LOS ANGELES – Last February, singer and reality star Jessica Simpson made headlines after debuting an apparently fuller-than-usual figure while performing at a country music chili cook-off. But 14 months later, why are her weight fluctuations and personal misfortunes continuing to be spotlighted and satirized?
Over recent months, it seems Simpson has been attacked from almost every angle.
Last year, a cartoon skit which aired during Fox's NFL Sunday showed Tony Romo’s teammates laughing at his former girlfriend’s “big” size, and rapper Eminem made a music video starring a “heavy” Simpson look-alike in her daisy dukes with a hamburger in hand.
Then, MTV cartoon “Popzilla” made fun of her “bad luck” while sitting in the bleachers at a Dallas Cowboys Football Game. Even President Obama dryly commented on Simpson being "in a weight battle, apparently” when it was pointed out that his family portrait was bumped from the cover of Us Weekly to make way for the songstress’s weight issues.
Fox’s “Glee” was the latest outlet to take a shot at Simpson in their premiere episode last week.
“Sometimes I wish I could be more like Coach Tanka,” Finn said in a voiceover. “He pulled a Jessica Simpson — you know, lost his fiancé, gained 40 pounds, stopped showering, and everyone acts like that is totally normal.”
Attacks such as these beg the question, why is everyone obsessed with attacking Jessica?
According to Dr. Dionne Bennett, a Women’s Studies Professor at Loyola Marymount University, these “jokes” aren’t just attacks on Jessica; they are attacks on all women.
“It is a way of telling us that even the most physically admired women will be the objects of ridicule if they gain weight or 'lose' their beauty. It is also a way of telling women that our looks are the only source of our value so that if our looks are diminished, our overall value is also diminished,” Bennett said. “The attacks are also engaging the idea that everybody has the right to look at, talk about, and judge women's bodies, something we rarely do to men.”
Simpson’s weight fluctuations and lack of luck in the love department are certainly nothing abnormal for Hollywood, or for the average American. So is Simpson being unfairly targeted? Or is it simply that we notice her more?
"No one really cared [when actress Kirstie Alley gained weight] because she's Kirstie Alley," said New York-based PR and Social Media expert, Peter Shankman. "But when it's Jessica Simpson, a young girl who's gorgeous and is beautiful and all of sudden gained all this weight, it's a different story. I guarantee you if Paris Hilton gained 50 pounds, it'd be the same thing."
And while Simpson herself has managed to stay strong throughout this seemingly never-ending ordeal, she told Tarts she had to work hard to pull herself out from the “very dark place” that the sudden negative attention forced her into.
“It was really hard on me and I felt I needed to find some light in the very dark place I was in,” Simpson recently told Pop Tarts while discussing the inspiration behind her new VH1 reality show “Price of Beauty.”
“I realized that people’s judgments about me and about my weight are really just none of my business, it’s not something I should be listening to or taking to heart. People can say whatever they want to say and I cannot take it personally.”
A rep for Simpson declined comment for this article.
So seeing as Simpson chose a career in the spotlight and consciously put herself out there to be judged, does she bring this ridicule on herself?
“I cannot believe that she views any publicity as bad publicity. This is a woman who let her dad talk her into turning her new marriage in a reality television show, in effect dooming it from the start,” said Terri Dougherty, author of “People in the News – Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey.”
“Like a child constantly trying to get attention, her entire life seems to revolve around the phrase, ‘Look at me!’ so if her weight has turned into a punch line on a television show, I don't see this hurting her or her career.”
And Simpson’s close friend, personal assistant and co-star in “Price of Beauty” Cacee Cobb believes this experience has had a positive effect on the pop star’s life.
“This show was really important to her to spread the word so girls don't have to go through what she had just gone through the past year,” Cobb told Pop Tarts. “She was unfortunately under so much scrutiny, that if she could save one person from having to go through that… it was really amazing to be a part of such a moving mission.”