I have been wanting to see the movie Brothers, so I finally went and saw it the other night! It's a powerful movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman and Tobey Maguire that examines the effects (mostly psychological) of war on one's family and its impact on familial relationships. Because this is not Rotten Tomatoes, the movie review website :), I will refrain from giving you a play by play on the movie - but if you are interested, follow this link to read some reviews. The reason I bring up this movie is not because I just want to talk about the movie... Rather, I had an interesting observation as I watched it that got me thinking more about the way that men and women are portrayed in the media, specifically as it relates to body image.
In this movie, Toby Maguire plays a Marine who is held as a prisoner of war. He is tortured and starved. For the role, he had to lose a considerable amount of weight. I noticed that he looked significantly underweight throughout the movie, and my friend who I was with noticed this too. Well, when I got home, I wanted to read some reviews about the movie because 1) i'm kind of a nerd, but 2) it had a pretty powerful message and I was curious how other people had interpreted its meaning. In the process, I came across some interviews done by Maguire where he discussed how he was required to lose a substantial amount of weight for the role. He mentioned that he only had a couple of weeks to drop the weight, and while he did consult a nutritionist one time before he began his weight loss, he admitted that he used very unhealthy means to reach his goal.
I guess what struck me about this is the fact that a majority of Hollywood actresses are significantly underweight all the time, and for the most part, the media views this as 'normal.' While magazines may write stories about which actress used which diet to lose weight fast, you typically hear stories about women being praised for losing drastic amounts of weight, even if it is unhealthy. I think what this illustration demonstrates is that when a woman is underweight, it is not really newsworthy because it is sort of an expectation as the ideal standard of beauty, whereas when a man loses too much weight, it is recognized as unhealthy-- it is assumed that he will return to his normal, healthy weight once the filming for his movie has reached completion. Why is it that we can recognize unhealthy weight and disordered behaviors in men and fail to do so with women? Being silent communicates acceptance, so when an actress is too thin, is cast in movies and people rave about her beauty, it sends a message that she is beautiful and okay. This message is a dangerous one.
I guess the culmination of my thoughts on Tobey Maguire amounted to more confirmation of my desire to increase awareness of the ways in which the media can be confusing and tricky with their double standards and messages. I think it is important to be aware of these mixed messages so as to avoid buying into the values and deceptions in them. I have mentioned the organization About-Face before in another post (click here to read it). It's main goal is to promote health by helping women to resist damaging messages from the media about their bodies and self-esteem. I recommend checking it out! To access their website, follow this link. In the mean time, be discerning as you interact with culture and media, and do not be afraid to be critical about what you see and observe...