I recently discovered a new person to admire while watching the movie "Frozen": the actor Kristen Bell. Finally, a woman who shuns Hollywood pretentiousness. Reading more about her, I discovered she’s frugal. She loves sloths. She’s taking on the slimy paparazzi who stalk celebrities and their kids. And she’s fighting against the tremendous pressure women both in and out of Hollywood feel to look perfect, especially after baby.
If that wasn’t enough to make me fall in deep platonic love with Kristen Bell, back in February a video of her performing 'Do You Want to Build a Snowman' went viral (it’s since been taken down, which you can thank Disney for). It was thrilling to see a talented female artist in her thirties say cool things like this about her experience in "Frozen," a film with strong female characters that went on to become Disney's highest grossing movie of all time:
"Disney animation was so important to me. But what's even more special is that I was able to help shape a type of heroine that I wanted to see," she continued. "That I would identify with when I was five-to-10 years old and I feel like I'm so, so proud of Anna because of all those things."
I shared the video with my daughter because Kristen Bell seemed like a great role model for her, one who relied on her talent and not on her body. I shared it on Facebook with thousands of others. We celebrated the way Kristen is breaking the mold and encouraging women to be appreciated for who they are and not what their breasts look like. With spunky, dynamic heroines like Anna and Elsa, played by talented actresses like Kristen and Idina Menzel, you got the sense we were finally entering a new era.
Then comes the news today that Kristen Bell posed naked in Allure for its annual body issue. I have to admit, when I first saw it, I was flabbergasted. Why would she use her body as a marketing ploy to get women to buy magazines? Are we supposed to be excited because she doesn't look overly photoshopped? What a letdown. This photo doesn't say "I love my post baby body with all of its flaws." This photo says "Go back to your underwear drawer, open it up, and squeeze into those extra strength Spanx because shit is gettin' real."
I’m not against nudity. If a gal wants to show her naked body to the world, that’s her choice. But am I the only one who sees the hypocrisy here? If Kristen Bell believes she’s fighting the establishment, one that expects girls and women to be not much more than adornments, than why would she make herself into one? Just because we can pose nude doesn't mean we have broken free from male hegemony. Just ask any 14-year-old girl who's sent a naked selfie to her boyfriend.
In what I’ve read so far, Kristen says that posing nude was her way of proving she’s comfortable with her body. I find that a weak argument. Being comfortable in your body can be expressed in myriad ways that do not include baring it all for a mainstream women’s magazine. Show yourself doing yoga. Or drinking a big glass of water. But naked on a beach? When did nudity become the yardstick by which we measure a woman's confidence in herself and her body? And when did displaying one's vagina and breasts become synonymous with freedom?
My guess is that Kristen Bell posed nude to ensure she’s not typecast as a good girl after appearing in "Frozen." I also think she wanted to show Hollywood that she too is willing to bare all, which is essentially a requirement these days for leading ladies. Regardless of her reasons, we see now that Kristen is perhaps not so different from all the other women who claim to understand there is a double standard in Hollywood and then willingly reinforce it. A woman who puts her money where her breasts are: that's the heroine I'd like to see.
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