I was feeling a little insecure the other day, as we all sometimes feel, just because I was focusing so much on all of the, well, hot people everywhere. Instagram, Fit Rec, West Campus in general…I am lucky to have such access to beautiful people on a regular basis! While I have no negative feelings toward anyone because of how they look, noticing their cool outfits and flat abs and wavy hair and general awesomeness makes it easy to take those observations and use them to pinpoint all the things I think I don’t have in comparison.
Thus I was having one of those moments, blah blah blah, it happens, and because I wanted a pick-me-up and I finally had a free hour, I decided to catch up on Jane the Virgin, which, critics and I agree, you all need to be watching. Then I procrastinated on a paper for another hour to watch the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (CW, you’re killing the game), but I think it was well-placed procrastination. Both shows gave me a very important reminder that I would like to share with the COM Ambassador Blog community.
Gina Rodriguez and Rachel Bloom walk around all day with hit TV shows, Golden Globes, and gorgeous, normal bodies. Their love lives and friendships are thriving on and off screen, but characters in the shows don’t often describe their attraction to them in physical terms. These actors and the characters they play put an image in mainstream media that many of us need to see. “Healthy” can mean many different things for different people, and our heroes on screen should reflect that.
I believe that characters on television can influence our perspectives about any kind of person. In fact, I am planning to study “cultural others” in television comedy for my Kilachand Honors College Senior Research Project, and I want to explore how their portrayals potentially affected their acceptance in the American public at the time of their “otherness” (think homosexual people in the 1980s, for example). In my project, I plan to look at portrayals of specific ethnicities and how certain handlings of them in television can positively or negatively influence that group’s real-world reputation, but I’ll let you know more about that when the time comes.
This belief also translates into television and body image. Our perceptions of certain looks and figures can change if a certain look or figure is portrayed positively on a show we love. Gina Rodriguez in Jane the Virgin is a healthy Latina woman who does not fit the general mold of a Hollywood body type. She isn’t overweight, she just isn’t a stick, and I am constantly put at ease when I watch her form such a lovable relationship with the audience no matter what she wears or how she looks. She is objectively attractive in a realistic way, and her casting coupled with the admirable writing of her character sets us up to appreciate everything about her, both physically and internally. Every girl watching the show can be just like Jane. We can pursue our passions despite conflicting obligations. We can be selfless friends, daughters, mothers, lovers and fighters and we can attract others with our personalities, not our sex appeal.
There is an argument that Jane the Virgin is unrealistic. “No guy would wait for a girl to have sex until marriage,” they say, and I understand this idea, especially in a college environment. However, the point of the show and the positioning of Jane as a role model, to me at least, is not to inspire anyone to “wait until marriage.” It indirectly pushes the value of non-sexual aspects of ourselves and reminds us that all the things we love to find glamorous are wonderful, unnecessary bonuses. I know it sounds corny, but trying to be the very best versions of ourselves should be enough to impress everyone we hold near and dear. The people who love us should love us because of our values, behavior and personalities, not because our thigh gap is smaller than the girl on the elliptical next to us.
Rachel Bloom of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is just another example of a beautiful and successful woman who does not need a perfectly flat stomach to make an impact. I spend so much of my time worrying about how I’ll look next to other girls, and an artist like Rachel Bloom reminds me that my largest value comes in what I can create, not what I can wear. It is important to stay healthy because I feel best when I am, but comparing my “healthy” to that of others does me no good at all. In fact, it only takes time away from working on projects like those of Rodriguez and Bloom – why waste time worrying about my physical ranking when I could be focusing on all the things I have the potential to create? As long as I eat healthy enough to stay focused and sharp, exercise enough to stay energized and comfortable, and enjoy life enough to relax and trust my abilities, I’ll be the person I want to be no matter what body holds me up. If you ever forget that this is also the case for you, please head to The CW website to watch an episode about two wonderful, real women.