Hollywood and swine

Details gets behind a new vogue for fat actresses. Like Blair from "The Facts of Life." Seriously.

Published August 15, 2006 4:35PM (EDT)

Why is there a pig in heels?

No, it's not a trippy philosophical or rhetorical or playful question. I'm as serious as a heart attack. Why is there a pig in heels?

Here's what happened. At the suggestion of a Broadsheet reader, I headed over to the Details magazine Web site to find a column about husbands who were frustrated with their stay-at-home wives. I hope that at some point in the future I will find this column and write an item about it, but to be completely upfront, I never even got there. Why not? Because of the pig. In heels.

Ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes on the Details story "Why Fat Is Back in Hollywood," which takes as its visual inspiration actual fatback. As in bacon. As in a literal porker.

The story is by Holly Millea, who does her best to make a case that after decades of sucking down, Hollywood is again embracing actresses with some meat on their bones. While star-porn weeklies are dotted with photos of celebu-wraiths like Nicole Richie, Ellen Pompeo and Kate Bosworth, Millea argues that better upholstered stars like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Drew Barrymore, Rachel Weisz and Kate Winslet have won the day and spawned a new generation of marginally less emaciated actresses.

According to Millea, "a growing faction of actresses who appear to have a healthy relationship with carbohydrates are making the point [that bigger is sexier] better than any polemicizing ever could." Comparing Hollywood's "wispy" leading ladies with the "lush" ones, Millea argues that most people would take Scarlett Johansson, Evangeline Lilly, Liv Tyler, Ginnifer Goodwin, Gretchen Mol or a younger, chubbier Madonna over skin-and-bones Pompeo or Richie or a superattenuated Material Girl.

Fine story. I don't happen to consider many of the women Millea mentions to be remotely overweight and wonder why Millea calls Barrymore "delectable as a Krispy Kreme" but doesn't acknowledge the actress's recent substantial weight loss. And there is something deeply, darkly horrible about Neil LaBute telling her that "curves are all good from where [he] stands" and then citing Maura Tierney -- Maura Tierney -- as an example of this new largess. But Millea does acknowledge that all this calorie counting is relative in La-La Land. And of course I agree with her expressed hope that this slightly larger model of the American sexpot "represents the shape of things to come." So I have no problem with the story. Here's what I have a problem with:

The freaking pig in the freaking heels.

Details is a men's magazine and it's clearly pretty proud of itself for its enlightened celebration of flesh over sinew. And so it illustrates its story with a pig -- a pig's ass, no less. And, in doing so, suggests that all the beautiful women name-checked in the story for being healthy and sexy are actually farm animals. But wait! The pig photo isn't enough. No, click on the accompanying feature, the "Curves Ahead" slide show, featuring "a visual smorgasbord of the sexiest plate-scrapers ever." Notice that the slug for the slide show includes the word "Fatties." And then click through this visual aide. You'll find photos of Belinda Carlisle, an incredibly slender Romola Garai (from "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights"), Elizabeth Taylor from "Butterfield 8," Mae West, Jane Russell, Jayne Mansfield, Monica Bellucci, Lisa Whelchel (that's right: Blair from "The Facts of Life." Have curvy women ever had a better poster girl than Blair?), Anita Ekberg, Sophia Loren, Kristin Davis -- yes, that Kristin Davis -- and (drum roll) Miss Piggy.

So basically, size 10 women are pigs. Size 8 women are pigs. Size 6 women are pigs. Probably size 4 women (Kristin Davis?) are pigs. Stuffed Muppet pigs are also pigs, and it's funny to throw a picture of one, along with an old punch line (Blair from the "Facts of Life?"), alongside the photos of pinup girls. This, along with the "Fatties" label and reference to the photo gallery as a "smorgasbord," and of course the pig in heels, simply confirms the high esteem in which Details' editors hold women who don't starve themselves. I can't imagine why any woman would get the message that she should strive to be thin if she wants to be wanted or taken seriously.

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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