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Anne Hathaway in Les Mis: Emaciated is the new radiant!

By November 15, 2012 7 Comments
Vogue magazine cover featuring Anne Hathaway.

In Vogue’s November issue, Anne Hathaway’s dramatic weight loss to play Fantine from Les Miserables is groundbreaking news.

It seems that losing weight the “healthy” way is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Anne Hathaway was selected to play Fantine in the film adaptation of Les Miserables, and in order to play the part, she lost 25 pounds over the course of a few weeks.
 
Fantine, a “consumptive factory worker-turned-prostitute” dying of tuberculosis, is supposed to look almost skeletal. Vogue profiled Hathaway for their November issue, and the article explains Hathaway’s diet and exercise regimen before and during the shooting:
 
Before the start of shooting, she went on a strict cleanse and lost ten pounds, which in the early scenes of the film gives her a gossamer quality. She then took two weeks off and lost another fifteen pounds by following a near-starvation diet, consisting of two thin squares of dried oatmeal paste a day.”

Yuck. We recognize that actors and actresses lose weight for roles all the time; what’s disturbing is how the Vogue article characterizes and glamorizes Hathaway’s weight loss.

 The article spends a significant amount of time discussing the emaciated look Hathaway had to emulate, but then describes her as “very thin, though not unhealthy looking.” Somehow, Hathaway had to look “simultaneously emaciated and radiant,” though Hathaway herself labeled the look “near death.” Am I the only one picking up on some mixed messages here?
Photo of Anne Hathaway in Vogue magazine.

Hathaway was expected to look “simultaneously emaciated and radiant” for the part.

Are readers supposed to applaud Hathaway’s weight loss, or cringe at the diet she had to follow? How can a person look “very thin” and “near death,” but “not unhealthy?”

In order for these details to be in the Vogue article, the author had to have asked how Hathaway lost the weight. Granted, descriptions of her diet only constitute a small portion of the entire article — but the fact that they are present at all is a testament to how closely Americans monitor actresses’ bodies. The article mentions Hathaway’s childhood dreams, her beyond-beautiful voice, and her experiences shooting the film; her descriptions of dried oatmeal paste seem trivial and out of place in comparison.

Luckily, Hathaway admits that the weight-loss process was atypical and excessive. She said, “Looking back on the whole experience… it was definitely a little nuts.” Finally, a sentiment we can all agree on!

Hailey Magee is a Women’s and Gender Studies and Politics double major at Brandeis University. Her foremost interests include media literacy and empowerment of young girls. Hailey hopes to one day pursue a career in the political arena and become an advocate for gender equality.