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By Jean Stanula, Special Guest Blogger to The Body Logic

Image via DJ Waldow/Flickr

After an intense workout, I stand in front of the row of coolers in the 7-11, seeking a beverage to quench my well-earned thirst. My eyes scan row after row of liquid satiation searching for the 20oz that will really hit the spot. When my eyes trace the clean and precise curves of the Smartwater bottle, settle softly on the ocean blue label, an image of Jennifer Aniston – beautiful, confident, relaxed – seeps into my brain and I reach for the bottle. I know I’ve done it, and maybe I scold myself a little, but I think Jennifer Aniston is a trustworthy character, and she just wants me to drink this delicious, clean, perfect water.

It is an undeniable fact that celebrity and popularity affect every arena of our lives. This is nothing new – humans have been worshipping both Gods and men that seem to embody a betterness, a higherness, a coolerness, forever. In present times, we most often recognize the negative aspects of this hero worship – children killed attempting a professional wrestling move or a skateboard trick, young people acting out violent song lyrics, or our desensitization of domestic violence issues that we see so often in celebrity tabloids.

Once in a while, and I’m not saying Jennifer Aniston’s promotion of Smartwater counts in this camp, we find celebrities using their influence as positive leadership. I’m talking about the great global goliaths who have raised money and brought awareness to important issues such as Lance Armstrong, Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates. When celebrities find causes close to their hearts and use their influence to get us to wear yellow or buy red, their influence manifests itself as philanthropic guidance rather than the useless over consumption that results from sneaker ads or car endorsements.

Sadly, it seems that many non-profits and important causes can’t get proper promotion or financial support without the backing of an actor, athlete, or recording artist. I picture all of these organizations like puppies huddled together in a cardboard box, pawing and whimpering, stretching to be seen and plucked from obscurity by someone whose face can be found on a t-shirt. I wish consumers would also pay attention to organizations without celebrity endorsements, but I certainly can’t deny the effectiveness of such … If Lance Armstrong could do for poverty, homelessness, religious intolerance or issues of equality what he did for prostate cancer in this country, there is no doubt we would be living in a better world.

All causes can’t be as “popular” as HIV/AIDS or breast cancer, but some celebrities took a stand this past week to bring attention to really important issue – the portrayal of women and girls in the media. Joining together with worthy organizations, Girl Scouts of the USA and The Creative Coalition, a handful of celebrities such as Felicity Huffman, Seth Green, Rachael Leigh Cook and Chuck D. spoke out. They even took the time to recognize their absurd power in media, asking viewers to “Watch What You Watch.” Here’s the video:

It is awesome to see these recognizable faces taking on the issue of the media’s portrayal of women and girls. And, I have to say, it’s great to see men taking part in the promotion, too, which reminds viewers that an issue about women isn’t solely a women’s issue. They urge us to be more socially conscious, more media savvy, to take off the blinders we all sometimes wear when we want to just “enjoy” TV, magazines and movies. The campaign reminds us to filter and reject some of the media stream in which we are constantly treading because we do what celebrities say (right?) so we should do this too. We should be smart. Think smart.

As a strong supporter of the Girl Scouts (an organization which, for the record is not at all affiliated with the bigoted Boy Scouts of America) I am happy to see them enjoy a little celebrity backing. The issue of the mental and physical health and safely of women and girls should be just as “popular” as some of America’s favorite charities. Hopefully, this campaign, and others like it, will stick in the minds of consumers when they witness inappropriate or offensive portrayals of women in media (just like Jennifer Aniston does in mine when I see a bottle of Smartwater) and inspire them to think twice about buying what the media is selling.

Jean Stanula is a non fiction writer, blogger and nonprofiteer with an interest in issues of equality. She is a weekly columnist for The New Gay, where she writes under the catchy pseudonym Not Your Average Prom Queen, and sporadically records her
personal ramblings and creative writing at
That Makes Me Nervous.

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I usually get a lot of flack for my unending love of the original, the ultimate ’90s teen primetime soap Beverly Hills, 90210. I can’t help it. I grew up watching Brenda follow her dreams all the way across the pond. I aspired to run the school newspaper like Andrea Zuckerman. I wanted a boyfriend who had sideburns like Brandon’s. (And I found him!) The show lasted an entire decade! And I’ll admit, I ditched it for Dawson’s Creek once Jason Priestley left and it got kind of intolerable. (I mean, really, how many awful things had to happen to poor Kelly Taylor? My friend Elizabeth and I agree that after she had been burned in a fire, sucked into a cult, addicted to coke, almost killed by a mixed-up sociopath, raped twice and shot, the girl must have been from Hell.)

Still, I will always sing the praises of the show’s earlier years, because it was the first hour-long drama to take teens seriously (sorry, Saved By the Bell, that wasn’t you). The story lines of the West Bev crew touched on important, timely issues that applied to ’90s teens—from AIDS to suicide to premarital sex (oh, Donna Martin, you goody-goody) and even the consequences of drinking too much champagne at prom. Where’s that show today? Oh, right, there was nothing but a pile of sugar-coated, Hannah Montana crap—so the CW had to just remake 90210.

At any rate, today is actually 9-02-10! To commemorate, I thought I’d spotlight just a few of the show’s life lessons on body image, love and sex.

Diet pills suck – Remember Kelly Taylor’s friend who came to Brenda’s sleepover but acted way too cool? Well, she was actually just a grumpy ex-chubby girl who was on loads of diet pills. And beautiful but insecure Kelly herself later abused diet pills. The show portrayed pill-popping to stay slim as sad and scary. Maybe this stuck with me, because years later, I found myself trading a bottle of Metabo-Life for a healthy lifestyle change with Weight Watchers.

You don’t have to wait ’til marriage—just ’til you fall in love – Before Brenda and Dylan did it at the Spring Dance, she gushed, “How many girls get to have sex for the first time with someone they love?” That scene likely shaped my own and many other girls’ views of virginity. Why do it with someone I didn’t love? But that didn’t necessarily mean having to wait until marriage. (Besides, it’s not like I’m Catholic, like Donna. Oh, wait, she had eventually did it with David before they got hitched!) Turns out Brenda’s swiping of the V-card was pretty revolutionary, too: According to an article in Slate, “The most shocking part was that she shows no remorse. A teen girl having sex—even if she used a condom—and gloating about it didn’t go unnoticed (or unpunished).” …until of course they wrote in Brenda’s pregnancy scare of season 2. Whatever. Sorry, Jim Walsh, she just wasn’t your little girl anymore.

Andrea Zuckerman was beautiful – She may have started out as the geeky girl with the hopeless crush on Brandon Walsh. And granted, she never got that guy, she was still adored—by Brandon, Steve and many a hot (and often older) dude. In her all of her straight A-earning, editor-in-chief of The Blaze, getting into Yale while wearing high-waisted jeans glory, the Jewish girl from the wrong side of the tracks was truly aspirational.

Put your sisters before misters – Really, what the heck, Brenda and Kelly? Dylan had that sexy James Dean thing going on, but he was also super screwed-up on booze, coke and later, heroin. Not hot. And definitely not worth throwing out your BFF bond.

Being a model is not worth sleeping with some sleazy French guy – That is all.

Be yourself! – This was a running theme, of course—being a teenager is all about figuring out who you are and staying true to that. But the most literal lesson on being yourself may have been when Brenda pretended to be French with hottie-pa-tottie Rick (played by Dean Cain) in Paris. The ruse got her in a lot of hot water back in Bev Hills once “Reek” showed up to attend UCLA—classic! After attempting to enlist mom Cindy and bro Brandon to play along, Brenda quickly learned that she was better off calling the whole thing off and just being herself—the all-American Brenda Walsh from Minnesota. She could save random accents for the stage.

More hilarious life lessons from 90210.

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Alright, I’ve had it! It is time to take a stand on what’s what in the world of lady health, and I need you with me. We have to make sure that we’re not buying into, parroting or perpetuating even more BS about what’s best for our sex lives, boobs, genitalia or hygiene. So without further ado, let’s get a few things straight.

Douching is a no-no. There has been a lot of hullabaloo about a new Summer’s Eve ad that is titled, “Confidence at Work: How to Ask For a Raise” (see left). They claim they know what can really help you smash that glass ceiling: Manmade contraptions and chemicals used to wash your cooch, of course! …But, no. No, it isn’t. Don’t we all know that? When I heard about it, I thought, “Um, what? Why does that product even exist anymore? Who out there still thinks it is a good idea to douche?” I thought we all knew this by now—douching is generally not recommended, as it can adversely affect the body’s natural balance of bacteria, leading to vaginal infection and other problems. So, yes, this ad is totally ridiculous, but even more wild and crazy to me that there’s even a market for Summer’s Eve. Hey you, Mary Sue! The 21st century called—it wants you to walk away from the douche bag…

Big mouths speaking out on breastfeeding. Please shut up, Gisele, and anyone else who thinks they know what is best for every single woman. Just stick to what works for you, mm’k?

The Kardashian girls may have a lot of sisterly love—but apparently not the correct vocab for their vajayjays.

Vulva, vulva, vulva! OK, I don’t care if you think it’s school marmy. I’m a writer, so right there, you know why I’m a bit of a stickler for correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. Also, I heart me some correct terminology. And I’m personally super-annoyed when women refer to their own gorgeous genitalia with the wrong name. A perfect example in the news: Kim Kardashian was quoted as saying, “I don’t know, I never looked at [sister Khloe’s] vagina. I thought it was, like, a shaved rashy vagina.” Ehhh! Sorry, Kim. You’d need a speculum to really see your sister’s vagina. It’s her red, bumpy bikini line that you must be referring to…or if she gets Brazilians, maybe it’s her vulva. That’s the outer part. I really hope it’s not her vagina. (Ooouchhh.) Bottom-line: If you’re not going to call it by it’s correct name, at least use something fun—like “honey pot” or “lady business.”

Myths or missing info about birth control. This is a huge umbrella under there is one really nasty storm is going on. One golfball-sized piece of hail… The idea that the Withdrawal Method or “pulling out” is hands-down, no questions asked an express ticket to being called Ma-ma. The reality of it is that coitus interruptus is nearly as effective as condoms. That’s good news for many responsible, monogamous couples who trust one another and are in tune with their bodies. Then there is the missing info (and sometimes straight-up lies) about ParaGard, the copper-T, nonhormonal IUD. Some resources won’t mention it to you if you’re young and unmarried. Some dishonest practitioners will shoo you out of their examining room if you tell them you’re interested in using it instead of the Pill. (Really, you ask? Stay tuned. My sister will report on a personal experience in a future post…) The truth is that the IUD can be inserted in younger women who haven’t had a baby, and it is safe, 99% effective, good for up to 10 years and a stellar choice for birth control especially if you’re in a monogamous relationship.

Ok, now it’s your turn. What totally un-sexy trend would you like to blow the whistle on?

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By Carey Purcell, Special Guest Blogger to The Body Logic

The new mom shows off her post-partum bikini bod, which apparently she attains by "eating nothing." (Photo via Life & Style)

In our culture of instant gratification and crash diets, it’s not surprising that reality TV star Bethany Frankel’s post-baby diet secret is to “Taste everything, eat nothing.”

My response can be summed up quite concisely: Ugh.

First, I’d like to address how ridiculous these “post-baby body” stories are. They’re everywhere, and they’re infuriating. Average women shouldn’t hold themselves to these insane standards. They’re just not realistic. And what’s more, they’re not healthy. These movie stars who drop 30 pounds in three weeks have personal chefs, personal trainers, and hours of free time every day to exercise. Who in real life has that luxury? I am not married, have no children and yet, I struggle work an hour of exercise into my life every day. If you don’t have the same resources as these wealthy celebrities, don’t have the same expectations as them.

Second, is it just me, or does Frankel’s advise sound, um, awful, to anyone else? The idea of eating nothing is not my idea of an enjoyable, healthy life, even if it would mean I’d be photographed in a “teeny turquoise two-piece” bathing suit for a trashy tabloid magazine. Why do celebrities, if you consider Frankel to be one, consider food the enemy? Why is it something that has to be avoided at all costs?

Food is not the enemy. As a former Weight Watcher, I struggled with my relationship with food for years and maybe I would have tried Frankel’s method myself. But now, after achieving a healthy weight and maintaining it for six years, I find Frankel’s mantra to be disturbing and dangerous. Food should not avoided and feared. The sensual and nutritional benefits of food should not be hampered by the PhotoShopped covers of grocery store shopping lane tabloids. (Another reason why I love Trader Joe’s! No magazines there!)

One of the crucial lessons I learned while losing weight was that food should be a pleasurable part of life. Food should be enjoyed. Food should be savored. If you want a treat, you can have a treat. You don’t have to run screaming from a piece of chocolate cake. Just work it into your healthy eating plan for the day or even the week by eating a healthy, vegetable-filled meal or add a bit of extra cardio to your workout the next morning. And if you’re going to have that treat, enjoy every bite of it! Don’t feel guilty. Don’t think, “I shouldn’t be eating this.” Take small bites, chew slowly. Savor it. These are “Naturally Thin” rules to live by. It makes me think … if she really wanted to stay true to her healthy living agenda, Bethenny would have been better off saying, “Don’t eat EVERYTHING; just enjoy everything you eat.”

Carey Purcell is self-confessed health junkie with an intense sweet tooth that she satisfies with small pieces of organic dark chocolate and large amounts of fresh fruit. Her workouts vary between yoga, Cuerpaso and simply commuting from the Upper East Side to Tribeca every day. She is the editor of MindBodySanctuary.com and a frequent contributor to the Health and Wellness section of Alternet.org. You can read her writing or contact her at CareyPurcell.com.

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My favorite time of year, when sundresses and flip-flops and sunshine prevail, is supposed to come to a screeching halt after Labor Day (which is also my 27th birthday, by the way…) That’s why late August is when I usually start sounding like a whiny child. “But, do we have to consider it late summer? I refuse!” My argument: Fall doesn’t start until September 23, which is more than a month away! So why can’t we devote a full 3 months to Summer? I mean, that cruel ice queen, Winter, practically gets 5!

Anyway, in an effort to savor the last little over 2 weeks of the “technical” summer, here are 5 cheesy-but-awesome songs and how to make the most of their feel-good power. They will make you smile, dance and hopefully, remember to do like Baby and Johnny and have the Time of Your Life. 😉

“(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes

Summer wouldn’t be the same without at least one dance to this. Quick how-to: Pretend your guy just defended you against your overprotective parents by saying that no one puts you in the corner. Imagine you’re wearing a flowy pink dress. Take the stage. Do not giggle when Patrick Swayze touches your armpit. Then sway in his muscular arms. And run to him and do the lift. Sigh.

“SexyBack” by Justin Timberlake (featuring Timbaland)

Around this date in 2006, we were all about to be seduced by a track that would change the direction of pop music…and make us hot and bothered! Quick how-to: Show up on your significant other’s doorstep after spending a night out with the guys/girls. Request that your S.O. put “SexyBack” on, so they can see what you’re “twerking with.” (Because it’s the last song you heard in the bar, of course.) Now, go ‘head. Be gone with it.

“Power of Love” by Huey Lewis & the News

In the summer of ’85, I was 2. Over the next 20 or so years later, I became a wee bit obsessed with the time-travel romantic comedy about the McFly fam. This upbeat pop track that scores Marty’s skateboard ride through downtown Hill Valley—just the icing. My infatuation somewhat reached its pinnacle, in the early fall of ’05, when I saw Huey Lewis perform the hit live in Burbank. Quick how-to: Wear cool shades. Play air guitar. Imagine going 88 mph. Now, that’s the power of love.

“Just Dance” by Lady Gaga

Two years ago, we really didn’t know who this Lady Gaga chick was. She was blonde and had a pop single, so she was probably just another Madonna/Britney incarnation, right? WRONG. We had another pop revolution on our hands here, people! And why not usher it in with a song that celebrates the joy of throwing your hands up and saying, “I’m too drunk to know what’s going on. I might as well just have fun. Everything’s gonna be OK!” Quick how-to: Turn your shirt inside out. (Optional: Wear a bra made from mirrorballs.) Splash around in a blow-up kiddie pool. Then, just dance.

“Jump In The Line” by Harry Belafonte

I realize that 3/5 of my songs were featured prominently in ’80s movies, but you know what? ’80s movies rocked. This song from Beetlejuice was the track of choice for my college roommates and I when we’d dance ontop of our desk chairs. We couldn’t float like Winona, so chairs would have to do. Quick how-to: It’s simple. Just shake, shake, shake, senora!

What is your favorite feel-good summer song?

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Last week, all the buzz was about vaginas. This week, I’m wondering about penises. Maybe that’s because my friend, Lissa Rankin, recently posed the question on her Facebook: Does size matter?

Immediately, I thought of this clip from Sex & the City, in which Samantha is crying to Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda that the man she’s dating is too small. Remember?

When I shared the clip with Lissa, she pointed out that it was sponsored by ProExtend, “a penile enlargement device and adjustable traction apparatus,” which she noted, feeds off the insecurities of men. It’s true that there’s an entire industry of gadgets, pills, supplements, exercise regimens, etc. aimed at guys who are self-conscious about their size.

I started to think about how there are so many double-standards between the sexes when it comes to what’s attractive. We all know how screwed up it is that chubby Seth Rogan is considered geeky-sexy and gets cast as the endearing lead in a rom-com. And in Superbad, gorgeous Emma Stone fawns all over tubby-as-Hell Jonah Hill. Doubtful we’d ever see hot guys going after a similarly overweight actress. (With the exception of John Waters’s nutty Hairspray, of course.)

But there’s one case in which big is in. When it comes to what’s in our pants, it’s true that men have to put up with more pressure to conform to some unrealistic Boogie Nights size standard. Granted, we women have to confront other absurd ideals having to do with Brazilian waxes and odor, etc. But these issues don’t get nearly as much screen time as the penis size meme.

I do feel bad for guys who feel like they have to measure up (pun intended) to what they see in movies or porn. They should feel confident and happy with their packages. (Because women usually are!) But, honestly, I kinda don’t feel like spending too much time boo-hoo’ing for them. We ladies are targeted with images that aim to chip away at our body confidence just about all day every day—from cover lines that scream, “How One C-List Celeb Dropped Her Baby Weight in 5 Seconds!” to Facebook ads that tout breast implants, lipo or even wrinkle cream. From the time that we’re able to dress ourselves, we’re almost on autopilot, trying to amend what isn’t up to pop culture par about our outward appearance. At least guys can keep a VIP (Very Insecure Penis) under wraps in public.

What do you think—am I being too harsh? Maybe we should start a campaign for Penis Confidence? 🙂

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Posing sans makeup in Marie Claire

“The universal thing that defines beauty is inner confidence. And I know a lot of people say that, but it is really hard to find. It is really hard to do your own personal homework and really understand who you are as a women, as a girl, like, who you are. What makes you authentic? What makes you unique? Like, who are you? Answering all those questions and really knowing yourself. That is probably the hardest part about feeling beautiful, but it is the most incredible part, when you actually do discover it.”Jessica Simpson in an interview with South Colorado’s KKTV

When it comes to beauty, the pop/”country” singer-turned-actress-turned-“sexual napalm” knows more than a thing or two. She recently explored “The Price of Beauty” on VH1.

Do you agree with her?

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(Photo via zap2it.com)

In honor of the fourth season of Mad Men premiering this week, the Web churned out how-tos on throwing your own themed viewing parties, character studies of smooth-talking protagonist Don Draper and of course, odes of love to The Queen of Curvy, Christina Hendricks. Right now, everyone seems to have a girl crush on the voluptuous redheaded actress. Because, well, she’s gorgeous. But she’s also unconventional! *gasp!* She’s the anti-Kate Moss! *sqee!* She’s DEFYING SOCIAL STANDARDS! *faint* Her size 14 hourglass figure apparently stands for so much more than a flashback to a time when women weren’t hell bent on looking like “tits on a stick.”

Yet, I can’t help but agree with this article from BBC News Magazine that asks:

“Christina Hendricks…has been identified as the woman with a body others should healthily aspire to. But how realistic is it for women to look like her?”

By aspiring to look like Hendricks—who is said to possibly measure in at 38-32-38 and wears a C-cup—we’re just collectively chasing after a different yet still unattainable model of perfection.

Hendricks may be blessed to have a flat tummy along with a “pow, pow, pow” booty and “wow, oh, wow” boobies, but in the real world, women with Hendricks’ figure have larger stomachs and wider waists to match their generous bosom, says a psychologist from the National Centre for Eating Disorders who is quoted in the BBC story.

For these real women, looking like Hendricks would likely require a mega-rigorous diet and exercise. Or, at the very least, uncomfortable undergarments! And let’s face it, Mad Men fans from Millenials to Boomers, are not going to regularly stuff themselves into ribcage-choking corsets or girdles to attain a perfect hourglass. (Thanks to Sara Blakely, we get to pull on a pair of relatively comfy Power Panty Spanx and go!)

Breath-robbing aside, I’m personally not a fan of anything that drastically transforms my body into something that it’s not. Just this past weekend, I picked up a pretty strapless bra at Victoria’s Secret. I was all about it, until I realized that it’s part of their new “Miraculous” collection, which basically has enough padding to stuff a king-sized comforter. It adds THREE WHOLE CUP SIZES! This bra could catapult my pear shape into mini-Hendricks hourglass terrain. But I’m not down with such obvious faking. Even though it’s not “in” or “ideal,” I’m simply more comfortable being little in the middle—and ontop—while havin’ much back.

Still, the occasional or chronic discomfort with the mirror can make any woman susceptible to this infectious idea that the ideal body is a celebrity’s—be that buxom or twig-ish. As much as I appreciate that society is once again embracing a figure that is slightly more attainable than the emaciated type, there’s still a problem with putting any extreme on a pedestal. The deep-end result: Some women are forging undergarments altogether and going straight under the knife, requesting in some cases “head 2 toe” carving à la Kim Kardashian, Jessica Alba, Angelina Jolie and yep, probably Christina Hendricks.

With these cases becoming more and more prevalent, I think it’s time to say, seriously, ladies, let’s get a collective grip. It’s one thing to think, “Wow, she’s smokin’!” (literally, ha), but quite another to go all Heidi Montag on yourself. You oughta feel free to girl crush all you want, but know that the most “ideal” body shape will always been your own.

 

From the creator of My So-Called Life comes HUGE...

 

Though I was just turning 11 years old while Angela Chase crushed on Jordan Catalano, I was hopelessly devoted to My So-Called Life. And, like many, was left a heartbroken tween when the revolutionary teen drama was cancelled after only one half-season. So, my ears perked up when I heard that the creator of MSCL, Winnie Holzman is back. With her 24 year-old daughter, Savannah Dooley, Holzman has written the new ABC Family TV show, Huge, based on the novel by Sasha Paley.

Starring Nikki Blonsky of 2007 Hairspray redux fame and Hayley Hasselhoff (yep, daughter of David), Huge premiered on Monday night. The jist: It’s summertime, and that means that at Camp Victory, a weight-loss camp, registration is in full swing. We initially meet Willamina, or Will (Blonsky), who while waiting in line for “before” photos, claims that she’s just peachy with being fat. In fact, she says that she’d like to gain weight while she’s there. We also meet Amber (Hasselhoff), the hot, tall, blonde girl that everyone else thinks is the thinnest one at camp. But she seems to see something completely different in the mirror, as she pinches her belly and posts magazine cut-outs of models as “thinspiration” (cringe) above her bunk bed.

I’ll admit that when I tuned into the pilot, I was feeling a bit defensive. See, I actually went to a weight-loss camp when I was 12 years-old. Here’s what I thought: Based on the first episode of Huge, I have to say that my experience was different in that I didn’t get shipped off into the woods up in Vermont or Michigan. No, admittedly, my grandpa treated me to a slightly more luxe experience: I got to shed my pre-adolescent pounds by the beach, on the campus of the University of California San Diego at Camp La Jolla. I remember reading ads in the back of my teen magazines for camps that were like the one featured in Huge—where kayaking, swimming in lakes and living in cabins were part of the paring pounds fun. But, at Camp La Jolla, we lived in the UCSD dorms, we took 2 mile walks to the most gorgeous shore I’d ever seen in my life, we did water aerobics in a pool and we got healthy, Californian—and as I recall, actually really yummy—meals. And I don’t think any of my peers at Camp La Jolla were sneaking Kit-Kats and chips… Of course, we were slightly scared 12 year-olds, whereas the kids on Huge are bordering-on-brazen 14-16s.

Nikki Blonsky as Will (Photo via ABC Family)

 

Other aspects of the show definitely rang true: We also did several hours of exercise every day—just like in Huge, although the show makes it out to be torturous, whereas I remember having a blast doing dance aerobics to Madonna’s Immaculate Collection. When we went to the dining hall, we were served our meals with built-in portion control (that’s the point, though, right?) And from the outset, we knew that outside food (like the black market candy that Will sells to other campers) was no question grounds for being sent packing. There were camp romances (aren’t there always?), thinner campers who were considered the hotties (girls and guys…everyone loved a boy named Tyler!), “before” and “after” photos, embarrassing moments in bathing suits and camp counselors who I’m sure had to deal with their share of drama from campers.

La Jolla, CA: Not your average setting for weight-loss camp. (Photo via TripAdvisor)

 

Having lived through my own summer at weight-loss camp, it’s easy for me to be critical of false representations of the phenomenon. But so far, I feel like Winnie, Savannah and ABC Family do get it. Which makes me happy, because a show like this is necessary. With up to 33 percent of American teens considered obese, it’s about time that Hollywood shelved stale stereotypes and offered a realistic drama about young people struggling with their weight and body image. It sounds like the mother-daughter creators feel the same way:

“For my whole life, Winnie and I have often watched portrayals of chubby girls on TV and movies and felt really frustrated by the portrayal,” Savannah told New York Magazine. “We would say to each other, ‘Oh my God, of course she just has to listen, and give advice, and have a little crack about how fat she is.’ As two people who throughout our lives have struggled with body image for ourselves, we’ve always been really attuned to how that’s been reflected in the media. In doing this, we wanted to create the complicated look at body image and weight that we had always wanted to see.”

And if the pair can really accomplish that, then I hope this show becomes as big as its name.
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Circa 2001, I began a personal love affair with the life and times of Carrie Bradshaw & Co. (Thanks for the ripped DVDs, Hemant!) Even though I dreamed of working as a writer at a magazine one day, my idealistic 17 year-old self knew that an Upper East Side walk-in closet filled with Manolos and DVF wrap dresses on a freelancer’s budget was fairy tale and legend. Fantasy aside, the show was woven with glistening truthful threads on relationships, men, dating, love, female sexuality, self-image, self-esteem, oh yeah, and sex. I would credit the show for encouraging me to own and assert my needs and desires: a gratifying sex life, a meaningful, successful career and true love. Oh yeah, and to someday also be a mom. Thanks to SATC, women nation-wide discovered or were reminded that these needs didn’t have to be mutually exclusive.  

Word on the street is that the Sex & the City franchise has lost its “sparkle.” That with the big screen sequel that hit theaters last week, it’s no longer empowering—

it’s just saggy, sad and filled with wrinkly, menopausal women “pumped full of Botox and hormones.” One friend told me that it was a monumental fail. Another said that she wished for those two hours of her life back.

It appears that many of these haters fall into several categories. (Warning: A few spoilers ahead.)

-They are menopause-misogynists, set out to bash the film if only because it is carried (no, no pun intended here) by successful, sexy women who happen to be well over 35. These critics are having a field day picking apart how the cast looks so friggin’ old and by default, of course, unattractive. When they make Oceans 113, no one’s going to say anything about George Clooney looking like the Cryptkeeper, but SATC2 is fair game. As Jezebel puts it, “It’s rare to see a writer attack a male lead with this kind of vitriol. Does the “leatheriness” of her skin really make the movie that much more unbearable?” Oh yeah, bear in mind that the Men-Hate-SJP factor also plays a role in this catty free-for-all.

They jumped on the hater bandwagon and drew the conclusion that the film sucked well before the credits rolled. Case in point: Newsweek‘s review decided to go with the popular argument that the flick turned the original series’ the feminist vibe totally backasswards: “The characters go from trailblazers to conformists, suddenly telling us that work and child-rearing actually don’

t mix…” False. Yes, in the beginning, we see Miranda quit her job…and leave behind a boss who is chauvinistic and abusive. I was completely empowered by that plot point, because being a feminist means being able to say, “I deserve better!” in the work place. That’s exactly what happens here. At the end of the film, our favorite attorney is working for an employer who appreciates her, and she’s incredibly happy.

This, to me, is the biggest fail. A PhotoShop disaster, courtesy of New Line Cinema. Guess what? We like how they REALLY look.

 

-They weren’t fans in the first place. I’ve always been ahead of myself in the maturity department, but I’m starting to feel like I can relate more to 52 year-old Samantha, shown slathering estrogenic yams on her inner arm, than to some of the tween, teen and even college-aged viewers who are flocking to the theaters to see the big screen versions of Sex. Yep, some of them (like my 21 year-old sister) watched the series on DVD or TBS. And they get it. (Well, the TBS viewers get like 85% of it.) But, there are a ton of them who have only seen the films… Of course, lots o’ critics for big media outlets are straight, likely old, white men, who never cared for the show in the first place either. In other words, if you haven’t been aboard the Sex ship for 12 years, you aren’t emotionally invested in the plights of Carrie/Charlotte/Miranda/Samantha and simply do not get it. Much like Twilight, this is a flick made for fans.

A flashback that only a fan could love. (Photo via focusonstyle.com)

 

They’re mistaking SATC2 for a documentary about women in NYC. Like this great review on Women & Hollywood says: “This movie is not a hard look at reality. It’s a summer escape movie just like all the movies that blow shit up.  You don’t think that guys who go see Iron Man have any expectation of becoming like Iron Man (except in their fantasies), just like I don’t expect to ever be able to fit in or wear a Versace skirt. Women know this is not real, in fact 76% of the people (mostly women) who took a survey on fandango.com look at the film as a “great escape.”

It’s true. The beauty of the series and its audience was that we loved the friendship among the four leading ladies, and we loved the web of whimsy and reality that the show wove. Yes, there’s escapism and fantasy galore: a first-class “magic carpet ride” to Abu Dhabi (as played by Morocco), a romantic run-in with an ex halfway around the globe, as always over-the-top fashion, a gay wedding featuring Liza Minelli… (All brought to you via creator Michael Patrick King, who said he wanted to take his audience on a vacation you maybe can’t afford right now.) OK, OK, and there are also somewhat cringe-inducing antics, puns and questionable stereotypes. But there were threads of truth, too. Carrie recalls, “I was this girl running around New York City like a crazy person, looking for love…” and I actually teared up. That was me too! When Miranda and Charlotte talk about how hard it is to be a mom, I’ll bet plenty of my pals-who-are-also-mamas can relate! (At least that’s the impression I get from their sleepy Facebook statuses.) When, in the middle of a crowded marketplace in the Middle East, Samantha scrambles to pick up a spilled purse full of condoms, and screams, “YES, I have sex!” the audience I was sitting in leapt up, roared and applauded. Seems to me that a flick that brings women together to celebrate their sexuality and friendships will never really fail. In fact, sign me up for round 3.

Further reading that falls in the non-haters camp here.

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