So, here's the cover of the current issue of Us Weekly:
Hallelujah praise the lord! Hilary did it! ("It" here of course referring to the attainment of a body shape that is neither sickly skinny nor grossly obese by tabloid standards.) And she is generously sharing her diet secrets!
Pardon my French, but this shit is fucked up.
We see so many of these weight-obsessed cover stories these days--"Half My Size!," "One-Eighth My Size!," "I lost 400 Pounds!," "Best (and Worst) Hollywood Beach Bodies!," "Britney Is Now The Size of an Average American Woman--GROSS!," etc, but there's something markedly different about this one, and that is...
...wait for it...
Hilary Duff is nineteen years-old.
Should we really be soliciting "diet secrets" from a young woman who was born in 1987, who is still getting used to and growing into her adult body and who should not be dieting at all? I'm gonna vote a big, fat "No" on that one.
Allow me to illustrate how screwed up it is to shift the diet success story archetype from the forty-something housewives of People magazine's annual "Half My Size" issue and middle-aged celebrity dieters like Janet Jackson and Ricki Lake, who have both had similar Us cover stories, to a much younger person like Ms. Duff: that "before" picture on the cover was taken when she was fifteen.
Think back to when you were fifteen. You may have had extremely teased hair, bad skin, and/or braces. You probably had either no boobs or big boobs, and were keenly aware of the disadvantages of each. You might have thought high-top Reeboks were a really good idea, or that orange-red lipgloss was the epitome of sophistication. I, for one, was chubby, insecure, wore like thirty neon rubber bracelets everyday, and suffered a nasty case of dandruff.
Weren't we all a "before" at fifteen?
What's more, the photo of fifteen-year-old Hilary that the magazine is citing as an awkward, chubby tragedy is, well, not. She looks adorable (she was, after all, already the star of a hugely popular TV show) and healthy, if a bit unsure of herself. I probably would have poisoned my science teacher (no offense, Mr. Beeson) to look like that when I was fifteen.
We've all felt the sting of latent media messages when we see a photo of Jessica Alba's flawless (and photoshopped) abs, look down at our own supple stomach and think, "Damn."
Us Weekly's message this week is pretty damn overt--hundreds of thousands of fifteen-year-old girls are going to see themselves in that "before" picture and be informed that their bodies are not OK. And that's not OK.
Some of these girls will buy the magazine and pore over the "diet secrets" inside (spoiler alert: Hilary's secrets include lean protein, veggies, going easy on the carbs...oh, and being nineteen). None of them, even by the magical "after" age, four years later, will have Hilary Duff's body. This is partly because they don't have her genes or trainers or makeup artists, but mostly because even Hilary Duff doesn't have this body--this cover has been photoshopped to hell. In fact, if I zoomed in on her cleavage, I could easily convince you that it was a photo of a massive crater taken by the Mars Orbiter Camera.
What's next, Us Weekly? Abigail Breslin's triumph over baby fat? Dakota Fanning's sobering struggle to grow boobs?
In conclusion, I had a bacon cheeseburger for dinner as a political statement. It was delicious.