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'Hunger Games': Star's 'baby fat' shouldn't eclipse the film's message

March 28, 2012|By Alexandra Le Tellier
  • Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games." She is shown with Liam Hemsworth who portrays Gale Hawthorne.
Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games."… (Murray Close / Lionsgate,…)

Never mind that "The Hunger Games"embraces a strong, courageous and capable heroine navigating a sick and twisted world where those in power benefit from the people suffering below them. The lamentable chatter dominating the conversation around the film of late has zeroed in on star Jennifer Lawrence’s body: that, ahem, she didn’t look hungry enough for the starring role. If Lawrence didn’t have a complex before, this may well push her over the edge.

New York Magazine has a roundup of the worst offenders. One critic says the problem is Lawrence's "baby fat," while another laments her "womanly figure." In response, Slate’s L.V. Anderson wrote:

"Let us count the ways this line of reasoning is ridiculous. First, Jennifer Lawrence is a thin young woman. Her body type may differ ever so slightly from the Hollywood norm -- her thighs appear functional rather than merely decorative -- but she's still leaner than the vast majority of the American population. The hullabaloo over Lawrence's figure reminds me of the rash of articles a few years back that could not get over the curviness of Scarlett Johansson (another thin actress). The fact that a woman’s shape deviates slightly from the stick-thin figures that populate the silver screen does not make her 'big.' "

The sexist commentary along with the racist barbs made by so-called fans are as stomach-churning as the film's cultural commentary, which, in part, shines a light on the court of public opinion and its sometimes destructive power to determine someone else's fate. In an effort to steer the conversation back on track, here are a few smart takes:

On Tuesday’s "The Dylan Ratigan Show," Democratic strategist David Goodfriend drew a comparison between the film and today's fight over President Obama's healthcare law.

"Now, look more closely, and you'll see a commentary on our own country. The people in the movie's Capitol district are wealthy, pampered, living the life of luxury. The people in the outlying districts, who must send their children to die, are poor, starving, destitute, living in primitive conditions. It's the 99%! And the 1%! […] Should the destitute and the poor in our country -- like the ones in Suzanne Collins' mythical dystopia -- suffer and die because they cannot afford health insurance? Or should we as a nation act to ensure everyone has affordable healthcare and therefore longer, healthier lives? Should we tolerate a country in which children die because the people in power perpetuate a system that excludes them?"

Commenting on "The Hunger Games" and the recently announced film adaptation of "1984," ThinkProgress' Alyssa Rosenberg writes:

"It's a good thing we'll get two big-screen adaptations that take on the full and persistent impact of torture. We need to feel a visceral disgust for the tactics our government employed on our behalf, rather than to see them as proof of some sort of ludicrous manly resolve. But it's one thing to see torture as [repellent], and another to accept that our government did it, and we need to accept responsibility for that and move forcefully to make sure it never happens again. That's a harder thing to accomplish in a narrative, particularly one displaced from our own place and time. It would require a character we've come to know and love to commit torture, and for him or her to make amends in a sustained way. Homeland's Carrie Mathison may not exactly be up to the task, especially now that she doesn't have access to the CIA's resources. But I wonder if she's paved the way for a character who could take us on that journey, on television where it could happen over more time and with greater depth and clarity than in a two-hour movie?"

Kent Jones of the Maddow Blog posts:

"Teenagers -- adapt or die. The Man is only interested in your stamina and your animal ruthlessness plus, he has fixed the game against you. Young people are literally expendable. (If you wish to draw parallels to the current job market, I won't stop you.) The lesson is clear: If you hope to make it Out There in the metaphorical woods, the Old Ways and the Old Values will be the most useful. (Conservatives should like that part.) Not one character survives because of their texting or video gaming skills."

Times readers have also weighed in our Letters to the Editor. A letter submitted by Lloyd Forrester of Simi Valley especially resonates:

"It's great to see kids reading thought-provoking books. And it's encouraging that Hollywood is promoting a strong female role model for young women. But the latest blockbuster is frighteningly reminiscent of America in the late '60s.

Teenagers, too young to vote, were subjected to a government lottery. Those chosen were taken from their parents' homes and forced to become unwilling combatants. In a jungle, abandoned and underequipped, they had to fend for themselves in a fight to the death.

The only thing missing from this current movie is Walter Cronkite narrating the day's events on the evening news.

Call ‘Hunger Games’ entertainment if you must. But don't call it fiction."

ALSO:

'Bully' deserved better

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Cal State's fat cats profit while students suffer

Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter

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