Hollywood has been a “dream factory” for a lot of us. It has picked out everything that we desire of – rich, attractive, being desired, happy – and packaged it into the movies it produces. Be it in the form of the extremely good-looking women like Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman, or the physically perfect men like Brad Pitt, Hollywood continues to churn out images of a particular kind that can become very detrimental for its viewers’ perception of others and, more dangerously, of themselves. Emily Fox-Kales, an instructor at Northeastern University has authored the book “Body Shots: Hollywood and the Culture of Eating Disorder” in which she discusses these issues in detail.
When a viewer looks at the screen, she says, there is a process called screen identification that happens. We consume the values presented on the screen to establish an ideal for our own bodies, often not realising how unhealthy this is. In her book, Fox-Kales helps her readers deconstruct a movie easily when they watch it so that they can continue enjoying them but without letting its toxicity affect their lives. The process is simple. “You can figure out what the movie is trying to make you want and then you can figure out how to be savvier about your reaction to it.”, she says.
Not all movies can be charged guilty of this. Outside the mainstream, she says, movies often called art-house productions have images of people from different communities and of different sizes. They promote a much more diverse and healthier range of representations. Not only would they have a global appeal but also change the way in which the entertainment industry works as such to provide a more diverse outlook. “It’s happening slowly at the margins, but is not something that has really entered the mainstream.”, she says.
N Malavika Mohan