Sometimes I roll my eyes so hard it actually hurts. Take the June cover of Vanity Fair featuring Jessica Simpson, for instance—I think I’ll need to see an optometrist for that. Simpson, looking stunning and very old-Hollywood pinup, glances off into the distance, almost as if she were looking at the cover line text floating above her left arm: “‘You Call This Fat?’ Jessica Simpson Pulls Off the ‘Mom Jeans’ and Fights Back.” Problem is, Simpson never says word one about her weight in the accompanying article. Not one.
We’re all used to magazine cover lines that oversell the story (and I’ll be the first to admit that EW has done it a time or two), but sometimes it’s just egregious. I once grabbed a gossip rag (that shall remain nameless) touting “Halle Berry’s new love!” It turned out to be about her cat. But this is worse. Because the author (whom I’ll do the favor of not naming as well) couldn’t get Simpson to talk about her weight directly, he resorts to couching questions generally, asking instead about “body image in general, physical changes, perception.” Simpson could be talking about criticism that she forgets lyrics onstage, so vague is her response. “‘It comes with what I do,’ she said, ‘and I know that every day the media’s going to challenge me, is going to want to bring me down. But I feel like I’m at such a place that I own myself, and it’s authentic. I own that authentic part of myself, and none of those words are harsh enough to make me believe them.’”
Tiptoeing around a subject so much that you actually shed no new information on it actually isn’t so bad, though. Here’s what is: describing Simpson as holding a microphone “like a turkey leg.” Then joking that since Simpson won’t talk about her weight, it’s all the author can think about: “What are you working on now [that you’re fat]?,” he says in his head. “Do you see yourself as part of a class, with Christina and Britney [or are you too fat]?…” And while he takes pains to say that Simpson looks incredible now, her career lately has been, “flop, flop, country flop, fat picture.”
To make matters worse, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to the story at all. Simpson isn’t promoting a new album or movie. She hasn’t really had a recent career resurgence that would justify a cover story, and she certainly isn’t a “what the heck happened?” or “where is she now?” subject. So what gives? It almost seems like Vanity Fair really wanted to slap Jessica Simpson on its cover and obsess about her weight the way too many in the media do—no matter what she had to say. Aren’t we all just a little tired of this? Whether it’s “Best Beach Bodies!” photo montages, snarking on Jennifer Love Hewitt’s hips, or hounding Kirstie Alley just for the hell of it, Hollywood’s fat obsession is demeaning, damaging, and wildly sexist (oh yes it is—Horatio Sanz and Seth Rogen have both whittled their waists recently, but you don’t see them with “Half His Size!” magazine covers). And if all a publication can do to sell a story is smack salacious, misleading headlines on it, maybe that’s a sign that the article is all fat and no meat.