Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The shoe on the other foot

199 pounds
This weekend Dave and I went to see Mother and Child, a gut-wrenching film about the adoption process told from the point of view of three different woman played by Annette Benning, Kerry Washington, and Naomi Watts in her best role ever. (Samuel L. Jackson also delivers an amazing and refreshingly subtle performance.)

It's a very good film, and I recommend it to everyone even though it just misses the mark a few times.

What's interesting about this movie from a body issues perspective is the character played by Jimmy Smits—Paco—who is a love interest for Annette Benning's character, Karen.

When Karen meets Paco, she describes him to her mother as "heavyset." Call me crazy, but it's not the first thing I would say to describe Jimmy Smits (pictured below looking smoking hot on a press junket for the film).

(Then again, the woman is married to Warren Beatty in real life, so maybe she picked up some of his attitude.)

When Paco and Karen go out for coffee, he orders apple pie as well, explaining, "I can never resist apple pie" with a smile that would melt the ice caps. Every woman in the theatre was swooning, but not Karen. She says, "Well, maybe you should."

Despite this auspicious start, the two end up together, and when Karen meets his daughter, the two women discuss the fact that he needs to lose weight—right in front of him!

As all of this was happening, I kept thinking, what the f***?!

Jimmy Smits is heavyset?

Jimmy Smits needs to turn down the apple pie?

What kind of parallel universe are we living in???!

I have yet to discuss this in detail on my blog, but most of us know that live in a world where male actors are ALWAYS bigger than their female co-stars. The recent romantic comedy Couples Retreat offered the best evidence of this I've ever seen when the four couples stripped down to their bathing suits. At that moment, four women stood on one side in perfect, movie-star shape while, on the other side, four out-of-shape men sheepishly revealed their bulging middles.

And let's not forget the plethora of television shows that have featured bigger men with tiny little women . . . King of Queens, Still Standing, According to Jim, Frasier, Seinfeld, and ironically NYPD Blue. The list goes on and on.

In our society, men are allowed to be overweight—either a little overweight or a lot overweight—but woman are not.

If a woman is the slightest bit curvy, she needs to go on a diet. If a man has a little extra weight around his middle, he's normal.

So when I saw Paco getting so much flak over a slightly larger middle, I couldn't help but laugh. Finally, the shoe was on the other foot. Finally, a man knows what it's like to be under such tight scrutiny.

There's only one tiny little problem—all of this happened only in the movies. This means that, for now, all of us women will have to dream of a time when men are held the same standards we are in real life.


  1. Instead of being a good sign and a bit of "getting our own back" should we not be distressed that things are going in the wrong direction.

    Yes gender equality is great but having men and woman equally ridiculed and pressured about issues relating to their weight is not a step forward.

    The double standard is frustrating but surely the goal should be to have a society and media that encourages both women and men to be happy and healthy and whatever size they want to.

  2. Absolutely, Ms Fran!

    I had actually hoped that readers would get that this was exactly my point.

    I don't really want us to go around ridiculing men for being a few pounds overweight. What I really want is for all of us to have more realistic expectations about our bodies—the way it seems than many do about men's bodies. My point on this blog is to say that, no, we don't have to diet to the point that we look like a movie star, but that doesn't also mean we can't be healthy—in body, mind, and spirit.

    I had hoped that by pointing out the absurdity of calling Jimmy Smits' character "heavyset," which he obviously is not, readers would see how ridiculous it is to be so picky about ANYONE'S weight—male or female. If that message didn't come across, I sincerely apologize.