Sunday, January 16, 2011

Alicia Silverstone is pregnant.

So read a news headline in the Asheville Citizen-Times yesterday, which is weird, because, well, why the Asheville paper?  I sort of ignored the story, because I really don’t care about celebrities (or really anyone else, for that matter) having babies, nor do I really care all that much about Alicia Silverstone, except that she’s vegan.  Here’s her blog on the subject. 

I’ve thought about this a bit: the fact that if a celebrity is vegan, I will feel a sense of connectedness to that celebrity, but that connection to a vegan community, like all other imagined communities is, well, imaginary.  I guess that veganism is a pretty important thing to have in common.  It implies a kind of shared ethic, a shared set of ideological underpinnings – at least in theory.  But then I realize that part of my project with this project (blog and book) is to demonstrate that the very notion of a homogenous vegan identity is a fiction.

Still.  What’s the first thing that I do when I start to like an actor or musician?  Check to see whether or not that person is vegan.  It’s easy to do this, but there is sometimes conflicting information (is, for example, Mike Tyson really vegan?).  Websites like Happy Cow and Famous Vegans have lists of every vegan celeb imaginable.

When I was in New York week before last, I passed Parker Posey in the dog park at Washington Square Park. 
(seriously, that's her and the dog.  Photo taken by Jason)

OK, she has a dog that she takes to the dog park, so I already love her.  Love her anyway (have you seen House of Yes?).  When we got back to the hotel, I searched to see if Parker’s a vegan.  She’s not, at least her name doesn’t appear in any list I can find. 

And this being a vegan or not being a vegan is certainly not the deciding factor in terms of whether or not I like a celebrity or his or her art, but it’s still something that matters enough for me to search for it, to feel a common bond if I find it -- which I realize is perhaps ridiculous. 

But back to Alicia Silverstone and her pregnancy: Alicia’s body has been an object of intense scrutiny since she starred in Clueless back in 1995.  Her role in that film won her much critical acclaim, and the media positioned her as the next big thing.  And then she starred as Batfgirl in Batman and Robin (1997), which flopped.  And then suddenly there was all this press about how she had gotten fat. She gave up meat and all other things animal over a decade ago; the weight dropped, and she wrote a cookbook called The Kind Diet

Alicia Silverstone’s body and her bodily decisions have always been in the media, have either been praised of maligned, from the time she was the hot young thing in all those early 90s Aerosmith videos, to her Catholic schoolgirl turn in Clueless, to the skin-tight rubber suit wearing Batgirl.  Her veganism is closely tied to her animal activism, something that she has always been outspoken about, but her veganism is also the key to the weight loss that allowed her to be deemed sexy once again.  In fact, she was filmed by David Meyer in a naked testimonial for PETA in which her voiceover extols the virtues of being veggie while she slips naked from a pool and basically licks the camera. 

In her case, her veganism has allowed for her bodily ascension, or perhaps re-entry, into the cult of Hollywood beauty.  And in allowing herself to be videotaped naked for PETA, she demonstrates a failure to connect the objectification of animals via our consumption of them, to the objectification of women via our scrutiny and fixation on their bodies.  In this video, Silverstone is consumable object, panning to the very internalized male gaze that perpetuates her need to drop the pounds, and the very real and pervasive masculinist ideology that very often undermines her dietary and ethical choices.

It will be interesting to see how the media and Silvestone herself treat her pregnancy; it will be telling to see how much she has to justify in terms of her diet as she carries her child to term. 

Next time, veganorexia: Natalie Portman and Black Swan.  Oh, and Jason loooooves Alicia Silverstone.  When I told him that she was pregnant, he sighed and said, “sadly, it isn’t mine.”  


  1. I remember the whole Batgirl/Fatgirl thing and how crazy it seemed to me at the time.

    So, you think veganism is what is helping Alicia keep her body "desirable?" Side observation: I know quite a few overweight vegetarians, but all the vegans I know are in great physical shape. I think part of the reason is related to the "vegan comic #X" you posted the other day, and that my vegetarian overweight friends will snarf a plate of fettucine alfredo and then have something like a fudge brownie sundae. For vegetarians such as these, it's as if they had a meat allergy, but whatever the hell else goes. Veganism, on the other hand, seems to be more of a life philosophy (as confirmed by your comments in the post about wanting to check out whether or not certain celebrities share your philosophy). Please don't take this comparison the wrong way, but it's kind of like some religious people looking for famous people who share their religious beliefs. (I'm not comparing you to alligator wrestlers here.) It's a way of life, a cosmovision, and once it's embraced, the rest falls into place, whereas with some people who just don't eat meat, it's like being lactose intolerant: Don't eat the ice cream. There's the philosphy.

  2. So long as the alligator wins, I have no problem with alligator wrestling.

  3. Laura, you've probably already seen this, but this post made me remember reading it and go look it up: a post about being a fat vegan on veganhope.

    This blog post, like your post and its comments, raises a couple of interesting issues: one, the sense that veganism is based on ethics in a way other diets aren't (does it mean that those who eschew animal products for health reasons rather than ethics aren't "really vegans"? Kind of like that last link I sent, in which the vegan scientist wouldn't call himself a vegan because he wasn't doing it for ethical reasons.) Two, the sense that thinness is almost universally equated with both desirability and health--the post linked above suggests that a fat vegan maybe also isn't considered "really vegan" in some way, at least to some viewers. Huitzilin's comment, similarly, seems to imply that true vegans, whatever they may be, would never eat a plate of something fattening and follow it up with a fattening dessert--suggesting that veganism isn't "just" about avoiding animal products, but also about avoiding fattening foods. I'd be interested to hear if you all think these beliefs about veganism as linked to thinness, and to ethics specifically, have widespread cultural currency.