Jennifer Lawrence too fat to play Katniss? Really?

The other weekend I happily plunked myself down in the near-front row of a packed theater to watch The Hunger Games. The movie was fine. Good. Maybe even great. But I was captivated by Jennifer Lawrence. What a strong actor – strong in every sense of the word. She commanded her body, the screen, the character with confidence. If I were a tribute, I’d find some way to form an alliance with her – maybe even pull a Peeta and fall in love with her.

I left the theater feeling so proud of Lawrence and so grateful to her as a role model. Finally Hollywood decided to put a “normal sized” girl on the screen in a role that didn’t involve her being saved – but her actually doing the saving. I guarantee you that her leading presence in that film validated thousands if not millions of girls around the world. Whether we like it or not, we want stars to be just like us – and even more, for us to be just like stars. Seeing a woman with a real person’s body on screen was such a relief!

It also doesn’t hurt that Lawrence has been so vocal about her distaste for her industry’s obsession with skinny. I love hearing her matter-of-factly state that she doesn’t diet. Seemingly, issues of weight and calories are beneath her. As they should be (and I hope they really are). She’s focused on better, more important things – like actually being able to act.

Yet, much to my disappointment (though not surprise) the media has attacked Lawrence, not for her performance (which critics largely agree was excellent), but for her body. Check out The New York Times, Hollywood Reporter, Hollywood Elsewhere, to whet your palate. “Big boned,” “her seductive, womanly figure makes a bad fit,” “didn’t look hungry enough,” “lingering baby fat” – yep, they’re all in there. What makes this all even worse is that her actual ability to act is completely disregarded. The focus is on her physique.

I want to cry. What the crap, people!?

Female bloggers and journalists have come to her defense, such as these pieces from Slate and Salon. But it just deeply concerns me that the world cannot move past this – or maybe it’s a few voices that are louder than the rest. We had the “one sugar plum too many” ballerina debacle, we just watched singer Demi Lovato’s brave documentary of her career-stopping struggle with eating disorders, and there are countless other women who have been pressured to shrink in the spotlight (not to mention the millions of others outside the spotlight).

I can’t help but feel that the media is taking the legs out from under every strong woman out there. And in doing so, is setting the example/sustaining the language of weight abuse. So much attention is being paid to the bullying documentary, which I have yet to see. But this treatment is nothing short of bullying – in public.

I sincerely hope that Lawrence is able to continue to stand up against the critics — to maintain ownership of her body. How she feeds herself after all this will make a huge difference to millions. We need role models. Girls and women who are confident, strong and unapologetic about their bodies, no matter what the size.

Now that’s a role I’d love to see Lawrence volunteer for with the spirit of Katniss. There are so many Prims out there needing to be saved.

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