Boo Howard Stern: Barbies, Preciouses, and Beauty Standards – Part II

I’ve got a problem with Howard Stern.  I realize that this puts me on a list that could stretch from here to Hades and back.  However, I truly believe he  is a boil on butt of humanity and should be sent to a nameless, desolate planet with Robin Quivers, as his only companion from now until eternity.  No I take that back. Glenn Beck, Pat Robertson, Nancy Grace, and Rush Limbaugh can accompany them, as well. 

Today, features an article by Breeana Hare entitled Can talent outweigh size in Hollywood? The article examines the debate surrounding Precious star,  Academy Award Nominated Actres, Gabourey  Sidibe.  Many media critics and talking windbags—à la Stern—have suggested that  Sidibe’s weight will limit her future opportunities in Hollywood.   The article was written largely in response to the following hateful, visceral tirade, spewed by Stern:

“There’s the most enormous, fat black chick I’ve ever seen. She is enormous. Everyone’s pretending she’s a part of show business and she’s never going to be in another movie,” he said. “She should have gotten the Best Actress award because she’s never going to have another shot. What movie is she gonna be in?”

I’m not sure it is useful to try to analyze or deconstruct hate. So we will just let his words illustrate his ignorance and bigotry.  However, you have to wonder if this man has mirrors? I’m just saying. 

The premise of this article asks is a logical fallacy because it first suggests that  Sidibe is the only plus-sized woman to ever grace the silver screen, ignoring among others Cathy Bates, Queen Latifah, Oprah, Nikki Blonsky, Mo’Nique, and Rosie O’Donnell.  While the list is limited, I think we can suggest that there have been large women who work in Hollywood.  Therefore, we know that despite often times being EXTREMELY more talented that their svelter peers, the roles for plus-size actresses undeniably less plentiful (see Jennifer Aniston).  Fat actresses do not get an abundance of opportunities and are often pressured to lose weight.  Kate Winslet, Janeane Garofalo, and Minnie Driver have all at various time been criticized for their weight.  However, they are normal sized women, if not significantly thinner.  It’s like the bigwigs in Hollywood think bobble head is the new sexy. I don’t get it.

Second, it’s not just that Sidibe is fat that’s got folks spewing nasty comments on Twitter and questioning her future prospects. It’s that she is fat and black. I do not use the term to refer to her race or ethnic heritage, but to her complexion.  Black can be and has been used as a pejorative in describing Sidibe’s physicality.  Sidibe is the color of ebony wood.  In my opinion, her skin tone is beautiful.  However, her physical appearance directly contrasts western standards of beauty that are most often defined by alabaster skin, blue eyes, flaxen hair—and yes—cinched waste.   IE: Barbie.  Several actresses have critiqued and subverted this standard, based on their talent.   I’m hope Sidibe will be the next.

I think most would agree, as things stands today, Sidibe would not likely star in as the lead romantic comedy.  However, I am confused to why Hollywood does not take her nomination and excellent performance, as an opportunity to do some introspection. REMEMBER:  Sidibe is not Precious.  Until staring in the film, she was pursuing a psychology degree at Mercy College in New York.  I’ve watched interviewers looked surprised at how eloquent and well-spoken she is.  It is as if they are shocked she did not show up to the Oscars with a box of chicken?   SHE IS AN ACTRESS and a DAMN good one. 

 Perhaps if directors look beyond the celluloid, mass-produced, American sweetheart types, they might see the benefits of utilizing more diverse talent.  Diversity in Hollywood could lead to a better overall product and new stories outside of the margins of what they have given us lately.  Avatar wasn’t nothing but Dances with Wolves with blue people.  However, it all comes down to economics.  Will audiences respond to movie stars outside the aesthetic norms of Hollywood? 

Speaking of blue people, it is interesting that Essence Magazine features Zoe Saldana as there cover model this month.  No hate for Ms. Saldana, but I think a double cover with Sidibe and frequent cover girl Mo’Nique would have more accurately seized the zeitgeist.  Funny, Saldana isn’t hurting for roles?  No one is questioning her options?  Can she even act?  I’m undecided. Frankly, I always mix her up with Joy Bryant. 

Sidibe has finished shooting her next film, Yelling to the Sky, with director Victoria Mahoney and starring another starlette named Zoe—Zoe Kravitz.  Gabrielle Union, Vivica Fox, and Nia Long—among others—and countless other beautiful black actresses has faced the challenge of finding challenging material in Hollywood.  So, often these actresses are limited to the homegirl roles or the sexy vixen; they are only the lead in the rare Black comedy/drama or a Tyler Perry film. 

So, with the added challenge of being way outside Hollywood’s conception of what is beautiful, can Sidibe’s career last?  Can it flourish?  Will Hollywood rise to the occasion and start presenting more diverse faces and body types? 



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