Let’s start with the fact that I’m a fan of Drew Barrymore – I recently went on a kick and watched a bunch of her movies (the song from the end of The Wedding Singer is still in my head.)
I also want to acknowledge that she is not typically “Hollywood thin” and her weight has fluctuated throughout her career, which means that she’s had to deal with all kinds of body shaming nonsense, and that’s total bullshit. Based on a recent People Magazine interview, it seems that she may have bought into diet culture in a way that illustrates the problems that many of us have, or have had that I think are worth acknowledging. Discussing her eating habits around her show Santa Clarita Diet she says:
“Let’s face it, I hate it, I would much rather eat fettuccine alfredo all day long…When I first started the show [Santa Clarita Diet], I was 145 lbs. and my life was kind of falling apart,” she said. “And I said, ‘Victor [Fresco, the show’s executive producer], can I lose 20 lbs. over the course of the show, and change my eyebrows and the height of my shoes and the body language and attitude and go from someone who’s kind of naïve and unhappy to someone who’s empowered and alive?’ And he said yes, and so I got to make that transformation.”
We have to let go of this idea that becoming thinner is the same as becoming more empowered and alive. For that matter, we should let go of the ideas that performing femininity in a way that brings us closer to a stereotype of beauty that reinforces things like racism, sizeism, ableism, healthism, cissexism, and heteronormaitivity, is the same thing as being empowered and alive.
“When I’m doing the show I’m a vegan and I barely eat anything, and I workout every day, and it’s so healthy,” she said. “It gets to be euphoric, and then it’s like food poisoning, you feel like you’ll never eat again, and then before you know it you’re pigging out with the feed bag strapped to your face. And I’m a foodie, and love food and I travel the world for food, so I get heavy again between the show.”
“I heard Denzel Washington does this and I don’t know because I just want to believe it, I don’t want to know it’s not true. But he just enjoys his life and then pulls himself back together when he’s doing movies and looks amazing,” Barrymore said. “So I’m giving it the full ‘Denzel,’ even if that exists or not, and I let myself go.”
Holy shitballs. I’ve never heard anything that so clearly and accurately described disordered eating. Of course Drew Barrymore is allowed to do whatever she wants with her body, but let’s be clear that any competent healthcare provider would see this as red flag behavior for an eating disorder. This doesn’t have to be what’s normal. We can have a relationship with food that takes into account hunger, satiety, enjoyment, the social aspect of food etc. and does not involve severe restriction of food types and amount. Talented actors should not have to put their bodies through this kind of dangerous starvation cycle just to do their jobs.
If we would stop equating thinness with attractiveness, talent, morality, and being empowered and alive, then we could choose our actors based on their ability to act rather than their ability to approximate an impossible standard of beauty, and the characters they play could be whatever size the actor happens to be (including if they are a zombie on a high protein diet, since there are fat people on high protein diets in real life.)
For now I hope that Drew Barrymore’s disordered eating doesn’t escalate, and I hope that her casual discussion of it doesn’t lead anyone else to try it. And I continue to be a fan of a very talented woman who, it would seem, has been deeply affected by an extremely toxic diet culture.
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