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Were critics sexist about The Hunger Games?

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In the past few years, “curvy actresses” (actresses who don’t fit the size two norm of Hollywood) have gained positive attention with the media.  Unfortunately, this attention hasn’t come without their bodies being picked apart.  For every article that has celebrated the voluptuous figures of Scarlett Johanssen and Sophia Vergara, there are two more questioning whether or not these women are truly healthy or if they’re good examples for our children (we always have to think of the children for some reason).  With the recent success of the movie “The Hunger Games,” Jennifer Lawrence is the latest celebrity to have her body picked apart.  Some say that she was too “big” to play the impoverished Katniss Everdeen.

“The Hunger Games” follows Katniss on her quest to win an annual barbaric battle that requires 24 children to fight to the death until only one remains.  The children in the movie struggle to find food, and apparently Lawrence’s “big” body discredits her portrayal of the feisty 16-year-old. New York Times writer Manohla Dargis says of Lawrence:

“A few years ago Ms. Lawrence might have looked hungry enough to play Katniss, but now, at 21, her seductive, womanly figure makes a bad fit for a dystopian fantasy about a people starved into submission.”

Not only that, but another critic thought Lawrence and co-star Josh Hutcherson, who plays one of her love interests Peeta Mellark, are an odd pair because the female is larger than the male, and we all know women prefer taller boyfriends with no exceptions:

“Lawrence seems too big for Hutcherson. She’s a fairly tall, big-boned lady (I’ve been in a hotel room with her) who’s maybe 5′ 8″, and he seems to be something like 5’7′. Male romantic figures have to be at least be as tall as their female partners, and we all know most girls like guys to be at least a little bit taller, so Lawrence and Hutcherson don’t seem like a good fit. It almost looks like she has to bend over a bit to give him a hug. (Hemsworth, a six-footer or thereabouts, has no problem on this score.)”

In a story as complex as “The Hunger Games,” which sends a clear message about how far we can fall if societal regression becomes unmanageable, I’m not going to be concentrating on how far Katniss has to bend over to hug Peeta.  If it was a problem in the movie, why is it Lawrence being called out for being too tall instead of the male actor being called out as too short?   And the comments on her weight?  I’m not going to call Jennifer Lawrence “curvy”.  She’s a beautiful, fit, young woman and while she may differ ever so slightly from the Hollywood norm, she’s still thinner than the majority of Americans.  To respond to the critic’s complaint that she wasn’t thin enough to play Katniss, well, because of genetics, not everyone on a low-calorie diet is skinny. Just as eating a diet high in calories does not automatically make everyone fat.  If the critics were fair in their criticism, they would also question why the men were able to achieve muscular physiques without availability to proper nutrition.

The author of The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins, has been quoted as saying that she was thrilled Jennifer Lawrence was given the role as she was the only actress who “truly captured” the character she wrote in the book.  Part of seeing a movie is suspending your disbelief for a small period of time (I mean, this is a movie about children killing other children – not exactly something that’s believable).  It screams of sexism when critics refuse to believe that a woman’s body is anything less than perfect.

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Melissa Howard
By: Melissa Howard

Melissa Howard is an aspiring health writer living and working in Boston, MA. Her approach to fitness is to focus on being healthy, not on losing weight or trying to live up to unreachable standards set by magazines or Hollywood. Her favorite ways to stay fit include walking, yoga and pilates. When she's not walking around the city of Boston, she can be found cheering on her favorite Boston sports teams and trying to teach herself to cook.