Starving for attention

Guest post by Enlighten Education NSW’s newest team member, Nikki Davis:  

Looks like thin is no longer in. Skeletal is the new body ideal judging by the physiques of the female celebrities who are hot property right now.

I have to confess that I, and a number of my friends, were more than a little excited about the premiere of the new 2008 version of 90210. We were all huge fans of the original 1990’s series. The first ever episode aired when I was 13 years old and I was immediately hooked – complete with a huge crush on Dylan and a keen eye that followed the fashion choices of my new role models.

So I must admit that the thought of catching up with Kelly and Brenda again had me refusing to take calls from 8:30pm on the first night it aired.

And yes, it was fabulous to see Kelly and Brenda again (who were reunited at the Peach Pit nonetheless!).

However, I was very distressed by the new female cast who now play the children and little sisters of the originals. They are so thin. I am talking painfully thin. The lead girl “Annie” (played by Shanae Grimes) and her friend “Silver” (played by Jessica Stroup ) are excruciatingly skinny. As one of my mates so eloquently put it in her text message to me during the show the other night, “Watching this is making me hungry”. The characters must be hungry too as the only consumables we saw in Episode 1 were alcoholic beverages, coffee and salads (Annie had salad for lunch in the cafeteria, I guess you can’t look as tiny as she does by eating carb’s/protein/fat/non-vegetable matter). Why can’t teens on TV eat real food anymore? Even The OC had the girls eating burgers, fries, milkshakes and Thai takeaway….

One of the tiny stars of new series of “90210” – Shanae Grimes

Turns out my friends and I were not the only ones who noticed how thin these new stars are; a couple of articles have popped up on Entertainment websites claiming that “sources” inside Hollywood are reporting talks on set and at the network about the girls’ weight. One article even claimed that the male stars of the program are planning to stage an intervention with the girls as they never eat and the guys think it is unhealthy. Well if this is true, then go guys I say!

Below are pics of the old and new cast… the new photo doesn’t really show just how thin the young girls are in the series (perhaps they airbrushed them to be less thin for the pics?) but oh how the concept of a “hot body” has changed over time.


I grew up in the Supermodel era where Cindy Crawford reigned supreme. Cindy was a genetic freak (she was so strikingly beautiful) but her shoulder blades wouldn’t have taken an eye out – she had some flesh on those bones. In the late 90’s Kate Moss rose to fame and the fashion industry deemed the “coat-hanger” was the new body ideal. In turn, this lead Hollywood down the very thin, and the carb-less, garden path.

Researcher Botta, in the 1999 study on television images and adolescent girls’ body image disturbance, made the observation that “our culture’s obsession with the thin ideals is now played out in the media via models and actresses who may have eating disorders themselves, who may have personal trainers to help them maintain a thin body, and whose bodies, as portrayed through airbrushing and camera-angle techniques, may not even be their own.” What would Botta have made of 90210 – 2008 style?

Surely it’s not just me being alarmist, and surely the new “Beverly Hills waifs” provide just one example of how much worse have things become.

We are now seeing children as young as 8 hospitalized with eating disorders. Dieting, detoxing, purging…all have become normalized. I have been engrossed in the work of Courtney E Martin; her book “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters” really sums it up as she points out just how “normal” it has become to equate thinness, food deprivation and excessive exercise with success. Martin also looks at just how much time women spend thinking and obsessing about dieting and their bodies – is this what we want for our young women? To rate “thinness’ over wit, intelligence, talent, warmth? To waste their energy thinking about how they look in skinny leg jeans? No way!

I am hoping the backlash over the body shapes presented on the new 90210 continues to grow. We need to be speaking about this! We need to open our eyes and minds to a broader concept of gorgeous.

Because this look is killing us – literally.

Finally, on a lighter note, if you do still pine for your fix of 90210 (there are rumours of Dylan making an appearance so I can’t tune out yet!) or one of the array of other crappy American shows of this genre – do as my friend does in her share house with the four young women she lives with. Make Monday nights “90210 and cookies” night. Indulge in all the fun, fashion and cute boys without the starvation.

It’s much more fun.

It’s beautiful.

10 thoughts on “Starving for attention

  1. Danni Miller says:

    Fabulous post Nikki. I also noted with concern how thin the Veronicas were looking in their “Take me on the Floor” clip I deconstructed last week. It seems I was not the only one who noticed their emmaciated arms and gaunt faces; a number of viewers on Youtube also commented on them now looking physically unwell.
    I have previously questioned our complex and increasingly destructive relationship with food in a past blog post that was also published as an Opinion Piece in the Sydney Morning Herald – this may be worth a look too if you missed it?
    Beauty is not about how skinny you are:

  2. Lisa Porter says:

    That picture of (is it?) Kate Moss is disturbing… even more disturbing is that they seem to have used the ol’ light and shade trick to make her right leg even thinner. When I was growing up this type of body was seen on the “Save the Children” ads for impoverished nations… now they should be “saving the children” in wealthy nations with unhealthy body image.

  3. Sonia Lyne says:

    Nikki I agree that the cast of females are particularly thin and it makes me cringe when I see advertisements for the show.

    It also seems that both the original females, Kelly and Brenda, have not aged since their first appearance in the 90’s. As many of the fans return to watch the series, new fans included, the idea that “thin is in” and you can “look young forever” are reinforced which is both disheartening and infuriating.

  4. Ella says:

    Reading this is horrifying! The pictures are scary and these women are obviously stick and sickly thin, but at the same time, this type of image appeals to the eating disorder side of me. Rationally I know that she looks sick. Rationally I know that it would be dangerous and unhealthy to look like that. But part of me so desperately wants to be underweight like that. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that way – I have friends who have eating disorders who tell me the same thing, “that [insert name of skeletal celebrity] looks sick, but I WANT TO LOOK LIKE HER!”

    Having images like those girls on our TV screens are potential triggers for those WITH the illness. Not only that, but according to Michel Levine (he’s a lecturer and ED specialist from the US and I heard him at The Bronte Centre Conference last year) and he’s said that images like that are potentially triggers for eating disorders IF the genetic and other environmental are so that the person is at risk for developing eating disorders.

    Reading this reminded me of ANTM which was on TV a few months ago. They did “anorexia model” and “bulimia model”. The anorexia model was standing on scales with a tape measure around her waist. The bulimia model was sitting on the toilet eating a cream cake. It’s these stereotypes which makes it harder for those of us with this illness to get and accept treatment. I found ANTM pretty insulting.

    That aside – I think the title “Starving for attention” is a bit insulting. As is the idea of the guys doing an intervention…if they do genuinely have eating disorders, their starvation diet is far more complicated than “starving for attention” and an intervention from the guys on set is not going to help much, until they’ve got a dietician, psychologist and GP supporting them. Eating disorders take a multidisciplinary team to treat and subsequently recover from.

    “Because this look is killing us – literally.” That quote is really a reality check. I found out recently that a friend of mine from my old treatment centre passed away from her eating disorder. She was 15 years old.

    I read in some trashy magazine which I shouldn’t have read that now Hollywood is over the size 0 – they’re into 00. ANYTHING SIZE 0 IS FOR INFANTS!

    So, I think I’ve come to the end of my excessively long and ranty post. Basically, if they have eating disorders, they need treatment and help because they look unwell (although I feel it’s important to throw in that someone can be chronically ill and on their death bed with an eating disorder and look normal) and things like that shouldn’t be on our TV screens.

  5. Danni Miller says:

    Thanks for offering your insights Ella – they are really insightful and you have given me some new perspectives too.

    I take full responsibility for the title “starving for attention” as I added it to Nikki’s post. I was trying to make a point about society and the media idealizing “ultra thin” and glorifying this unhealthy look. It seems only women who conform to a super slim body shape get the Tv roles, modelling contracts, celeb status…the fame.

    I apologise if you found the title insulting. I did not intend to dismiss the complex issues surrounding eating disorders.

    I love having you as part of this conversation!

  6. Ella says:

    Oh good 🙂 I like giving you new perspectives! Dare I ask what they are on?

    Hope I haven’t upset you with my comments on the title. It just irritates me when people say “Starving for attention” or “Starving for answers”. It really simplifies what is so unbeleviably complex. If it was that easy we all would have recovered by now!

    I think it’s also important to remember that TV shows, magazines, etc. will only produce what sells. If middle-aged-overweight-models sold, that would be all we would see (and then we’d have groups up in arms about how this supported our obesity epidemic – which many dieticians have told me is a load of bull anyway). If we watch these shows, if we buy these magazines, we are supporting this industry – so just like I cover up the Ralph and FHM magazines with parenting magazines in supermarkets, I try to not buy magazines which support these types of things. Although I have to admit that I still do – but that’s more ED related, because I’m not even sure I want to read those magazines!

    As a sufferer I love to be a part of this conversation. No question is a stupid question. And, during one of my treatments, talking to someone who had gone through the journey helped give me so much insight into my own illness.

    PS – I just want to congratulate you Danni for having Kids Helpline in the Links toolbar. Perhaps you could add lifeline in too? they can offer some really fantastic support and have a much more extensive area-specific data base of support services!

  7. Melinda L says:

    Hi Ella,

    regarding Ralph, in the past I have taken the entire stack of Ralph and put them on the floor underneath the shelf. It feels good to do. And Ella, you already know this i’m sure, but the trashy mags are poison! I know how they make me feel and it’s awful. I too sometimes want to be super thin and in the past I wanted plastic surgery. If you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend you obtain a copy of women’s forum australia’s “Faking It” research paper. It is produced to look like a magazine – indeed it mocks the women’s mags – but it is actually a proper research paper full of good information. If you’re like me, you will feel a little bit more “free” when you’re done with it.

    Thanks for posting your thoughts, like Danielle I do enjoy reading different opinions.

  8. Ella says:

    Hey Melinda,
    I have a copy of Faking It and I was at the Faking It Launch in Sydney a few months ago 🙂

    I know they’re poison, the term I came up with when I threw out several hundred Dolly, Cleo, Cosmo magazines last year in treatment was “so toxic it was making me even more sick”. But they still manage to buy themselves from newsagencies and still manage to make their way onto my bedside table. haha.

    Faking It was very liberating, but there’s only one of it! If it was a monthly publication, maybe I would be telling a different story.


  9. Storm says:

    I too was a big fan of 90210 then i moved on and upwards to Melrose! I remember even then cacking myself laughing at the ridiculous scenarios and beautiful bodies. I often wonder how my radar was so strong then- i did enjoy the Hollywood smultz but never saw myself as part of it. My neice used to sit beside my sister in law watching- glued to the screen- (horror of horrors) she was very young and was saturated in popular culture very early on. So much so that once i asked her what her dolly’s name was and she chirped “Sportsgirl” I think i cried! She is now 22 and pretty much has a big credit debt… food for thought

Comments are closed.