Angelina Jolie Looked Skinny At Oscars; Saying ‘Eat A Cheeseburger’ Still Isn’t Body Positive

Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Angelina Jolie looked extremely thin on the red carpet last night, and headlines about her “look” at the Oscars are, invariably, followed by comment sections filled with remarks about her weight. One of the most common refrains is some variation on the imperative to “eat a cheeseburger,” often paired with musings about her anorexia. But in honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I think we need to stop: Even if we knew more about the state of her health or body image, telling someone who you suspect has an eating disorder to eat more just isn’t body positive, and it’s not helping Jolie or anyone else.

Criticism of Jolie’s weight isn’t new; after this year’s Golden Globes, she also caught flak for being too skinny. Oscar commenters echoed the sentiments, claiming concern over her possible struggles with anorexia, or simply issuing snarky comments instructing her to eat more, like singer Bonnie McKee did on twitter:

When the New York Times asked Facebook “What do you think of her look?” commenters echoed similar sentiments. The vast majority posted negative comments about her pale skin and gaunt frame…and yes, told her to eat something. Here are just a few:

“ eat some lasagne or something”

“holy crap! she needs to eat some cheeseburgers and gravy for a while. She looks like a Aushwitz Jew!! yuck”

“ Face—beautiful. Body—needs a couple of cheeseburgers. Dress—way too heavy and bulky..looks like she is counting on dress to add some pounds. Slit in dress about 3″ too high. Looks like she is trying too hard.”

“she looks terrible. Eat a sandwich or something”

Mixed in with snarky comments are some intelligent ruminations about what actresses like Jolie really teach us about beauty and body image. One such comment gets at the heart of why I think so many of us are perturbed by her weight:

“She is a great role model for her humanitarian work, but not for body image. If the camera adds 10 pounds, oh my! What does she look like in person. It’s sad. I don’t want my daughter to think looking like that is beautiful. There were a couple of women last night that were sickly looking.”

We love it when celebrities and media speak out about Hollywood’s harsh body standards, and it’s encouraging to see commenters do the same. But criticizing someone’s body for being too thin isn’t the way to do it.

Many feel that Jolie’s celebrity comes with the responsibility to be a healthy role model, and being extremely thin isn’t the way to do it. This is a fair concern, but remember: Jolie isn’t touting diet tips or workout routines. Ultimately, what influences us the most is a media that sets a very narrow definition of beauty, and—as seen in the case of Jolie as much as in the case of actresses who are too old or thin—bashes women who stray from their “norm.”

The truth is that we don’t know whether she’s struggling with an eating disorder or other health issues, and until she wants to speak publicly about her body, no one’s really in the position to comment on what she should eat or weigh from the stance of real concern for her health.

As one wise commenter on the New York Times page put it:

Would you be so critical of someone who is a little too fat? Stop. Focus on the ways she has worked to alleviate suffering in this world instead of on her knees. Are you all perfect? Women deserve better, esp from other women.

Snarky comments to eat junk food don’t help anyone—not Jolie, or young women who struggle with an eating disorder and look to Jolie for ‘thinspiration.’ If you want to encourage better body image and healthier ideas about beauty, then encourage more diversity in movies, on the red carpet and in magazines. But bashing women is hateful no matter why you’re doing it, or how funny you think it is to tell thin women to “eat something.”

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    • Jan

      Yes it matters if Jolie looked too skinny…she looked anorexic..the arms were skeleton-like. A beautiful smile, a beautiful dress, but what is really going on with Angelina Jolie.

      • Robert

        Agree. She’s a roll model for young women. To be this thin isn’t only about becoming sexually unattractive or going into character for a film. Its about the message you send to those who admire you. Plus it’s not healthy for her to be this emaciated. You’d be fooling yourself if you believed otherwise.

    • Anne

      She is an actress, maybe she is losing weight for a new role. It’s her life, it’s her choice – get over it people!

      • michelle

        Yes, it’s her life and her choice. But she’s a public figure and a BIG influence on young women, and unfortunately promotes a very unhealthy body image.

        Also – what role would require her to lose even more weight? That in itself is disturbing…

    • melissa

      i think she looks gorgeous. she doesn’t look sickly. she looks like she’s eating a conscious humble diet. when we don’t eat dead animals and a bunch of other junk… we stay thin. why do people feel the need to go on attack when someone is thin? ridiculous.

      • Mark

        You’re joking, right?

      • MarathonMom03

        Would you want your daughter looking to her as a role model? You have got to be kidding. She looked incredibly bony…downright scary. There is a difference between being truthfully healthy and lean, and bone-skinny. She looks weak and frail, which are not attributes that I want my daughter to think is the way to be. Seriously…if you support her skeleton-looking appearance, then you must have the same problem…sheesh!

      • Jennifer

        She actually did look sickly. She doesn’t look like she’s eating a healthy diet. Her muscle that she once had looks like it is gone. People who eat healthy have both lean muscle and a healthy amount of fat. Her arms look like skin and bones.

    • NotThumper

      “wise” commenter? Of course people would be too critical if someone was a little bit fat…
      Aren’t they always?

    • Mie

      Everyone is entitled to privacy and respect, especially someone like Angelina Jolie who has gone beyond her celebrity to adopt an array of humanitarian causes and actively work towards a greater good. However, I do believe that she looked scary thin last night. Just looking at her arms was difficult. I hope she can be spared the media scrutiny and be allowed the time and space to get the help she needs. Whatever she’s dealing with, I think she should be given the dignity to work it out on her own terms. (Besides, I think if the only source of role models that our children have come from magazine covers and television screens, then we as parents must not be doing a very good job. I think instead of trying to censor the world and demand everything be made PG-friendly, we should be focusing our energies on raising better-capacitated children who can process the information around them and derive their own well-thought out conclusions.)

    • Heather

      Saying that Angelina Jolie needs a cheeseburger, etc… is a way for people to state a serious concern in a light manner. In some of her latest movies like ‘Salt’ and ‘The Tourist,’ I thought that she looked too thin.

      The fact is that she is a public figure/role model for other women- it’s an unhealthy look that others may try to emulate… and can lead to teenagers/children/other women having unrealistic expectations for themselves… leading to lack of self-respect and self-worth and/or an eating disorder. So, in this aspect, it’s only natural that there may be public outcry.

      Beyond all that, it’s not healthy in the long-term for someone to be that thin. Her friends/family/doctor have the responsibility to express their concern for her weight (whether she’s too overweight/underweight). When people get too thin, there are severe possible consequences… usually heart failure.

    • Natalie

      I was watching with my 12 year old son who said “mom, why are her arms so skinny? She looks like a skeleton…scary!” I just told him that even though she doesn’t look healthy, she is still a beautiful person on the inside. But, No, she didn’t look healthy at all.

    • Liz

      It’s women like that who make it so hard for me to keep my daughter healthy and focused on life as a whole – rather than a seriously skinny body! Seriously = she looked terrible!

    • carrie

      When I saw her, I gasped, she looks like she is starving! I think she is pretty in the face but she looks absolutely sickly. Wow, cannot believe she is on a top list, this is not a good thing.

      • Jan

        Are the Commentators on the Talk crazy saying Jolie looks sexy, hot..I agree with you Jolie looked sickly..skeleton arms..even scary.

    • Loki

      I’m sorry, but the notion that if a person has a serious problem then you shouldn’t mention anything is ridiculous and counter productive. She’s too thin and it’s a bit frightening. By pretending they look amazing and no one telling them “Hey, I think you have an eating disorder” or other things you are effectively sabotaging them from getting help. I was anorexic for a while when I was a teenager, as a male, and the ONLY reason I survived it was because people told me to “eat a cheeseburger” and tried to help me.

      This “body positive” crap is ridiculous. If someone is unhealthily overweight OR underweight, you tell them. We need to stop trying to “spare” these people’s feelings and realize that pretending that they are perfect in every way possible is the fastest way to get them to die from that problem. Having high self confidence when dangerously unhealthy doesn’t do them any good.

      Also, the notion that telling a person they need to gain weight will only exacerbate their condition and make them lose MORE weight… is ludicrous.

      • Emilie

        As someone who is also in ED recovery, I can agree with the idea of what you’re saying. It is important that when someone is participating in behaviors that are dangerous, something should be done to help them. On the other hand, people who make comments like “eat a cheeseburger” generally aren’t trying to help, they’re making snarky comments intended to point out that a person is too thin, and they don’t find it attractive. There are ways to get people who are suffering from disordered eating behaviors help. Comments like that are not one of those ways. In addition to that, if AJ does need help, the public is not going to be the body that convinces her of that fact–the convincing is going to be done by the people who are closest to her, and who are about her.

        Finally, telling people with disordered eating behaviors that they need to gain weight *can* exacerbate behaviors. It sounds like maybe in your case, tough love worked. But that’s not true for every ED sufferer, and generalizations like the ones you’re making aren’t going to help anyone get a better understanding of what any form of ED is all about.

      • Jo

        @Loki- I’m sorry but there are actually people who are underweight without being anorexic. I am 34, I have digestive problems and as a child my dinner time each evening consisted of my family eating at the table while my father conducted business on the phone and yelled at people while we were told to be quiet. Needless to say, dinner became a part of the day that was extremely stressful and it was difficult to digest when I was all nerves. I I have been underweight and STRUGGLE to gain weight most of my life. I can sit on a couch and eat all day and I won’t gain weight. It is embarrassing and I don’t feel good about my body. Sometimes I wish I were just fat so people would leave me alone. When I gain weight I am the happiest person in the world. It is very hurtful when people say rude things about my weight and act like I stay this weight on purpose. I get to a point where I do have to ignore everyone and accept myself the way I am, and try to be as healthy as I can. When I am relaxed and not judging myself, I actually do gain more weight than when I am constantly anxious and nervous about how I look. I was very sick with a stomach flu a few years back and lost weight and I was shocked by the mean things people said to me. Its not cool to be rude to people about their bodies.

      • Mary

        I think you are partly right. When I was a kid I was a bit overweight and my mom kept on telling me “maybe you should just drop a few” or “you really have to cut down on sugar ” or even the horrible, harsh statement “you are a little bit too fat, dear.” Yes, those comments were indeed hard, and for some time I resented her. But ultimately, the same remarks I loathed were the very ones that helped me seek a proffesional help and make up my mind to just diet and lose some weight! If I ever get too skinny, mom’s there to tell me to “eat a cheeseburger.”
        On the other hand, maybe she could have told me the same things but in a different kind of way. You have to understand the phrase “just eat a hamburguer” won’t make anorexic people go “y’know what? You are totally right! I’ve been starving myself and it is wrong to do that to your body, so I will eat that hamburguer, thank u very much!” It takes more than that, it is a mental desease after all!

    • txjew

      It is OK if I say the woman who wants us to look closely at her body parts looks disturbing to me?

    • Teddy

      AJ has been open with the media about her emotional troubles that started in childhood. She’s never been “the girl next door” type. She’s known for her attention seeking behaviors, and unusual lifestyle. Yes, she’s a role model, but she is also a reflection of our society. She does what gets her attention. The girls who emulate her will be girls with emotional problems who are seeking attention. Sadly, America millions of these types of girls. I find it insane that all you judgmental super-moms are so desperate to blame you’re children’s misery on anyone but yourselves.

    • joel beers

      Not to be snarky, or bash a woman, but maybe instead of adopting Cambodian babies, Angeline should start eating them. She looks ghastly.

      • Elle

        Saying ‘not to be snarky’ is quite ridiculous when you’re saying something blatantly rude. If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say it at all.

    • Greg

      Oh, bull…When has she ever even implied that she wanted to be a role model? Why wouldn’t you be teaching your daughters by setting your own example. How about helping them admire and copy for what she is doing for the UN, helping the poor, the refugees, the children in war ravaged areas, using her money for others as well as living well herself with a close family, or teaching your children about all the other women who are contributing to our country and the world? As for her slimness/thinness (maybe unusual in our country with over 50% obesity) but If any of us could manage a schedule as active we would all be the better. And if she doesn’t give a damn how she looks, why should any of us?

    • Lena

      She doesn’t simply need to eat, she needs to build some healthy muscle. It looks like she’s starved her muscle away. She looked much better when she did Lara Croft.

    • Mary Wilson

      I do not understand or maybe I don’t get it. She is not beautiful specially last night she had her worse look. So skinny, pale, oh, ugly leg, big mouth. The only beauty she has is her eyes and that’s it. So, somebody tells me what do you guys see that I don’t. To me she is not beautiful.

    • Tyra

      I am a woman of 31, who is battling ulcerative colitis; a form of IBS that can make having anything in my digestive system very painful and uncomfortable as my bowels are inflamed and develop ulcers. Yes I am on medication but I have also dropped from around 49kg to 40kg in a matter of months. What staggers me most here in all of this is that people think it’s ok to pick on her weight, but because she is small. Had she ballooned and put on a whole heap of weight, no one would go “look at that fat cow.” No one is calling Octavia Spencer, or the larger actress from Bridesmaids “fat.” No one is saying “put it away you look like whales.” All this angst against people who are underweight… it’s not ok. Just like it’s not ok to call someone fat, it’s not ok to call someone ugly, it’s not ok to call someone of a different race terms that are hurtful and alienating. It’s prejudice plain and simple, and for mothers who moan “I don’t want my daughter growing up thinking looking like that is ok” would you rather your daughters grow up being narrow minded judgemental bitches? I am skinny. But anyway who calls me such I take as a personal insult.
      I just hope Angelina doesn’t have a condition like I do where you can’t help losing weight. I hope these barbs don’t pierce her skin too deep. For shame people, just try being nice and if you can’t, try shutting up and saying nothing.

      • melissa

        Tyra, my heart goes out to you! i have taken verbal abuse my whole life for being thin, as though this is something i intentionally do to hurt others? we live in a sick & twisted world. I have a feeling AJ has risen above it. from the look on her face and the way she holds her body – she doesn’t care what anyone thinks. She can most certainly be a roll model for me & my girls! there are ALL sizes of people in this world for all kinds of reasons! we all deserve love and respect! not a thing wrong with us <3

    • Nelly

      What is it with people and connotating ‘pale or fair” skin with being problematic? Who decided that one must aggressively burn their skin to fit into some warped ideology of beauty. Why are people so anti-authenticity in this society? This is why I love the old Hollywood era and the women of the pin-up movement of the 30′s and 40′s. Today’s female is too obsessed with shaving off all her hair, starving herself, baking her skin, etc. Fair skin, curves, natural looks are a lost art in this generation. All this comes from an young African-American male in his 20′s. This confuses me. I think she looks good, maybe skinny, but that is okay if she is comfortable with it. As far as the paleness, pale is hot to me. Tanned is fine if you are black, latino or middle eastern where it is natural. White women need to go anti-tan. Real men don’t find the popular magazine look attractive, at least not me.

      • melissa

        thank you, By Nelly! what matters is that we are all comfortable with ourselves. Confidence is what attracts, naturally.

      • B

        Pale is sick looking. Fair is normal and authentic and attractive. She looks pale.

    • kat

      The part I think is sick is that she acts like she thinks she looks great!!!! Not trying to cover up her emaciation at all…..audrey hepburn had an eating disorder too and she kept it quiet for a long time. If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck-it’s a duck. She is not a well person-wait and see what comes of ths.

      • ddeep

        Audrey hep burn’s eating disorder was from poverty and the stress of trying to escape from nazi germany with her family

    • Anon

      Angelina Jolie is hardly a roll model, besides her UN work. She is not really the type of woman, that women want their daughters to turn out like.

    • Ali

      This piece really resonated with me, as someone who has struggled with body image issues and had many close friends with eating disorders. First of all, none of us have any idea if Angelina has disordered eating, or overexercises, etc. Her health is her business (and her doctor’s). Even if she has image/eating problems, trying to improve a mental and emotional health issue is so complex that saying “eat a cheeseburger” isn’t the answer. If it were that easy, nutritionists, dieticians, psychologists, social workers and doctors would have far fewer clients.

    • B

      I think its okay for her to look the way she wants (or has to if its medical) BUT it is not okay for the media to portray her as sexy or sickly. Comment on her dress, her hair, her makeup, her shoes, her jewels, but leave the body out of it.
      Just take the emphasis off the body and weight. We will still have plenty to talk about.

    • Suzanne

      thank you so much for posting this! it is so true and needs to be said so badly.
      bullying, name-calling and slander will never cure the ills of society, and they certainly will never benefit those who are troubled or in need of help. if angelina jolie truly has an eating disorder, drug addiction or some other health issue, making disparaging remarks about her weight can only distress and torment her further.
      it always seems much easier to find scapegoats to blame for the world’s problems than it is to truly evaluate ourselves and figure out what we can do to help.

    • GiGi Eats Celebrities

      This woman is so incredibly stressed and she is trying very hard to cover that up… well sort of, she could do a better job of it by NOT strutting her stuff like that on the carpet, but she is an actress and actresses do like attention so it’s almost to be expected of her. I just wish she realized that she is a role model for a lot of people and portraying this ideal is not… ideal.

    • Anonymous

      Jolie is absolutely gorgeous. I think you all need to look at yourselves and stop being so critical and jealous of others. Who cares if some are naturally slim, naturally larger, or somewhere in the middle? Every one has their own insecurities and things they don’t like about themselves. Pointing it out to make yourself feel better is just pathetic and useless.
      From a confident and real woman – grow up!

    • Me

      I think this is nuts. She does not look like she has a serious ED. Sorry. She looks fine, older, but fine.