Since the dawn of cinema, female actresses have had to contend with unrealistic body standards. Whereas the men could hide their physique behind sleek tuxedos and padded robes, many a femme fatale had to appear dressed in skimpy, risque outfits whenever they appear on set, and “look good” in them, too.
Although in recent years American culture has become increasingly aware of and unsympathetic towards the idea of these male-gaze promulgated double standards when it comes to sex and beauty, the average Hollywood heroine still has to emulate the makings of a skinny supermodel.
Scarlett Johansson, one of Hollywood’s biggest contemporary sex symbols, knows that all too well. In a recent interview with Candis Magazine, the celebrated actress compared her own trials and tribulations when it comes to staying ‘fit’ to a scene from the classic film All About Eve.
“There has always been pressure on actors to stay thin,” Johansson said. “There’s a scene in one of my favorite movies, All About Eve, where Bette Davis is circling around the room, horribly upset about something, and she picks up a chocolate … puts it down … picks it up again … puts it down again … finally, she gives in and eats it, but only after a huge struggle! So even back then, there was the pressure going on. And now, it’s much worse.”
As CinemaBlend notes in their own report on the same topic, the average BMI during the time in which All About Eve was produced was around 23.6. Over the course of nearly seventy years, that number has increased to 29.6, which isn’t all that much.
While actresses with heavier body types are cast more frequently today than they were in the past, they’re typically relegated to the role of side characters. Some, like Rebel Wilson, do land a lead role every now and then, but usually in comedies in which their slightly larger than average weight is always made an important plot point.
As far as Johansson is concerned, however, her on-screen weight is perhaps less a reflection of the times we live in, and more a requirement for the roles she plays. Best known for her part as Natasha Romanoff in the MCU, Scarlett Johansson needs to stay in optimal shape to make the various acrobatic feats performed by her character appear believable.