The elusive plus-size actress . . .
(Originally posted on the Judgment of Paris Forum, September 28, 2004, inresponse to a post linking an article that stated that Reese Witherspoon had been asked to gain weight to star in a film adaptation of the 1848 novel Vanity Fair.)
This case is highly similar to the Renee Zellweger/Bridget Jones situation, and we tend to be of two minds about these matters.
On the one hand, it's encouraging to hear such an effusive declaration of body love from a mainstream film-maker. We would like to believe that it marks the beginning of a cultural shift in Hollywood, which will eventually topple the hegemony of the androgynous standard and usher in a new appreciation for full-figured femininity. The fact that a director making a period film came to this realization is especially encouraging, since it suggests that the film industry is slowly realizing that the cult of thinness is completely anachronistic for any time period prior to the 20th century.
On the other hand, while we applaud anyone who encourages an underfed actress to finally begin eating, for goodness' sake, we still consider it regrettable that the director didn't cast an actress who was full-figured in the first place. In Titianic, Kate Winslet epitomized the 19th-century ideal, and she certainly would have made a more gorgeous and convincing Becky Sharp than Ms. Witherspoon.
Still, our brightest light for the future remains Canada's own Christina Schmidt, who played plus-size model Terri on Degrassi: The Next Generation for three seasons. Christina is Lillian Russell reincarnated, a timeless beauty if ever there was one, and we can only hope that she will yet defy the film industry's pervasive size-prejudice, and show the world the true face (and figure) of the Classical ideal.
Incidentally, Melanie W. has recently updated the "Photos" section of her Christina Schmidt fan group. The tiny screen captures do the actress little justice, but at least they provide a hint of her appeal, for those who are unfortunate enough not to have Degrassi broadcast in their area.
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