Unpopular opinion: Rich and famous actresses complaining about pressure on their weight and appearance is nauseating

Like almost everything else in the modern era, the current generation of actors and actresses has completely broken the unspoken agreement that gave old Hollywood its magic.  Celebrities want fame and fortune without any of the associated costs, as if it’s possible to live a life of wealth and privilege in the public eye while remaining free from any and all criticisms and stress. 

Once upon a time, Hollywood was the pinnacle of glamor and success.  The life of a movie star was never necessarily easy, especially in the early days of the film industry where actors were effectively owned by the studios, but the celebrities of the golden age made it appear so with a combination of effortless charm and charisma.  The average person watched these legends bigger than life on the silver screen and got a glimpse of their lives at events like the Oscars, imagining what it must be like to be rich, famous, and seem to have the entire world in your hands.  These were the people you wanted to be in your dreams.  The panache, the style, the endless adoration of your fans.  Of course, everyone knew it wasn’t real, that what went on behind the scenes was very different from in front, but an unspoken agreement between the public and the movie stars to not look too closely under the curtain gave life to a collective fantasy.  We adored and idolized them as idealized versions of ourselves, they provided a much needed escape from the drudgery of daily existence, and in return they received wealth and fame provided they continued to maintain the illusion of effortlessness.  Putting this another way, no one wanted to see what they looked like without their makeup and the perfect lighting.  No one wanted to know precisely how tedious, boring, stressful, and outright ridiculous the process of making a movie actually is, or the backstabbing, infighting, and all around nastiness that lurked just beneath the surface. We craved the end product, and for generations they delivered without complaint.  Ironically, the fantasy co-existed with a much darker side:  Gossip and tawdry stories about celebrities’ real, perceived, and sometimes outright fake misbehavior as always been as popular as the movies themselves.  One side fed our better angels, providing something to aspire to, the other fed our penchant for jealousy and the need to see our betters taken down a peg.  Never have we had one without the other.

Like almost everything else in the modern era, the current generation of actors and actresses has completely broken the underlying agreement that gave old Hollywood its magic.  Today, celebrities want fame and fortune without any of the associated costs, as if it’s possible to live a life of wealth and privilege in the public eye while remaining free from any and all criticisms and stress.  There is no other way to explain the recent wave of actresses coming forward, complaining about any and all comments concerning their appearance, weight, and just about everything else.  According to them, the world simply isn’t fair even for an overpaid, privileged celebrity.  Thus,  Chloë Grace Moretz “is opening up about how fame and social media caused her to ‘basically’ become a ‘recluse’” to quote CNN’s description of a recent in public therapy session.  “For a long time I was able to be the Chloë that people see and the Chloë that I am in private.  Then those two worlds collided and I felt really raw and vulnerable and open. And then came the onslaught of horrific memes that started getting sent to me about my body,” Ms. Moretz told Hunger.  The impetus for the collapse of Chloë’s World was a photo of her carrying two pizza boxes into a hotel.  In the photo itself, Ms. Moretz looks charming enough; legs toned in short shorts and a plunging neckline.  The average woman probably give anything to look like that on her very best day, not to mention the being rich and famous part in the process.  The photo, however, was apparently turned into a meme featuring a character from Family Guy, a woman known as Legs That Go All the Way Up Griffin.  The Family Guy character has blond hair and, obviously, long legs.  The memes juxtaposed the photo and the cartoon characters, but this light-hearted fun was apparently too much for Ms. Moretz.   “I’ve actually never really talked about this, but there was one meme that really affected me, of me walking into a hotel with a pizza box in my hand. And this photo got manipulated into a character from ‘Family Guy’ with the long legs and the short torso, and it was one of the most widespread memes at the time.”  You can see both the original photo and the cartoon character here.

Ms. Moretz continued, saying she “brought it up with someone” who didn’t feel her pain.  “Everyone was making fun of my body and I brought it up with someone and they were like, ‘Oh, shut the fuck up, it’s funny.’ And I just remember sitting there and thinking, my body is being used as a joke and it’s something that I can’t change about who I am, and it is being posted all over Instagram. It was something so benign as walking into a hotel with leftovers. And to this day, when I see that meme, it’s something very hard for me to overcome.”  Hunger itself described the incident as a “trigger.” “After that, I was kind of sad,” Ms. Moretz admitted. “It took a layer of something that I used to enjoy, which was getting dressed up and going to a carpet and taking a photo, and made me super self-conscious. And I think that body dysmorphia – which we all deal with in this world – is extrapolated by the issues of social media. It’s a headfuck.”  As a result, “I basically became a recluse.  It was great because I got away from the photographers and I was able to be myself, and to have so many experiences that people didn’t photograph, but at the same time it made me severely anxious when I was photographed. My heart rate would rise and I would hyperventilate.”  Yes, we are supposed to believe that a Hollywood starlet, a woman famous since she was barely 12 years old, was completely undone by a silly meme.  I say “supposed to believe” because I have a hard time taking it all too seriously outside of the current cult of victimhood.  It’s no secret that actors in general can be self-conscious, but the idea that a rather benign meme based on an embarrassing photograph can cause “body dysmorphia” strikes me as more than a little absurd.  While Ms. Moretz is gracious, or perhaps should I say woke, enough to admit her privilege during the pandemic later in the interview, it’s odd that she simply passes over it here.  What level of privilege does it take to no longer enjoy the rarified air of the red carpet because someone used your body as a joke?

Left completely unsaid of course is that actors and actresses are essentially paid because of their bodies and how they can manipulate them into portraying someone else.  Ms. Moretz is 25 years old with a net worth of $12 million based almost entirely on her appearance.  She’s sold her look on the silver screen for years, where it appears larger than life for all the world to see, but is apparently unable to deal with any average person daring to manipulate her image and complains that events most people would trade organs to attend are now no fun for her.  How does she think the average person is supposed to react to this?  Are we truly expected to sympathize with a beautiful, famous actress worth millions of dollars because they can’t take a joke at their own expense?  There are literally thousands of young women in Hollywood that would trade places with her right now, laughing off the meme as part of the price of doing business in the public eye.  If Ms. Moretz isn’t asking for sympathy, what is she asking for?  Is she suggesting she’s just like some poor, bullied teen?  That more than a decade in Hollywood has left her just like you and me?  Because she most certainly is not.  She has wealth, power, and looks that most can scarcely dream of, however she might choose to characterize herself.  Even less explicable is the media’s need to broadcast these stories as if anyone should care.  Ms. Moretz’s interview was picked up by CNN, Variety, Sky News, Entertainment Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, Yahoo, and others?  Why?  What is it about a privileged woman bemoaning the plight of the career they chose, one that has brought them both fortune and fame that could possibly fire the imagination of journalists, who seem to feel that everyone has to know about this suffering?

Ms. Moretz is not alone in Hollywood, either.  Bryce Dallas Howard, the even more privileged daughter of a legendary actor and director, has also recently taken to the media to bemoan her plight.   Ms. Howard is unhappy with both the pressure on her appearance and the amount of her paycheck, which still measures in the tens of millions.  In August, she vented to Insider that she was paid “so much less” than superstar Chris Pratt for the Jurassic World series.  Initial reports had suggested a differential of a couple of million dollars, but Ms. Howard insisted it was much higher and proceeded to complain about it.  “The reports were so interesting because I was paid so much less than the reports even said, so much less,” she claimed. “When I started negotiating for ‘Jurassic,’ it was 2014, and it was a different world, and I was at a great disadvantage. And, unfortunately, you have to sign up for three movies, and so your deals are set.”  Though she had previously said the differential in pay was because Mr. Pratt was a bigger star,  Insider used this an opportunity to discuss the “pay gaps between men and women in Hollywood,” which has “become more of a public issue.”  As evidence, they cited the revelation that Patrick Dempsey was almost twice as much as costar Ellen Pompeo for the later seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, and Michelle Williams being “paralyzed in feeling of futility” for earning less than Mark Wahlberg for reshoots on All the Money in the World.  What all of these scenarios have in common, however, is name recognition and star power.  Mark Wahlberg is one of the biggest movie stars in the world.  Michelle Williams is a fine actress and a celebrity in her own right, but no one actually believes she puts asses in theater seats.  Likewise, Patrick Dempsey has been a celebrity since debuting in Can’t Buy Me Love in 1987 and his role in Grey’s Anatomy took on a life of its own as Dr. McDreamy.  Chris Pratt has done the opposite, parlaying TV fame on Parks and Recreation into two franchises, Jurassic World and Guardians of the Galaxy.  He is a bonafide movie star.  By what logic does anyone reasonably believe Bryce Dallas Howard should be paid near the same amount?  Gender has nothing to do with it.  Star power does, and one has it, one doesn’t.  Putting this another way, does anyone think Miles Teller is going to take home the same paycheck as Tom Cruise for Top Gun: Maverick?

Incredibly, Ms. Howard believes she should have it both ways.  She should get paid the same as a far more proven and recognizable movie star, and she should be able to do it without any attention paid to her appearance.  Ironically, Mr. Pratt transformed himself into a movie star by shedding some pounds of his own. Shortly after she vented to Insider about her paycheck, Ms. Howard was in the news again acting like it was the most ridiculous thing in the world for the studio executives ponying up $165 million to make the movie to expect her to appear trim and fit for the role.  ““How do I say this…” She stammered, “[I’ve] been asked to not use my natural body in cinema.”  Ms. Howard claimed this has happened before, saying “the conversation came up again, ‘We need to ask Bryce to lose weight,;” and it was only director Colin Trevorrow who stood up for her, who “felt very strongly about in terms of protecting me.”  As a result, she felt she was at “maximum strength.”  Her costar, DeWanda Wise concurred on the pressures women face regarding their appearance in Hollywood.  “It’s always something,” she said. “There was a lot of resistance to Kayla [her character in the film] having muscle, to what it means to be a woman, look like a woman. It’s just every side, it’s relentless and impossible.”  Yes, it’s impossible to make millions and expect the people paying you to have opinions on the characters they are bringing to the screen.  Together, they bemoaned the lack of diversity, claiming most movies have more men than women, though not this one, resulting in a rather ironic disconnect.  Once again, it’s impossible what to make of this:  These women have been cast because of their appearance.  That’s the job.  A director or a producer commenting on how they will look in the final product is an equal part of their jobs.  This is what they do.  It’s the entire purpose of the endeavor.  If you are going to go into an industry where your likeness is going to be displayed multiple stories tall, why would anyone express shock, outrage, or sadness that there is pressure on that likeness?  Ms. Howard isn’t being paid for  her “natural body,” whatever that means.  Putting this another way, hospitals pay surgeons for their minds and skills.  If a surgeon were to have a stroke and suffer a sudden loss of IQ, can they too bemoan the pressure on their “natural minds?”  Would Tom Cruise be Tom Cruise if he was fat and ugly?

The situation with Ms. Howard is even more bizarre.  She’s an attractive woman and a reasonably competent actress, but has no special talent or appeal, interchangeable with thousands if not tens of thousands of others clamoring for roles.  She is who she is because her father, Ron Howard, has been a Hollywood fixture for decades.  No one, and I mean literally no one, would have any idea who she was, nor would she be complaining about differences in pay that are more than many make in their lifetimes, if she was a regular person.  She has paid no dues and has no real skin in the game considering she stands to inherit part of a net worth upwards of $200 million.  At the risk of repeating myself, the average person, man or woman, would sell organs to trade places with her, and yet she feels we should all listen to her bitch and moan about her plight.  Likewise, the media feels these stories are important enough to be broadcast far and wide.  Privilege doesn’t begin to describe it.  It’s a sickness, a perversion of the challenges the average person faces on a daily basis, an insult to every slightly overweight waitress struggling to put food on the table.  They are not like us.  They should at least have the decency to collect their millions and shut the fuck up.  I understand some may feel I am being overly harsh.  Perhaps that is fair, but there is nothing more nauseating in my mind than the overly privileged complaining about their own privilege.  Early in my career, I complained to my boss about a series of late nights and weekends I had to put in to deliver a project.  He told me:  This is the life you chose.  Technology products need to work 24/7.  Deal with it.  Well, this is the life they chose.

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