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.
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?”
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.