Yael Kohen is the author of We Killed, a recent oral history of the double standards leveled on female comics. Kohen has an interesting piece on The Cut today about the fascination/accolades for celebrities who drastically change their bodies for a role—and how it is particularly significant in the case of A-list actresses (e.g. Charlize Theron, Natalie Portman, Hilary Swank, Nicole Kidman and her prosthetic nose, and so on).
In an interview with USA Today in 2004, Renee Zellweger, who put on 30 pounds to play chubby Brit Bridget Jones, complained: “What’s interesting is why the fixation… It’s such an infinitesimal part of the characterization. I mean, who cares?” She went on to ask whether men had to suffer under the same scrutiny. And although there has been quite a bit of discussion about the way men manipulate their bodies (remember Christian Bale in The Machinist?), it never feels quite as loaded. That’s especially true when an already-skinny actress like [Anne] Hathaway or [Natalie] Portman drops more than twenty pounds for a role. Aren’t they already thin enough? Also when we tell a plumper Zellweger that she looks better than ever.
While Kohen explains that the phenomenon began with Robert DeNiro’s 60-pound weight gain for Raging Bull, she fails to acknowledge the obsessive media chronicling of Matthew McConaughey’s drastic weight loss to play an AIDS patient in the upcoming Dallas Buyers Club, which may imply that the trend has more to do with the increasing celebrity-watching voyeurism than it does with a female-centric issue.
However, the obvious relevance is Hathaway’s starvation to prepare for her Les Mis role as Fantine and her subsequent Oscar nod.
‘Why Extra-Skinny (Or Fat) Actresses Win Oscars’ [The Cut/NY Mag]