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weighty matters

Women on TV Now Allowed to Have Regular Bodies, Deems New York Times

Are we maybe, maybe reaching a point where a variety of female body types are acceptable on television? So claims the New York Times' Alessandra Stanley, who today praises Lena Dunham and Mindy Kaling for ushering in a new era of performers who are neither very thin nor comically fat. "A few performers have flouted convention by flaunting a curvy figure," Stanley writes, "but it's most evident in female comedians like Ms. Dunham and Ms. Kaling, who have more power to break rules: by writing their own material and creating shows inspired by their lives, they can set their own standards of beauty and defy the dictate of stylists and casting directors in a way that other actresses cannot." She praises Kaling and Dunham as "seditious" because they treat their weight as "no big deal." And why should they treat it as a big deal when the Times will treat it as a big deal for them?

The article is ostensibly a praise piece, but it's packed with all the weird shame-tinged language, like "extra pounds." Aren't those just … regular pounds if you're comfortable in your body? According to the story, Lady Gaga "admit[ted]" she gained weight — not "acknowledged," not "said," but "admitted." She's part of the "sudden rise of the unapologetically not-thin," writes Stanley, someone who's been given a "license to eat." The article is accompanied by a slideshow titled "Plump and Proud."

Louis C.K. can call his body "disgusting"and eat ice cream in bed on television, and no one bats an eye. Kevin James can become an MMA fighter and romance Salma Hayek. Rick Ross can pose proudly shirtless and gleaming on the cover of Rolling Stone. But the girl who plays the bully on Awkward has to talk to Seventeen magazine in a section called "Body Peace" because she is not particularly thin. Of course we are all for a range of body types on television, and yes, it is nice to see that female performers come in sizes other than extra-small. But what would be really nice would be women's bodies receiving the same level of scrutiny as men's — which is next to none.

Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images