We often hear about actresses urged to get skinny for a role — Anne Hathaway's crash diet for Les Misérables and Beyoncé's "cleanse" for Dreamgirls spring to mind — but rarely are we made aware of male actors subject to the same pressure. However. Last night on The Late Show, Jason Segel revealed that "the studio president" — that would be Ron Meyer, head of Universal — forced him to lose weight for The Five-Year Engagement. "I was told that it had to be conceivable that Emily Blunt would ever choose me to be her husband," he told David Letterman. Apparently, a non-svelte man is unworthy of a slender woman's love. Not that shocking, since Hollywood also believes a leading lady should be As Thin As Possible.
But seriously, beyond the fact that Jason Segel is Jason Segel — adorable, funny, charming, smart, absolutely lovable — the idea that a thicker man is undesirable is absurd. Our society insists on equating physical attributes with personality traits. Being skinny doesn't make you a good person; being fat doesn't make you a bad person. What does your weight have to do with how you treat others, your heart, your intelligence? A thin dude could be an intolerant bigot; a chubby dude a philanthropist. Or vice versa. But in this flick, in an attempt to enchant and entertain, Jason Segel plays a chef (!) who is 35lbs. thinner than the real jason Segel. He was forced to lose weight in order to play a man who works with food. A complete and total demonization of weight, fatphobia defined.
We'll have to assume that Jason Segel's weight was fine in the Universal flick Forgetting Sarah Marshall — you know, the one where he gets dumped. There's comedy in the single chubby guy: In our society, fat is funny. (Which is why, when Jason Segel was on the cover of Vanity Fair, the very idea of seeing him and the other far-from-skinny dudes naked was part of the joke.)
What's additionally upsetting about the situation is that it assumes that Emily Blunt's character is so shallow that 35 lbs. stand between loving her fiancé or not. (Perhaps not far from the truth, since in the trailer for the film, Blunt's character Violet insults Segel's character Tom by asking, "When's the last time you were on a treadmill?")
The heavy guy/slimmer gal dynamic is actually quite common in movies and TV — with guys like Kevin James, Jim Belushi, James Gandolfini, the dad on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Homer Simpson paired with thin ladies. Is it unrealistic? Unfair? A male fantasy? And what would happen if there were full-figured ladies "married" to ripped hunks? Wait, sorry, that would never happen. Because fat ladies don't get lead roles in films or sitcoms, and if they do, they're paired with an even heavier guy. (Just ask Melissa McCarthy and Roseanne.)
Here's another question: If the studio head was so worried about Violet and Tom being a great match, why didn't he force Emily Blunt to gain 35lbs.?