The need to stay slim in Hollywood has long been an issue for actresses, but for some reason, male celebs are allowed to to pack on the pounds and still retain their leading man status.

"Hollywood's pool of leading men is getting larger," Cieply writes, "and not necessarily in a good way." He points to stars like Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington, and even Hugh Grant, whose dimples "pop out where they used to pop in." It's worth noting that all of these men are in their late 40's-early 50's: as these men age, Cieply admits, their bodies give "glimpses of what age, and perhaps a little inattention, can do to a most admired physique."

Yet even as these older starts put on the pounds, they continue to get work, due to their high profiles, instant name recognition, and ability to draw an audience. Unsurprisingly, female celebrities aren't awarded the same leeway when it comes to weight gain. "Hollywood's women may have weight issues of their own. But it is somehow less noticeable, possibly because actresses who expand do not often get roles to showcase that growth," Cieply writes.

The double-standard may lie in the fact that while Hollywood consistently pumps out starlets to assume the stereotypical roles of sex kitten, ingenue, and America's sweetheart, the same attention is not given to finding bankable male stars, which allows A-list men to enjoy longer careers, as the focus is shifted to their acting, not their looks. Yes, Denzel and Russell have both made splashes as sex symbols over the past 15 years or so, but the Hollywood machine is built in a way to allow men to age somewhat naturally, leaving the "sexiest man alive" titles behind in favor of "Academy Award winner" or "celebrated actor." By contrast, women who gain or lose weight in Hollywood are often bombarded with questions regarding their health, habits, or potential eating disorders. Nobody seems to give 40+ actresses any realistic way to follow their body's natural patterns.

The double-standard also works for men who actually DO lose the weight: Seth Rogen's recent weight loss for his upcoming film, "The Green Hornet," sparked a small controversy regarding the actor's methods to drop the pounds so quickly. Rogen dismissed the rumors and noted that his weight loss was due to "The lamest answer ever—I exercised and I dieted. II personally do not care how I look or physically feel." An actress who dropped the amount of weight Rogen dropped, on the other hand, would be subjected to "OMG ANOREXIA!" headlines, and her body would continue to be scrutinized (as would her methods of weight loss) after releasing a statement similar to Rogen's. For men, it's easier to say, "Oh, I lost this weight for this role. Doesn't it suck? I'll put it back on soon." For women, losing or gaining weight becomes a career-overshadowing event: her worth is connected solely to her looks.

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As our current crop of aging A-list celebrities moves through their 40's, 50's, and 60's, it will be interesting to see which celebs maintain a career built on solid roles, and which celebrities fade away due to increasing pressure to remain slim, young-looking, and beautiful. One suspects that the men will surely have an easier time, as Hollywood seems to expect actresses to adapt to the system, but is willing to tweak the system for their male peers.

What's The Skinny On The Heftier Stars? [NYTimes]
Seth Rogen Explains Drastic Weight Loss [USWeekly]