Jonah Hill’s body is none of our business

As Jonah asks fans to not comment on his looks, it’s worth remembering that someone’s size, regardless of gender, is not ours to care about.

by Douglas Greenwood
15 October 2021, 3:27pm

Photo via Instagram

In an Instagram post this past week, Superbad star and Mid90s director Jonah Hill raised an issue that has defined much of the way Hollywood, and the wider public, has framed him for the past 15 years. “I know you mean well,” he wrote, “but I kindly ask that you not comment on my body. Good or bad I want to politely let you know it's not helpful and doesn't feel good. Much respect.”

The effects of tabloids, and constant access to famous people on social media, have altered our ability to process what’s worthy of discussion when it comes to the realm of celebrity, and what is our business and what isn’t. Discussions like this have plagued women in the public eye for decades: who’s too fat, who’s too skinny, whose weight loss journey is “natural”; whose changing appearance is the result of cosmetic surgery. Our hyper-analytical eyes, paired with our collective thirst for gossip, has made this some sort of sport, like clay pigeon shooting on the red carpet. And there has always been, as Jonah points out, a tendency to shame those who gain weight and uplift those who lose it. In 2017, Slate ran an article titled “Is Jonah Hill Hot? An Investigation”.

Jonah himself hasn’t elaborated on the reason he’s requesting fans and the public keep the subject of how he looks out of their conversations, but it’s not hard to see why any man can get self-conscious about their body image online. While we’ve made an effort to dismantle the vitriolic discourse surrounding women’s body image in the public eye already, the same needs to happen to the ways in which we discuss everyone else’s. That in itself is a symptom of the patriarchy, of course — men historically don’t get the same level of scrutiny for how they look as women do — but there are still men out there for whom how they look is a burden, and they feel inclined to stay in control of it.

Jonah’s movies have racked up a cumulative $3.8 billion in box office revenue. He has two Oscar nominations. He’s written and directed a successful A24 movie. We don’t know him personally, but he’s probably an alright guy too. We know there is so much more to who we are as people than the way we present ourselves physically, and we know that commenting on people’s looks as if we have any ability or right to dictate that only has negative consequences. For a man in the public eye to articulate these feelings openly is anomalous, but it’s encouraging, because it shows that these difficult conversations are in the early stages of being had. It’s no surprise that Jonah is asking people to stop discussing his body image. If we had 3.1 million people on Instagram making a point of it, we’re sure it would make us uncomfortable too.

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