Volume 92, Issue 37

Tuesday, November 10, 1998

upholding integrity


Hungry for attention

Fried chicken, anyone?

Calista Flockhart has made a name for herself as the hard-hitting, slightly neurotic lead on the hit television series Ally McBeal. However, the recent attention she's been garnering is the result of a highly-publicized weight loss and the controversy surrounding the issue has stripped the institution of journalism down to its bare bones.

At the Emmy Awards in September, Flockhart appeared in a stunning backless slip dress, but her skeletal appearance was better fit for Halloween than an awards ceremony. A whirlwind of tabloid rumours began to fly, citing Flockhart as anorexic and/or bulimic, followed by a frenzy of attention from the media. Although Flockhart has publicly denied allegations of an eating disorder, the disturbing pictures of the emaciated actress which accompany these articles, tell a different story.

The media response to the rumours circulating around Flockhart have been anything but responsible. With features in popular entertainment magazines such as People and US, the attention surrounding this serious issue is bordering on sensationalism.

Anorexia and bulimia are extremely serious disorders which plague an overly high percentage of the population, including an astonishing proportion of impressionable adolescents. Plastering Flockhart's picture in the public eye alongside her denial of a problem, sends the message that the final product of a skeletal, malnourished frame is okay. The measures taken to achieve such a body are ignored. If Flockhart arrived at her skinny frame by supposedly healthy means, then what's to stop others from attempting the same?

The other reality which accompanies this scenario is even though Flockhart's picture is placed within an article on eating disorders, the image is still presented as desirable. No matter what the text says, her picture is in magazines whose motive is to publicize, not defame celebrities. This is how unrealistic cultural norms begin.

What Flockhart chooses to do with her body is her business. If Flockhart is indeed afflicted with an eating disorder, she deserves the privacy needed to recover – which the media might grant a person afflicted with other diseases more biological than social in origin. If her weight loss is by natural means, drawing mass attention to it is irresponsible journalism.

While it can be argued that as a celebrity she is subject to media attention and commentary, the effect of the public's fascination with Flockhart's appearance has major ramifications which affect much more than her star status.

To Contact The Editorial Department: gazette.editor@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998