thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Posts Tagged ‘body politics’

An Open Letter to Amber Riley

In body politics, Dancing With the Stars, gender on September 26, 2013 at 11:13 am

Dear Amber Riley,

I have loved you since the first episode of Glee. Your talent, your presence, and your charisma–and Mercedes’ compassion–have long made Mercedes one of my favorite characters on Glee. Then, I watched the opening episode of Dancing With the Stars, Season 17 and realized that you are more amazing that I even knew (and check out the Langston Hughes reference in the video. The best.).

Firstly, your dance. Hot. I aspire to move with that kind of agility, presence, and general panache. You looked like you have been dancing your whole life. You are, it turns out, a triple threat–even though Mercedes needed dance boot camp on Glee, you clearly do not.

Secondly–and really most importantly–thank you for not telling America that you were dancing to lose weight. When plus-size ladies from Kirstie Alley to Ricki Lake have gone on Dancing With the Stars, their narratives have primarily centered on weight loss. Winning the mirrorball trophy often seems secondary to slimming down. Losing weight, according to the show, is key to feeling sexy again, reminding people watching at home that only people who look a certain way are supposed to feel attractive.

That’s why it was so refreshing when you looked into the camera and said you were here to show girls like you how to move and be healthy and beautiful just as you are.

You’ve said something similar before in Marie Claire, talking about your character on Glee: “I also never had her insecurities about weight […] but I love that now I get to show girls how to be comfortable with their bodies.” Thanks for saying it then and saying it now.

Thirdly, your victory dance after you got your scores during week one. Do it all the time. I am rooting for you.

A huge fan!

Phoebe B.

PS I loved your jive and your chemistry with Derek is amazing.

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Rebound: Katniss & Body Snarking

In body politics, gender, girl culture, Hunger Games on March 27, 2012 at 6:43 pm

Phoebe B.

GLG contributor Brian Psiropoulos recently alerted me to the trend of body snarking Jennifer Lawrence. This Slate article takes on the New York Times and others’ truly destructive and sexist criticism of Lawrence’s body. But I find myself still unsettled even by the Slate response, which argues against the criticism of Lawrence’s body as not skinny enough to play Katniss by asserting that Lawrence is in fact skinny. This assertion, while true, is not the point. Rather, as the Slate article does note, this body snarking is exclusive to Lawrence’s portrayal of Katniss and is not a kind of scrutiny the male actors undergo. Oddly enough, the film version of both Peeta and Gail’s characters did not align with the ways in which I imagined them. But this disjuncture is not reason enough to suggest that their bodies ought be different or would make them more believable. Given that the snarky criticisms about these male characters’ figures are conspicuously absent, it seems that the discussion of Lawrence’s body has everything to do with her being a woman.

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