by Bill Monson

I read in our local paper recently that actress Kate Winslet is angry with the British edition of GQ magazine because it did a computer alteration on pictures of her to slim her down.

Kate, who has womanly curves, displayed them quite pleasantly in TITANIC; and she doesn't want to be altered to the current super model image.

"This is me," she says. "Like it or lump it...I'm not a twig, and I refuse to be one. I'm happy with the way I am." Kate is pretty much a rarity these days. Most movie and TV stars follow the Gwyenth Paltrow type--skinny to the point of anorexia. Outside of Lucy Lawless (XENA), I can't think of a single TV or film heroine who offers what men of my generation considered a womanly figure. Most are a teenager's idea of a woman. Why?

Basically, it has to do with TV and movie cameras. Back in the days when movies were black and white and photographed in a 3 by 4 ratio, you had lots of lenses you could use. You could add or subtract poundage by the clever use of light and the right lens. That's why there was room for well-fed figures like those of Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, Ava Gardner and Kim Novak not to mention Marilyn Monroe, Jane Mansfield, and (thank you, Howard Hughes) Jane Russell.

The arrival of color did not change things all that much; but in the 1950s, Hollywood began using wide-screen formats that called for wide angle lenses. These made it tough for the full-figured gal. Jane Russell's career quickly foundered as did those of Monroe and Mansfield (although there were other elements involved with them.) Our sex images became more like Raquel Welch and Jane Fonda, which were still ample, but soon gave way to Sigourney Weaver, Diane Keaton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Julianne Moore and Paltrow. The same thing happened in TV. Anybody remember Dagmar? Early black and white cameras had three lenses which could be used. Then came the Zoomar lens (shortened down to zoom). This is a single special lens which allows you to go from closeup to long shot with no lens change and is the life's blood of sports. (Which often uses a 200 to one zoom.) One problem: it adds 15 pounds optically to anyone it photographs!

Hence, TV actresses got skinny fast. All too soon, we had Lara Flynn Boyle and Christa Flockhart. (Okay, okay, we still have Oprah-- but she's not so plump in person as she is on camera.) It would still be possible in TV to use cameras with lenses which do not inflate so much. After all, TV is still in the old 3 by 4 ratio and many of its shows are filmed, not video-taped. But that would require more time and energy. It's simpler and cheaper to hire skinny actresses and use zoom or wide angle lenses. Since film and TV feed our style magazines, and vice versa, the magazine industry went right along. It was always easier to photograph a slender model; there was less trouble hanging clothes on them since they already resembled clothes hangers. Thus, we got to those walking bean poles called super models.

This wouldn't seem like much of an issue except that our daughters watch the media for clues on how to look. You think 5- to 10-million cases of anorexia and bulimia are something to ignore? These can be fatal. Remember singer Karen Carpenter?

It's more than just an issue of what men like to look at. Women are looking, too--and adolescent women want to look like what they think is attractive. And if what they see is skinny, they'll try to be skinny (and busty, too) even if it means going against their basic genes and risking their health and lives. I'm not suggesting a boycott of skinny actress movies or TV shows. I'd prefer for parents to have a good talk with their daughters about what's appropriate--and to remind them that the camera (and thus the major media) does lie.