body image

Jennifer Lawrence: Body Image Role Model for Girls and Young Women

catching-fire-jennifer-lawrence-05I’ve thought highly of Jennifer Lawrence ever since I saw her in the film Winter’s Bone. But lately, with her popularity as Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games film series and the exposure she’s received since winning the Oscar for her performance in Sliver Linings Playbook, I’ve become a serious fan.

The thing I love most about her is her conscious, explicit, and vocal rejection of the body ideal of thinness so prevalent in Hollywood.  In a wonderful interview with the BBC, Lawrence said that she faced some pressure to lose weight for her role in the Hunger Games because, after all, her character is supposed to be from a district where people are actually going hungry.

Lawrence says in the interview that in the face of that pressure, she told filmmakers that they had an opportunity to control the image that young girls and young women were going to see.  Girls see enough of the unattainable body, subjecting them to unrealistic expectations. Since Katniss would be their hero, says Lawrence, they (she and the filmmakers) should use the film as an opportunity to rid ourselves of the uber-thin body as ideal.

Instead, she prefers a stronger, healthier look because, face it, “Kate Moss running at you with a bow and arrow just wouldn’t be scary.”

And while she is articulate and serious in this BBC interview, according to another report from earlier this fall, she takes a hard line these days if it’s suggested (as it was earlier in her career) that she ought to lose some weight:

“If anybody even tries to whisper the word ‘diet, I’m like, ‘You can go f**k yourself,” she said.

It’s a great attitude and it’s amazing that Jennifer Lawrence has taken her fame and her influence on girls and young women seriously.  With two more films to go (they’ve divided the third installment of the trilogy into two parts), she’s got plenty of opportunities to keep working on the culture shift. As a role model for girls and young women with tremendous reach, Lawrence’s tough stance against the tyranny of thinness in Hollywood may just be a game-changer.

Here’s more of the BBC interview:

[photo credit: FameFlynet Pictures]

9 thoughts on “Jennifer Lawrence: Body Image Role Model for Girls and Young Women

  1. Also love the fact that she is full dressed, yes it’s skintight but that’s practical. No Lara Croft-esque cleavage.

    1. Yes, that’s a great point. I think for that audience she would have refused to do the Lara Croft thing. She talks about that in the interview and emphasizes that it’s audience-specific and she takes seriously the messaging to young women.

  2. Excellent post. I’d also like to applaud the BBC interviewer, who asked questions from a feminist perspective and listened respectfully to Lawrence’s articulate and thoughtful answers. This kind of discourse is rare in popular media.

  3. Too bad the Hunger Games movies suck. Definitely up there with the Twilight series for stupid awards. That said, maybe they’re made to appeal to teenagers, to whom perhaps they might possibly have something to say – wouldn’t know. She was great in Silver Linings and X-Men though – and in both of which strangely the theme of self-acceptance was prevalent.

    1. I love the films so far. I totally avoided the first one until there was nothing left to see last year, so I set a low bar of expectation and was pleasantly surprised. Then I read the books–the first YA series I’ve ever finished since becoming a grown up (I think the last series I read in the children’s YA category was the Little House on the Prairies series). And I know that if I was a young teen again I’d want to be Katniss Everdeen.

      1. Just don’t know how to respond. Like if someone says they loved the Twilight movies, I just don’t really know what to say. But I do agree completely about everything you say about Jennifer Lawrence. She’s cool.

    2. I also loved her performance as Mystique! I felt like, besides just being awesome in its own right, she also made it really easy to see how she could grow up to be the character played by Rebecca Romijn in the earlier X-Men movies. It’s like her character was a more raw, less guarded version of Romijn’s.

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