates an annual, reality show-esque game involving two individuals under 18, randomly selected from each of the nation’s 12 districts, to complete in a fantastical death match where only one victor comes home alive.

I’m only on the second book, but I have yet to come across a description of an outfit resembling the one featured in this picture. Sure this feature is giving us Jennifer Lawrence and the article is about her, but, really, Glamour? We could see this in a men’s magazine, many of which notoriously disarm powerful women with some element of sexualization.

I was drawn to The Hunger Games because of the heroine. Katniss was resourceful, and lauded for her strength and skill, not for her beauty or body. There was little emphasis appearance. In fact, the book makes a point to say that thinness is equated with poverty, as many of the geographic sectors do not have easy access to food. Katniss hunts, using her archery acumen to provide for her family, until her little sister’s name is drawn during the annual “reaping.” Katniss offers herself up in her sister’s place.

The only references made to “beautifying” are related to the prep work she must undergo prior to her public appearances, where the aim is to make a splash in the memories of viewers. The author describes these beauty regimens as painful, not glamorous; a process of being scrubbed and plucked after which she is fitted into outrageous outfits conjured up by her innovative stylist, Cinna.

The prospect of a movie adaptation with a young, female protagonist (and a female producer too!) whose success came from determination and courage thrilled me. Here was a strong, positive paradigm for young women. However, photos like that on Glamour‘s cover are reductive, given the otherwise positive role.

 Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen: Embodying strength and skill.

The series falls into the Young Adult genre, so undoubtedly, millions of girls will be looking to emulate this actress. This shot is objectifying; when a young girl sees a photo like this, it reinforces the fusing of self-worth to appearance, a connection to a specific standard of beauty and attractiveness that is unconsciously strengthened through repetition. The pervasiveness of media messages and how many we are exposed to from birth makes this deeply disturbing. It contributes to the sexualizing of females and supports the normalizing of self-rejection.

There is also a clear double standard at work: It is not enough to simply be a strong female — you must also be sexy in a very specific way.

I guess I just didn’t expect such an obvious and gratuitous representation from the mag that touts itself as honoring beauty outside the box of one-size-fits-all. This photo brushes dangerously close to a Maxim-style cover. So, Glamour thinks it’s not okay for Katniss/Jennifer Lawrence (yes, I do realize they are not the same) to simply be bad-ass and not breast-bearing. Because not fetishizing or objectifying her might make her power too potent, right? Oh the horror! Not cool, Glamour; not cool at all.