While Googling pictures of Keira Knightley for a Cinematical project, I couldn't help but be bombarded with reviews and photos from The Duchess, as well as Knightley's latest role in The Beautiful and the Damned. Every article comes with a remark about her slim figure -- and even more frightful, every review of The Duchess complained more about her prominent cheekbones than about her performance. Salon's Stephanie Zacharek found her "unbearable to watch" -- not, it seems, because her acting was poor, but because "I just couldn't get past the skeletal planes of her face." The New York Times' Manohla Dargis called her "a big boned beauty who leads with her jaw" which, I hope, doesn't mean that Dargis thinks her to actually be a sort of giant, and not a lass with a 23-inch waist. The New Yorker called her "a starved supermodel," leaving Entertainment Weekly to be the kindest of the lot, labeling her build as "athletic."

Now, as a girl who boasts a very visible clavicle and zero cleavage, I often find myself jumping to Knightley's defense. I'm not as lithe of leg, as anyone who saw me in Lara Croft shorts can attest, and no one would call me anorexic, even if my ribs and hip bones like being seen. I shudder to think what Zacharek would think of my cheekbones onscreen. I'm inclined to believe Knightley isn't anorexic, as her hair and skin look awfully good for someone allegedly starving herself. I've also seen her Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Chinese costume in person and it was pretty normal sized -- I think Johnny Depp's Sparrow outfit was tinier!

But yes, she's thin. If she is indeed suffering from an eating disorder, I wish her professional help. And if I actually thought the media had her well-being similarly in mind, I might give their obsessive focus a pass -- but we all know that if she gorged herself on Pizza Hut and Cheetos, and went up a few sizes, she would be splashed all over the front pages as a fat slob who needed to exercise. Girls can't win the weight game in Hollywood, and if you ever needed proof outside of People Magazine and US Weekly, look at those reviews or similar ones for Atonement. They come from publications and critics who should be looking at whether or not the film or its performances work. The only remarks made about Knightley should be about her portrayal of the given role, not belittling her weight. I would feel the same if a critic noted that they couldn't concentrate on the actress because her hips were too wide, or her face too chubby. It's demeaning and sexist -- I've never heard a reviewer say they couldn't concentrate on Cillian Murphy or Jonathan Rhys-Meyers performances because their cheekbones or clavicles were too prominent. I doubt I ever will.

I don't care who you are, or what you look like, you shouldn't be judged by it. You should be judged by the content of your character. There's enough hate in the world, and I wince that so much of it is directed at the human body -- our own as well as those of famous strangers. And those of us who appreciate film for its artistic merits and escapism really ought to be taking the higher ground here. Body snarking is for the gossip magazines, and our focus needs to be on the nuances of someone's performance, not that of their appearance.

categories Movies, Cinematical