The skinny on teenage actresses

Are the casts of today’s teen shows too skinny? I think it was Entertainment Weekly‘s PopWatch blog that first notified me that this perennial hot topic was back in circulation. My answer: Yes.

While giddily soaking in the premiere of the new 90210, I couldn’t help but be horrified by how much the female half of West Beverly had shrunk since Brenda and Brandon first stepped out of Mondale 18 years ago. My middle-school peers and I had plenty of pop culture-exacerbated body issues back then, but at least Shannen Doherty looked like a thin someone-you-might-actually-know.

But her healthy Midwestern frame, sadly, did not last. I’m sure I’m not the only one who gasped when Doherty assumed her Robert Palmer mannequin position next to Kelly and Donna as Emily Valentine crooned “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” in the Season 3 premiere — when did Doherty whittle her thighs down to sub-Tori Spelling proportions? The girl had ambition, and the connection between drive and weight loss is even more pronounced in Hollywood than in the rest of the country.

Shannon isn’t the only teen-show actress who shrank over the course of the seasons. It makes me sad as I watch initially luscious Sarah Michelle Gellar become increasingly skeletal as I progress through my Buffy DVD collection. In her case, it fits with the character (dying twice and multiple apocalypses will take it outta you), and she was still hot (I mean, she’s Buffy the freakin’ Vampire Slayer), but how I would have loved to see the world saved by a girl who looked like she ate.

As for the casts of the new 90210, Gossip Girl and the rest of today’s shows, it just keeps getting worse, doesn’t it? These girls are doing amazing things with thigh-gaps. I mean, who knew you could fit so much space between femurs without cutting right into the bone? It’s scary. These shows are pushing girls in the viewing audience to increasingly extreme levels of fat phobia and giving them absurdly impossible models of hotness — and this isn’t even like ansgty smoking on TV, something that looks hot that’s bad for you IRL. Even with the makeup and the lighting (and the camera supposedly adding 10 pounds), these pretty girls look like they’re starving, and that’s really not my special fetish. Call me a whack-job, but I tend to think people look their best when they are healthy and happy, whatever size they may be.

We can’t place all the blame on the CW, however. We live in a country where there’s talk of an “obesity epidemic” while our government denies us a universal right to health care. The cultural scapegoating of larger people for our nation’s ills is as much to blame as the fashion industry or whatever easy, limited target on which we could set our sights.

At any rate, there should be an emphasis on health, not the shrinking circumference, of our general population, as well as our teen stars.