Sarafian gives his opinion on the buzz surrounding body image frenzies and disorders within Hollywood culture, specifically in regards to the recently rehabilitated pop artist, Ke$ha.
Earlier this month, tabloids and gossip blogs announced that singer-songwriter Ke$ha had decided to check into the Timberline Knolls treatment center for body image issues and an eating disorder. In 2010, Demi Lovato enrolled at the same institution for similar struggles. It has been widely reported that Dr. Luke, Ke$ha’s producer, spurred the singer’s emotional decline. According to TMZ, Dr. Luke has been nagging Ke$ha to drop weight for years, going as far as to call the pop star a “f*** refrigerator.” Ke$ha’s mother, Pebe Sebert, has even shed some light on the conflict. In an interview with People Magazine, Sebert says, “I’ve watched my beautiful, self-confident, brilliant daughter be berated and ridiculed for her looks and weight to the point that she almost died…doctors told me her blood pressure and sodium levels were so low… it was a miracle she hadn’t already dropped dead on stage.” The tension between Ke$ha and Luke is rooted in more than just physical appearance. Allegedly, Dr. Luke has held a tight grip over Ke$ha’s career, dictating what type of music and singles she should write and release. As a result, “Free Ke$ha from Dr. Luke” petitions have spread online with hopes of giving the singer more control over her career and preventing further harassment from Luke.
What we have here is a case of a young woman’s emotional collapse at the hands of the Hollywood perfection standard. It is no secret that celebrities in the public eye are expected to uphold perfection. The entertainment industry and tabloids seem to neglect the fact that beauty does not solely depend upon one’s body. In Hollywood, women are expected to have flat stomachs and cellulite-free hips. Likewise, men are held to the physical standard of a Haynes underwear model.
The physical appearance of the celebrity is assumed to correlate to their success: all male actors are dashing and all female actresses are stunning. If one deviates from the physical ideals, they are thrust into comedic roles: the wise-cracking friend, the frumpy underdog (i.e., Melissa McCarthy and Seth Rogen). When was the last time we saw an “average” person as the lead in a rom-com or an action movie? Curvier actresses have more options than fuller figured ladies in music. Pop music specifically markets itself on sex appeal. The goal of the pop star is not just to entertain the audience, but also to make them fantasize—to arouse sexual interest. Would Rihanna be as successful as she is if she did not have a fantastic body? If One Direction consisted of five meatier guys, would they be where they are today? These ridiculous standards unfortunately do dictate success. Everything that comes out of Hollywood is linked to sex appeal.
Then comes Adele: a beautiful, curvy woman with a legendary voice and immense success. The thing is, however, Adele does not present herself as a pop star. She is not dancing around a stage, taking on the role of the temptress. Instead, she uses her voice and talent to ensnare the audience.
This is a step in the right direction—perhaps one day, we will be able to hold a similar attitude towards women in mainstream pop. As for now, however, the goal of the club- and dance-music crooner is to seduce. It seems to me that producers, such as Dr. Luke, seem to forget that anyone can seduce. Anyone can be sexy, no matter what body shape. Luke fears that any deviation from the Hollywood physical standard will lead to a lapse in music sales and public interest in his client.
The entertainment industry has always been shallower than a kiddy pool; however, there is a limit. Women and men are going to the extreme with dangerous measures to ensure their physical beauty.
How do we change this? It is not so much something that the entertainment industry and the music consumer can fix. Instead, it is a social movement that must take place—one that spreads throughout society.
We need to realize that “sexy” is not limited to sparkling six packs and bikini bodies. Hollywood’s job in the upheaval of ridiculous physical standards would be to stop glorifying them—to stop placing perfection on a pedestal of magazine covers and photo shoots. Perhaps, then, we can make strides with greater success towards a less shallow view towards physicality. It is imperative that we erase these physical ideals. Only then will artists such as Ke$ha realize that they are, in fact, beautiful and no producer can say otherwise.
Students respond with their opinions about celebrity culture and eating disorders:
“I think it’s tragic that the media puts pressure on girls and young women to be skinny”—Hunt Bartram, class of 2016.
“People kind of like to have that image and have something to strive for something that they can’t necessarily have—they like the idea of idealism” –Charlotte Whiteman, class of 2016
“I think it puts a lot of pressure on normal girls to look like that and I don’t think it should be like that at all” –Kyra Navia, class of 2017