Christian Bale's Weight Gain For 'American Hustle's Indicative Of A Larger Hollywood Addiction
It's no secret that big transformations mean big Oscars talk. Are you one of the world's most famous and stunning faces? Shave your eyebrows and make yourself nearly unrecognizable in a serial killer persona and you might just take home a statuette. Play a mentally handicapped person and someone's probably going to give you an award. Starve yourself for a week to play a tragic singing prostitute and you will get an Oscar. Treating weight like a yo-yo for transformation has pretty much been the basis of the entirety of the entire award nomination-hoarding portion of Christian Bale's career. Bale did it again for American Hustle, putting on a lot of weight.
Trouble is, two out of four of the scenarios mentioned above are incredibly dangerous.
These kinds of articles pop up, well, literally every single time Christian Bale completely alters his weight and muscle mass for a role. So pretty much every year. Sorry about that, folks. But it keeps happening, and not just with Bale. (Tom Hanks has diabetes — which might not have anything to do with all of this, but it very well could, so it's relevant — so it's still worth talking about, so bear with us here).
Often we applaud these stunts in acting, lauding Bale over and over again — he's so dedicated! Look at what he did for his craft! We treat these drastic physical transformations — the weight loss, the weight gain, the crash diets followed by the binges for the next film — as if it is akin to when Johnny Depp went to his dentist and told him to superficially jack up his teeth to get into character for Captain Jack Sparrow. The trouble is, it's not. The trouble is, these are real people's bodies, and we've taught an entire industry that this is the standard we expect for prestige. But is it really worth it?
This problem of course goes deeper and to far more complex places than awards bait: I can guarantee you there are hundreds of girls and boys and men and women and everything in between in Hollywood and New York alike right now on crash diets in hopes that going down a jean size or five will make them more likely to land that part.
Anne Hathaway starved herself for thirteen days (Note: NOT RECOMMENDED) for her role in Les Miserables, to the point where it concerned her director. She did it I'm sure in part in dedication to her craft and in part because of the shiny gold statuettes that danced through her dreams.
Hathaway, for her part, spoke out against the segment of the media who were in danger of glorifying her weight loss as a good opportunity for get-skinny tips. Asked by a reporter how she lost the weight, she responded:
I don’t answer that question. Not to like get super serious about it, but just there’s so many people out there that will try something unhealthy to lose weight. I don’t want to contribute to that. So actually I don’t want to answer the question.
At that point the Internet had largely starting drinking the Hathahaterade (that's haterade for Hathaway haters, if you needed a translation), so actual important words got drowned out by mob mentality and perceived pretention. When in reality it was Hathaway warning of the very real physical danger that comes with manipulating your body like that.
Hollywood and the world it influence's consistent awe at the dramatic weight loss and gain of its actors in the name of "ART!" is understandable — anyone can attest to the fact that it is an industry who places a huge reliance on physical appearance. You can't blame Hathaway for dreaming about those statuettes, or Bale for treating his body like Play-Doh — if we're going to have only a handful of "elite" actors we let star in these big roles, then it only follows that we expect them to bend themselves every which way to fit into said roles.
This logic is not likely to end in Hollywood any time soon — people still get a kick out of seeing Christian Bale with a beer belly after seeing him scary-skinny for The Machinist and superhero buff for Batman. Hollywood is still not likely to bank on, say, an already heavier or balder actor to play his part in an otherwise A-list ensemble.
So we're kind of stuck. Where we go from here is probably just to tons more examples of this. Matthew McConaghey and Jared Leto both went through weight-related transformations for big awards-attracting roles this year. Chris Hemsworth has to do it every time he plays a role that isn't Thor. It's gonna keep happening. That is, until (god forbid) more of this generation of actors start to show the consequences. Maybe then we'll learn that performance isn't glamorous when it's putting the performer in danger.