Like high school, Hollywood is a judgmental place. Researchers have found that ongoing exposure to certain ideas can distort perceptions of reality.
From airbrushing to surgical enhancement it is hardly surprising that living in a media obsessed culture our views of perfection are not only twisted but completely impossible.
Idealized female imagery is on the cover of every magazine. Madrid’s local government decided to take a stand against the media’s promotion of an unrealistic standard of beauty by banning underweight models from Spain’s fashion week.
While the entertainment industry is under continued attack for perpetuating a distorted ideal, adolescents everywhere are attempting to achieve the emaciated look of their favorite socialite. This May writer, actor, and director Ash Christian is taking high school insecurity head on with his new film Fat Girls. I had an opportunity to speak with Ash about insecurity from High School to Hollywood and discuss measuring beauty on a whole different scale.
Theresa Bennett: In your opinion does Hollywood influence our self-esteem and body image?
Ash Christian: I think it has everything to do with how people feel about themselves and their image, unfortunately. It seems like we are letting Hollywood set standards for the rest of the world, which saddens me.
TB: Do you find the same attitude and hierarchy exists in high school?
AC: Yes, I think high school is a breeding ground of people who are insecure. I know I was. Directing a film set in high school was an interesting experience. I almost vomited when I walked into our location.
TB: Would you say that the body image that media perpetuates has created an impossible ideal?
AC: Yes, to be the size of the new Nicole Richie is impossible. It is unhealthy…yet everyone wants her body and to be that skinny.
TB: What do you feel are the consequences of such an ideal?
AC: I feel like people will ultimately be unhappy if they cannot achieve Hollywood’s ideals of body image.
TB: In your upcoming film FAT GIRLS your character Rodney feels like the black sheep of his small Texas town because he is different from “the norm” is there a way to transcend bias and overcome stereotypes in the entertainment industry?
AC: Its different of opposite coast, truly. LA is very stereotypical and doesn’t really think outside the box. New York is more creative and willing to take a chance. Unfortunately, most of the industry takes place in LA. I think at some point we will transend stereotypes…I see it happening now…but mainstream audiences will always love the beautiful people…that’s why they go to the movies…to get away from their normal lives.
TB: As socialites and Hollywood’s role models seem to be getting thinner and thinner they continue to be idolized by impressionable young people. Do you feel that they are perpetuating a negative ideal and making if fashionable?
AC: Absolutely. It takes a special breed of celebrity to go unaffected once they’ve achieved fame, I believe. There simply are more jobs and opportunities for skinny people in Hollywood…that’s just the way it is right now. Hopefully that will change over time.
TB: Is Hollywood sending the wrong message?
AC: I think so. I always felt overweight, but who put that idea in my head? Hollywood and the media.
TB: Is there any room for change? Can people succeed as artists despite the impossible ideals that rag mags and media outlets articulate as “beautiful”?
AC: Yes, I believe so. I try to defy Hollywood’s standards. It isn’t an easy road, at all…but I see that is it do-able…it just take some balls and ambition.
TB: Is there anyone out there that you feel is really making change when it comes to encouraging a healthy body image and putting an end to an epidemic of insecurity?
AC: Not anyone specifically. You have people like Rosie O’Donnell, who has always inspired me. She stands up for her beliefs, which is nice to see.
TB: Is commercial media toxic to the teenage mind?
AC: Absolutely. I’d love to do an experiment with teenagers who aren’t exposed to commercial media verses teenagers who eat sleep and breathe commercial media and see how their minds shape differently. I think I’d be surprised what commercial media is doing to our future generations.
TB: Is the media to blame or are American’s too impressionable?
AC: I’d blame the media. They choose what to make popular and “instyle”.
TB: With Fashion Week approaching, how do you feel about what we are about to see on the runway?
AC: Well, I hope some of the models will be a little “thicker” this season…maybe we’ll copy Europe’s ideals.
TB: How do you feel about Spain’s decision to ban underweight models at fashion week?
AC: I think it is a fantastic idea and will hopefully set a trend in the fashion world.
TB: In comparison to the voluptuous stars of past decades how do today’s standards measure up and why did they change so drastically?
AC: It’s funny. I was talking to a film producer not long ago and she was saying “they don’t make stars like they used to”…meaning the studios. Now everyone works with everyone. There is no exclusive deal. It’s true though. They don’t make stars like they used to. Now it is a money
obsessed industry and not so much about the talent anymore. It seems as though a studio would pick a pretty, famous face with no talent than an average looking person with an abundance of talent. It’s unfortunate I couldn’t have experienced the “old Hollywood”.
TB: Is there any hope for future change?
AC: Well, I think there is always hope. I mean, we are advancing a bit with shows like “Ugly Betty”. It’s my goal in my films to portray real people. That’s what I did in my film “Fat Girls”. It confronts fatness head on. And its message is basically, be comfortable being yourself.
TB: Are men exempt from the same standards or do they suffer to meet a Hollywood ideal just as much as women?
AC: Not at all. It is just more “swept under the rug”.
TB: What do you think is the key to self confidence?
AC: Just being comfortable in your own skin. If you can achieve that, it’s all up-hill from there.