bodies of work

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At The A.V. Club, I take part in an AVQ&A spurred by Amy Schumer’s call-out of Glamour for including her in their special plus-sized edition’s list of “women who inspire us.”

On Twitter, I mentioned: On reflection, I wish I’d thought to mention (and celebrate) women whose physical type is neither the Hollywood norm nor “plus-sized.” Women like Leslie Jones, whose sexuality is often treated as a punchline, but who OWNS that stage when she’s on it. Women like Gwendoline Christie, who is commonly cast in fantasy roles, as if she can’t fit into reality.

Because the narrow range of bodies TV & films feature isn’t just about slenderness; it’s being tall but not “too” tall, strong but not “too” strong, being muscular and slim, but not “too” muscular or “too” slim. It’s about being effortlessly able-bodied, but not “too” able. It’s an unstated, ever-present ideal that has come to represent “normal” in entertainment, an ideal impossible for most women.

And it’s about demeanor as well as appearance. It’s about being sexually appealing, but never “too” sexual, which is cast as rapacious or predatory or pathetic. It’s about fitting into an impossibly narrow margin of arbitrarily designated desirability, one that’s so narrowly defined in TV & film that casting someone who’s just a few inches outside those margins seems strikingly exotic.

 

In recent years, I’ve identified heavily with Lauren Ash’s characters: strapping, vigorous, powerful women, whose strength & sexuality are punchlines. In Super Fun Night and in Superstore, she reads as BIG and STRONG, so I was jolted to realize she’s inches (and presumably several sizes) smaller than I am. Even her characteristic presentation as larger-than-life (and my easy confusion about her actual size) shows what a narrow range TV accepts as normative, and how easy it is to convey otherness by casting a few inches outside it.

(I started to add these follow-up remarks to the article’s comments over at The A.V. Club, then I realized no one could pay or persuade me to wade into the comments of an article where I described myself as plus-sized. AND YOU CAN’T MAKE MEEEEEEEEEEEE.)

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