Are the skinny starlets of '90210' setting a bad example?

90210_lYou’d think it would take something big to steal our attention from the highly anticipated reunion of Jennie Garth and Shannen Doherty on the new 90210. Actually, it was something small–too small. Almost without exception, the young actresses on The CW’s spin-off are alarmingly thin, with arms that seem thickest at the wrists, and legs that look, well, like arms. As we watched Kansas transplant Annie Wilson (Shenae Grimes, pictured, left) graze on a side salad as her lunch entrée, one question lingered: Are we the only ones overreacting to these skinny minnies? The answer, as it turns out, is no. 

“Everyone says television adds five or ten pounds, soif you’re watching and someone looks like they haven’t eaten inforever, what must they look like in person?” asks a Hollywood insiderwho works with young actresses on popular series (nearly everyone askedabout this subject preferred to remain anonymous). “Why doesn’t someoneon set or a producer or a studio head say, ‘This is not okay’?”According to a source close to the show, the network has. Calls wentout to representatives of the show’s stars (Grimes, Jessica Stroup, pictured right, andAnna­Lynne McCord) suggesting they address the weight issue with theladies. McCord’s publicist Gary Mantoosh denies receiving such notice,and insists that his client chows down on “whatever she wants,”including hamburgers. But one report estimates that none of the starsweighs more than 110 pounds, and 90210 insiders quietly admit that theyknow there’s a problem.

Of course, no one is pointing accusatory fingers atthree actresses barely out of their teens. One casting agent who worksfrequently with The CW turns a critical eye on the network itself. “Iknow in discussions at ABC and CBS that ‘too skinny’ is no good. Theytalk about it as a minus point,” says the agent. “But at The CW it’s adifferent story. They’re trying to pull in the Gossip Girl audience andthat’s the image: hyper-skinny models.” (The network declined tocomment for this article.) Still, The CW hardly stands alone in holdingHollywood actresses to an impossible standard when it comes to weight:Be thin, really really thin–but not too thin! Which leaves actresseswith, oh, roughly eight ounces of wiggle room.

This isn’t new: 10 yearsago, after Calista Flockhart, Portia de Rossi, and Lara Flynn Boylefirst became household names, Ally McBeal confronted the controversyface-to-emaciated-face when Boyle guest-starred in a 1998 episode andsneered to Flockhart, “Maybe you could eat a cookie.” Flockhart snappedback, “Maybe we could share it.” But all eating-disorder jokes aside,those were grown women in a show marketed to adults. The CW, on theother hand, celebrates the fact that 90210 beats every other network onTuesday nights in females 12-34. Besides, weight-related pressure istrickling down to the youngest of girls: The National Eating DisordersAssociation cites data from the 1990s in which 42 percent of girls ingrades 1-3 reported a desire to be thinner. Says the association’s CEOLynn S. Grefe, “There’s no doubt it’s gotten worse.”

Even a cursory glance at pop culture bears Grefe out.In its Sept. 22 issue, People magazine (which, like EW, is owned byTime Warner) sized up the girls of 90210 next to those lanky GossipGirl stars, declaring that the GG actresses were “curvy.” Theimplication being, says the Hollywood insider, that “if Leighton[Mees­ter] is curvy then anyone above that is fat and needs tons of garcinia cambogia extract to be socially acceptable.” And where on thetube are women of substance celebrated? On the 1960s ad drama Mad Men,the exaggerated hourglass of Chris­tina Hendricks is the verydefinition of sexy. But, alas, her curves are another prop of the era,just like an Eames chair.

The sad truth is that falling outside the standarddeviation for weight in the entertainment industry is what feeds themedia frenzy. But, hey, at least something’s getting fed. –AlyndaWheat, with additional reporting by Vanessa Juarez, Lindsay Soll, andLynette Rice

What do you think about the ladies of 90210? Are they too skinny? Are there any shows outside Mad Men that you think promote a healthy body image? For related stories, check out EW’s recent 90210 cover story, Ken Tucker’s review of the show’s pilot episode, Michael Ausiello’s casting scoop, and our PopWatch posts on the show’s Spring Awakening connection and controversial family-hour oral sex scene.

Comments (298 total) Add your comment
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  • PS

    I’ve been a long time watcher of Degrassi with my wife, and while she was watching 90210, when I saw Darcy, (Annie on this show), I was like, “wow, she really got skinny.” I don’t remember her looking so thin on Degrassi. She was cute, too, now not so much.

  • Ronda

    When Jessica Stroup aka Silver was Cady on “Reaper” last season she was not that skinny nor when she was on the primeire episode of “True Blood” two weeks ago. Now AnnaLynne was that skinny on Nip/Tuck last season. Clearly these girls felt they had to be skinny for the show. Sad.

  • Whit

    I don’t watch the show, but the slender (not skinny) ones are only setting a great example.

  • Stephanie

    As a 23 year old who spent way too many of her teenage years watching shows like Dawson’s Creek and The OC, I’m used to skinny actresses. But when I watched the premiere of 90210, I really was shocked on how skinny these girls were, specifically Grimes and Stroup. If something like this can still shock us, I think it’s more than a problem.

  • Robyn

    I have to admit that as crazy as Tyra is, America’s Next Top Model does a good job celebrating a more normal size body type. Last year’s winner Whitney was a gorgeous full figure (role) model, and last week Tyra eliminated a contestant over concerns that she was too skinny. Definitely a step in the right direction, and on a “reality” show about models, no less.

  • whatevs

    If anyone saw Jessica Stroup in the begining to True Blood’s pilot knows she was very thin about 20 pounds ago, which was LAST YEAR.

  • Winona

    Curvy is the new fat, I guess. I recall seeing a Cosmo magazine about ten years ago with Jennifer Lopez on the cover, praising her for paving the way for larger-sized women. It angered me and made me sick to my stomach (but not in a bulimic way, thankyouverymuch). Mad Men definitely promotes normal, healthy-looking women, and I applaud it for that (not to mention just being an awesome show). At least they can’t digitally alter the shows like they do with print, Faith-Hilling everything.

  • Catherine

    I do think that they are too skinny. However, my sister has an eating disorder and it wasn’t tv or media that triggered her. It is not a simple problem that can be solve be removing all skinny girl images. That being said, I think they would look better with a little more weight!! I am naturally thin and I wish I had more curves!! A show that was good for this was That 70’s Show. The girls were thin but not scary! And I think that Ugly Betty is great also.

  • Johnny

    While I do agree that the girls appear to be too skinny, why is it that only actresses are subjected to public debates about what they look like? We never read or hear debates about which actors are too lanky or too pudgy. It seems like the only time we discuss the weight of actors is when they purposely lose or gain weight for a role. Perhaps if we leave these actresses alone they can become more comfortable in their own skin and not have too worry about what others will think.

    • Shefali

      I feel that the the reason for this is because the actresses are part of a huge tv show and many people are watching them which puts pressure on them to be in their best form which ends up affecting the viewers who feel this is the norm

  • Mel

    All the girls on 90210 are an intervention away from being fed out of an IV. That is the truth. So glad this article was written. Maybe someone will take notice.

  • Linda

    Stroup is definitely too skinny, I thought the same thing, that she wasn’t that skinny in Reaper. It’s all a sad part of Hollywood. If Eva Longoria calls herself fat, then I might as well sign up for the obese wagon.

  • Anonymous

    When I watched the first episode, one of my first thoughts was that someone should feed those girls a sandwich, or at least a carrot. I don’t remember Brenda, Kelly, and Donna being that skinny. Even GC and OTH have girls with a little more meat. Curves are beautiful and sexy. Sticks look like they could be broken if you touched them.

  • egg sandwich

    Once again 90210 rips of Degrassi and makes is fake.

  • Kat

    I too find myself so distracted by Shanae & Jessica’s emaciated appearances. The critic in the article called out “Gossip Girl” too but those actresses look healthy to me. If the rumors are to be believed about Shanae’s diva behavior on set, maybe it’s because she’s so hungry. Hope the producers are really serious about addressing this.

  • katie

    GG does have taylor momsen, but she’s still quite young, so I think it’s safe to say she probably doesn’t have any issues. OTH has hilarie burton, who is freakishly thin, but I honestly think that’s natural for her. 90210 girls… not natural at all.

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