My relationship with celebrities is generally simple: Stars dazzle me with unattainable good looks and glamour, and in turn I dutifully worship (and envy). They are supposed to be everything I am not: beautiful, thin, flawless. Because, really, isn’t that their job? While I am glued to a computer, munching vending-machine candy bars, aren’t they getting facials and doing Pilates? I hold up my end of the bargain (purchasing overpriced movie tickets and tabloid magazines), they hold up theirs (remaining perfect).
But recently a couple of these gorgeous women have had the audacity to gain weight and even … exhibit cellulite. On a beach. In a bikini. Not allowed! It’s a violation of the celebrity rules, as unacceptable as if I went to my boss and said, “Sorry, I’m not going to work today. But you still have to pay me!”
In the past, confronted with such nerve, fans would have no recourse other than to change the channel, turn the page, and vent to friends over coffee. But with the rise of the 24-hour gossip cycle, sites like TMZ.com and PerezHilton.com have given that anger a new, public, permanent venue. Blogs and message boards let Everyfan post spur-of-the-moment bile spews, anonymously and with no thought that the remote target of that spew might actually object.
Until now. TMZ posted images of the perky brunette Jennifer Love Hewitt, best known as the sexy ingénue from I Know What You Did Last Summer (and also for reportedly inspiring John Mayer’s ballad “Your Body Is a Wonderland”). She was wearing a bikini, on vacation in Hawaii, and the image of her rounded derrière—complete with dimples and ripples—unleashed a flood of causticity. The caption accompanying one photograph read, “We know what you ate this summer … Everything!” The public comments varied from “so gross” to “nasty” to “time to put down the fork!”
That’s typical now; what was different was that this time, Hewitt commented back the next day. In an entry on her personal blog titled “About the Hawaii Photos…,” she wrote, “I’ve sat by in silence for a long time now about the way women’s bodies are constantly scrutinized. To set the record straight, I’m not upset for me, but for all of the girls out there that are struggling with their body image.”
And then it happened again. “Everyone is so critical,” chef-personality Nigella Lawson told the Times of London recently. “All must be sacrificed to the great god of skinny.” The curvy cooking-show host was responding to viewer comments on BBC’s Website criticizing her figure. One person called her a “porker.” Another asked, “What sort of an example is she setting, with her weight and her appetite for high-calorie sweets and cream?”
These two women obviously don’t think that just because they’re famous, they need to be Hollywood-flawless. Nor are they declining to comment. It’s doubtful the person known as “snomadd” on TMZ expected Hewitt to ever see the comment “Looks like somebody needs to do some jogging … badly!!” much less respond.
Why does Hewitt’s expanding behind provoke this reaction? She’s clearly not anywhere near obese; if anything, she and Lawson are approaching normal. That’s provoking the fury: the more-truthful mirror. Celebrities are supposed to be perfect, because I’m not. If that’s what a slightly pudgy celebrity’s butt looks like in a bikini, how bad is mine?