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January 28th, 2009
06:56 PM ET

Jessica Simpson “Fat” Attack

A cartoon depicting Simpson in the New York Post.
A cartoon depicting Simpson in the New York Post.

Alyssa Caplan
AC360° Staffer

I'm feeling a little queasy and it’s not because I just remembered one peanut butter pretzel too late that there is a salmonella outbreak at hand. My bout of nausea began yesterday morning when I indulged the rare craving to listen to the radio while getting dressed for work. Admittedly, that 1995 throw back maneuver was likely my first mistake. But what happened next, no one deserves during that sacred time in the morning when you’re trying to center yourself for the day. Cue some horrified sounding radio DJ. The exact wording escapes me, likely a suppression response, but it went something like this: So, wow people! The New York Post ran a picture of Jessica Simpson today and she looks ginormous! She must have packed on 40 pounds! What has she been eating? What was she thinking? End fake quote, now read promo for weight loss supplement. Seriously - true story.

I tuned out when "unflattering" photos of Tyra Banks and Jennifer Love Hewitt surfaced on vacation, or when Britney Spears weight gain inspired teams of professionals dissecting photos, but never has this beloved pasttime of over-zealous armchair weight watching felt more out of place. Perhaps it’s a side effect of the recent culmination of a year of 24-7 “change” rhetoric being piped in to my ear, or the soberness I feel on the heels of record job loss numbers, but for some reason, today was the day when I could no longer stomach the particularly mean-spirited headlines and zings thrown around with reckless abandon accompanying someone’s appearance. The line of absurdity was definitely crossed for me on this one, and not just because I feel a little robbed of what could have been a celebrated moment since I do tend to believe (as friends of the singer allege) she wasn’t very happy keeping her weight at a rib-popping low.

Thankfully, upon further "Jessica Simpson Scandal" research, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the world had not completely gone to sh^%#t. Some web sites covering the concert that inspired the buzz didn't say a word about her appearance or simply duly noted a fuller figure and moved on. Yet several major media outlets went full throttle with the "porker" puns and there was the comic strip in the New York Post today. I’m speechless. The need to get on some sort of blow horn and call Yahtzee on this one overwhelms me. I briefly considered posting a YouTube video, hysterically ranting to “leave Jessica alone” ala Chris Crocker’s infamous YouTube, “Leave Britney (Spears) alone” sensation, but then decided my sore throat would impede dramatic effect and my video really would need to be, "leave the young fans of Jessica's who are trying to convince themselves not to lock themselves in their room till they reach their ideal weight and have to overhear this conversation alone!" I also contemplated writing a “Celebrities Are People Too” thesis and posting it in its entirety online, but again, I worried that wouldn’t really capture my sentiments and something sounded funny about, "People Are People Too." So I guess I'll just have to rely on the plain written word, no gimmicks.

Our President reminded us recently in his inauguration address that "our country is in crisis." It has been noted by many smart people - several pay scales above mine - that the upside to the challenges our country faces is that it will force us to take a closer look at the way we live our lives and with greater ease see what has served us well, and discard what has held us back. This sounds pretty good. I would say, "Sign me up!" but I guess I already am, I guess we all already are. I will be the first to admit my life is chalk full of hypocrisies, ironies, and contradictions, but my hope is that we can collectively make an oath to strive to be better about the big things in life as well as the small things while the door of change is propped open. A simple shift in tone would perhaps be a place to start, and an opportunity to admit that we're not really sure where funny ends, and mean starts, where an obligation to say what we think will sell crosses the line from harmless entertainment to something far uglier and more dangerous.

What I do know is that in terms of one manifestation of a societal mean streak, we've used the same excuses to dodge forward movement for a long time. "We're just covering the news," "celebrities are rich, self-centered, generally suck, and signed up for this so therefore they can just shut their little yappers and take one for the team while we all point and laugh that they're not so perfect after all, ey?!" "She is a star. It is her JOB to stay in shape and look good." And an oldie but goodie, “It’s just not healthy to be fat, that’s why it’s ok to call her x, y and z.”

Americans are better than this. Allow me to gently point out the irony of talking passionately about the desire for health and happiness for ourselves and loved ones out of one side of our mouths, and playing a judgmental bully fat (and otherwise) police to our fellow citizens out of the other side of our mouth. Women are definitely better than this. Who among us has not gazed longingly at their "skinny" jeans and opted instead for their "I had a little too much fun on vacation slightly dumpy jeans" and just prayed not to run in to any exes before they can get back to their regular gym routine?

Maybe this can be our moment of liberation where we accept that the truth of being human doesn't need to be danced around, nor conversely presented like a page out of the script for “Mean Girls: Part Two.” People (and by people, celebrities fall under that general category too) gain weight and lose weight. They also happen to read their email (Yes, I know. I was quite surprised to find out that there was no such thing as a bomb-sniffing “Robo Dog” that ensured that Anderson never got within a 10-mile radius of his email). Some people gain weight when they're in emotional distress, some people lose weight when they're hurting. Some people gain weight when they're in love, some people lose weight when they're in love and on and on and on. So show me pictures of celebrities’ weight range all day and night – just leave out the toxic remarks, kindly. I'll relish the opportunity to see someone I think is pretty and "has it all" going through the same roller-coaster ride of life that I do.

soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. bonnie

    I join the ranks by expressing my DISGUST at the cartoon depicting Jessica as huge. I understand caricature, but of all the things that could be exaggerated, her size shouldn't be one of them. She is beautiful I don't speak from a sour grapes position, I'm a size 4, but that's my body type. She's curvaceous and most of us skinny mini's have spent a good part of our lives jealous of that.

    January 29, 2009 at 11:59 am |
  2. Carmen

    My seven year old second grader told me this morning she's been having salad every day for lunch at school. I told her that all the meals at school are well balanced, and she needed a variety of foods to be healthy. She never thought about such things when we were home-schooling. Some girls at school told her she wasn't pretty because she is not skinny like them and her hair was not permanently straightened. I told her skinny and long hair does not mean automatically pretty. This had to come from their families at home, and what they see on tv. My daughter is gorgeous! All the women in my family are! Now we are flat-ironing her hair occasionally at her request(compromise). I refuse to put chemicals in a second graders hair! Just so she can have friends? Who needs frienemies in 2nd grade!

    January 29, 2009 at 8:28 am |
  3. mariquita

    **stares at picture**

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with Jessica Simpson's figure in that photo. She looks healthy and fit, and I had half the men in my office drooling over my shoulder when I pulled up this article during lunch break. (What these modern people would think of Marilyn Monroe's figure if she were in here heyday now, I shudder to think...the sexy icon was nowhere near the stick figures sported by models/celebrities today.)

    I can understand this kind of topic occupying the entertainment media people; but for it to get the kind of attention given to front-page news, and a cartoon in the New York Post? Absurd.

    With both US *and* the global economy sinking faster than a ship's anchor, and all the internal issues besetting the US government, there are obviously more important things to be discussed with the fervor given to a young woman's figure!

    January 29, 2009 at 2:06 am |
  4. Sharon

    OMG! You mean Anderson Cooper really reads his own email??? NO WAY!

    I'm joking! I love Anderson! This was a great article I loved it and so true these are simply people with talent and why can't the media pay attention to the talent and not he weight?

    How sad that some people feel so insecure and have such low self esteem that they have to harp on someone else to make them feel better for a few minutes about their own sorry excuse of a life!

    But thank God must of us know the truth!

    If they think Jessica is huge I can't imagine exactly how thin they expect us women to be? But I got news for them all the days of bones are over haven't they ever heard the saying "Bones are for the dog, meat is for the Man"!!!

    January 29, 2009 at 12:42 am |
  5. Caitlin, ND

    Well said. I totally agree with everything you wrote. Jessica is gorgeous no matter what size she is and besides who are we to judge!

    January 28, 2009 at 11:56 pm |
  6. Kym

    wow.. If that is fat then i am a blimp.. Jessica is real.. I have never seen her more healthy and beautiful...There has to be more things to worry about. Mobody is talking about my weight on CNN...

    January 28, 2009 at 11:55 pm |
  7. Rob Z. Indiana

    Weight? We should all have her problem. Jessica is hot, and looks sexier than ever. Please give her my phone number, or e-mail shown below.

    January 28, 2009 at 11:24 pm |
  8. Sharon

    Ok! I agree with most of you we have way too many REAL problems in America than to worry about some singer's weight!

    And frankly I wish we could start seeing women look REAL for a change I'm so sick of these bone skinny never eat anything women who are not healthy and have bad breath!

    God really just be healthy that is the most important thing in the long run! Trust me! I am a woman I know!

    January 28, 2009 at 11:10 pm |
  9. Courtney Preston

    This whole thing about Jessica Simpson's weight is extremely stupid! People need to stop putting people down because of their weight. If you are to skinny, people think that you automatically have an eating disorder. If you are fat, people think that you are nasty and don't care about yourself. Why can't people just judge you because of your personality and not your weight. I think that Jessica Simpson looks ok. Besides in America right now, we have a bad economic crisis, bridges that need to be rebuilt, people being laid off every day, people that are losing there homes, 2 wars, and a whole bunch of other problems. With all that in mind, who really has time to worry about Jessica Simpson's weight?

    January 28, 2009 at 10:40 pm |
  10. Nancy-the Canadian-

    What i find interesting is, we all will pass that magazine on the shelf and say, "is that Jessica Simpson?!" Clearly confused by her sudden "weight gain". But, what I want to know is, who decided that what she looked like before was ok?! And why is her look now "not acceptable". As long as she is healthy. BTW, arent there bigger issues in the world these days!?

    January 28, 2009 at 10:06 pm |
  11. Monica from Sterling, VA

    STATISTICS:
    * 8 million people in the USA have Anorexia
    * Of those 8 million, 90-95% are female
    * 7 million people between the ages 15-35 have Anorexia
    * 1 in 200 girls aged 12-18 will have Anorexia

    I wonder why.

    January 28, 2009 at 9:56 pm |
  12. Annie Kate

    Seems like humor these days is laughing AT people and not with them. Making fun of people and calling it comedy is surely the sign of a comic with no true comic inspiration. I'm finding the old saying comes in very handy and doesn't hurt anyone – the saying? If you can't say something nice don't say anything at all. My, how quiet some people would get.

    January 28, 2009 at 9:54 pm |
  13. Eugenia - San Francisco

    Anyways, there is too many beautiful foods out there to be super skinny!

    January 28, 2009 at 8:54 pm |
  14. Eugenia - San Francisco

    Well it looks like only the girls have commented. DO PEOPLE REALIZE HOW MEAN AND NASTY THEY REALLY ARE? Unless your a size 2-4, your considered fat. Is that what we what our children to think? My daughter is only 8 years old and she use to scrunch her fat on her belly and say my belly is fat and now she knows it ok to have a little bit of "chunk-a-chunk" as long as they are eating good and exercising. Got to teach them early or they will have eating disorders!

    January 28, 2009 at 8:52 pm |
  15. Anna

    I agree with Taylor from OH completely. Jessica is very beautiful. She's always been very pretty. She's not fat! She just can't sing.

    Jessica's songs all sound the same. You want to listen to a beautiful voice, go listen to Sarah Brightman instead (who also happens to be very pretty).

    But, this shouldn't even be an issue. The world's got bigger problems than this!

    January 28, 2009 at 8:46 pm |
  16. Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX

    Here is just another theory. Maybe "stars" gain weight so they can get a lucrative contract loosing weight with some fad weight loss product.
    Publicity and stunts do exist! Something to ponder~
    XO's

    January 28, 2009 at 8:40 pm |
  17. Anne Morgan - Atlanta, GA

    When I first heard the news I logged on to see a picture
    and I expected her to be huge. I was shocked- "This is
    what they are talking about?". It's disgusting the way
    various media outlets (tv and newspaper) use this
    for their own ratings.

    January 28, 2009 at 8:32 pm |
  18. Taylor, OH

    This isn't important!
    She's very pretty. She just lacks talent.

    January 28, 2009 at 8:21 pm |
  19. Adeline

    awww. Jess is very pretty no matter what, and so adorable. we all comfort eat from time to time.

    January 28, 2009 at 8:19 pm |
  20. sea whimsy

    Love makes people happy. Maybe Tony didn't like a "thin as a rail" girl. Maybe she got tired of lettuce and power smoothies. People have to be 30 lbs over their ideal weight to be "overweight" and 40 lbs to be considered "obese."

    January 28, 2009 at 8:19 pm |
  21. Jenn/Monrovia, CA

    Lord almighty. The Economy is going to hell in a handbasket, the Middle East is busy bombing itself into bits, and I'm worried aobut keeping job, home, sanity, and the most people can find to gripe about in this world is Jessica Simpson's figure?

    The national dialogue sometimes confuses me greatly. there is the part that discusses how we can work together to change the world, and there is this whole other subset who like to trash, denegrate, and mean spirit the world because they have nothing etter to do with their lives. Honestly, being famous doesn't mean that you have to be the target of jerks.

    January 28, 2009 at 8:16 pm |
  22. Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX

    Do we judge and scrutinize men's bodies as close as society judges a woman? What is up with that? Women should look like a trophy for a man? That is inequality at it's worst!
    How many women look as good as Jessica does even with a few pounds?
    It is truly mean~spirited for the media to "rag" on celebrities for weight gain.
    Really, is this news? What kind of message does this send?
    And we wonder what is wrong with our society.
    Tisk, tisk.
    I am going to watch Simon make someone cry on Idol now~

    January 28, 2009 at 8:13 pm |
  23. Bonnie

    Holy smokes – she must be up to about 100 lbs. now. The nerve!

    The new trend of high waisted pants? Gross. Although, they will hide the gigantic granny panties you can wear underneath.

    January 28, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  24. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    I think we all spend too much time minding the business of other people. Thin or a little heavy is the business of the person who wears their own pounds, or lack of pounds, under their own skin. I think people are addicted to tearing down each other. Freedom of mean speech has become the new fix.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    January 28, 2009 at 7:59 pm |
  25. thecomebackgirl

    this is redic...the gurl is beautiful

    January 28, 2009 at 7:57 pm |
  26. Brandi - bottom of the boot

    omg, she is so huge!!!! NOT! she is still beautiful! if only the rest of us could carry a few extra pounds as beautifully as she does.

    January 28, 2009 at 7:12 pm |
  27. Cindy

    It's ridiculous that people put so much attention on what everyone looks like. That is why our young kids have eating disorders and are killing themselves to stay thin! People come in all shapes and sizes and the second we all start living by that then this world will be a better place. Not every one is supposed to have a cookie cutter look. If we all looked the same we'd be bored senseless!

    Jessica does not look bad at all. In fact she looks like most women look and not emaciated and sick like the models. What's so wrong with that!? Good for her that she's not killing herself to try to be in the "in" crowd!

    Cindy..Ga.

    January 28, 2009 at 7:10 pm |