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Appalling Critiques of Jennifer Lawrence’s Body in “Hunger Games”

posted by Nell Minow

Thanks very much to L.V. Anderson for a piece in Slate about truly horrifying discussions of Jennifer Lawrence’s body in reviews of “The Hunger Games.”

A baffling, infuriating trend has cropped up in reviews of The Hunger Games: critics bodysnarking on Jennifer Lawrence. “A few years ago Ms. Lawrence might have looked hungry enough to play Katniss,” writes the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis, “but now, at 21, her seductive, womanly figure makes a bad fit for a dystopian fantasy about a people starved into submission.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy comments that Lawrence’s “lingering baby fat shows here.” And—most bluntly—Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeffrey Wells calls Lawrence a “fairly tall, big-boned lady” who’s “too big” for Josh Hutcherson, who plays Katniss’s romantic interest.

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As Anderson points out, Lawrence is very slender and attractive.  If she does not look super-model skinny (the kind of severely underweight body recently outlawed in Israel for models in ads in an effort to combat eating disorders), I consider it a major step forward to give audiences  heroine whose body communicates health and strength.

Oh, and one other appalling — and revealing — aspect of Wells’ comment.  Why make the obligation of physical suitability on Lawrence?  Why not say that Hutcherson, who is in a supporting role, is too small for her?

To add insult to injury — and some more insult, too — Wells advises his readers to beware of the reviews of “The Hunger Games” by female critics “as they’re probably more susceptible to the lore of this young-female-adult-propelled franchise than most.”  Um, “most?”  Who would that be again?”

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Once again, the male gaze, or Wells’ male gaze, is the norm and everyone else is just an outlier.  Thanks to Matt Singer of indieWire for pointing out that there is no statistically significant difference between the ratio of positive to negative reviews of this film by male and female critics.

  • Pingback: Is Jennifer Lawrence too Fat to Play Katniss?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Angela

    While I see that yes, it is horrible to say that someone is too ‘big’ to do something, but you’re kind of missing the point. In the books, Katniss is pretty much described as looking like the models you mentioned. She literally cannot afford to eat a loaf of bread. And yes, Jennifer Lawrence is absolutely stunning, but it’s quite difficult to try to portray a starving girl with a perfect hour-glass figure. The quips were not made in offense to her, but rather how she differentiates physically to the character.

    • Nell Minow

      Thanks, Angela! That is not what the critic said — he said she was “too big” for the actor who played Peeta and I pointed out that since she played the lead character, if it was important for Peeta to be significantly bigger than Katniss, it was the job of the producers to hire a bigger actor. I understand that Katniss was supposed to be starving, but so were all of the other characters. The hypocrisy of the critic in making her the problem when Gale and the other residents were similarly robust is clear. Katniss had to look healthy enough to survive the Games. And I think the importance of sending a positive body image message outweighs (so to speak) the importance of having Katniss look like a starving person — or a supermodel.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003406020151 Resucite

    Well I was relaly relaly hoping they would choose someone that LOOKED slightly like Katniss so, if they don’t dye her hair, I’m gonna be very annoyed. I must admit; she looks kinda, uh, dreamy, to be Katniss, but, um, we’ll see, I guess. (Although I was going for Hailee Steinfield (she’s a good actress (Nominated for an Academy Award at 14?) and looks like a Katniss) or Emma Roberts)

  • JB

    I think it is a minor problem(not every review mentions this). Katniss looks healthy and beautiful. Who cares if it is really accurate according to the novel? Me not. I enjoyed the movie, I enjoyed the cast with other actors from allegedly poor districts equally strong as main protagonist in District 12.

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