In many ways, Nicola Coughlan is just like us. She gets star-struck while chatting with A-listers, even if they do eventually become her best friends. She loves a bit of style, even if it is often bespoke haute couture. And like most 35-year-olds, she likes to post the odd gym selfie.
“If I ever get up to exercise before work, I do feel like I deserve a special medal and that is just the truth,” Coughlan posted on Instagram earlier this week. That’s a hard relate from all of us. So far so simple, except that the Galwegian has become a fresh target for tabloid and social media commentary. Some headlines have noted how her ‘incredible transformation’ or ‘newly slimline figure’ has ‘stunned fans’. In order to hammer home that ‘transformation’ bit, several outlets have run before and after pictures, comparing Coughlan’s ‘new’ figure to her older self.
It all sounds rather complimentary on the surface, but it’s really a prompt for everyone else to have some kind of reaction to Coughlan’s body. And all this talk about body transformation causes its own problems, suggesting as it does that the only thing that is important about working out and/or staying healthy are the optics; the before and after selfies. The big reveal. It’s simply assumed by everyone that Coughlan is in the gym on a weight-loss journey, and therefore is bringing herself in line with the physical conventions of celebrity.
Why do we assume that every celebrity (and indeed, civilian) who is not naturally a size zero is desperately trying to look like everyone else? Are we still at a point where being plus-sized is such a radical, remarkable thing that it automatically invites widespread remark and reaction? To be over a size two in the world of celebrity is to instantly turn your body into A Thing. Public property. Ask Adele, or Rebel Wilson, or Lena Dunham, or even the very retired, very private Bridget Fonda. Whatever their myriad achievements or talents, it’s rare that a story be written about them in which their appearance is not mentioned.
Such has been the ongoing scrutiny on Coughlan’s body that earlier this year, the actress was moved to make a request to stop talking about her as simply a physical being. “If you have an opinion about my body please, please don’t share it with me,” she wrote on Instagram. “Most people are being nice and not trying to be offensive but I am just one real life human being and it’s really hard to take the weight of thousands of opinions on how you look being sent directly to you every day.”
On some level, Coughlan is coming up against almost too mighty a force. No matter the strides made in the realms of body positivity, the world remains obsessed with women’s bodies, and how close to, or far from ‘perfection’, they are. It takes one look at a rundown of tabloid headlines to prove how famous women are primarily seen in the world: ‘flaunts her showstopping figure’. ‘Shows off her curves’. ‘Wows in a low-cut top’. ‘Flashes a glimpse of her peachy derriere’. The way so many newspaper headlines tell it, famous women wow, and stun and show off and put on a display.
Coughlan, it would seem, is doing her best to drown out all this white noise. Whatever her reasons for going to the gym, or posting selfies, it’s absolutely none of our business, and Coughlan knows it. Possibly knowing that posting her selfie would invite widespread commentary, she did it anyway. She’s a woman doing what she damn well pleases. That’s deserving of a medal of its own.
Last week, Simon Cowell uttered the words that only a youngster with a voice like a theremin wants to hear: “I am getting back in the music business with something I’m going to announce soon.”
According to a source, the new venture that Cowell has up his sleeve is ‘game-changing’. I’d expect nothing less, I guess, for when it comes to changing the game, Cowell has form. His ‘a million kids would kill for this opportunity’ schtick not only built him a multi-million-dollar empire, it changed the face of reality TV forever.
And yet… surely Cowell’s modus operandi, both in the TV and music industries, seems slightly outdated. Cowell fashioned himself as a sage truth-teller, handing out home-truths about the cut-throat music industry to people with stars in their eyes. What we actually got was people’s hopes dashed on the rocks in the name of entertainment.
But in the year 2022, the cut-throat judging panel stuff that was so popular in the noughties is starting to look less appealing. We live in a different world now. People are much less tolerant of talent show judges’ acidic truth-telling. And there are many more ways for a young singer to find an audience beyond Cowell’s karaoke factory.
Once Cowell realises that Gen-Z is well and truly over his patronising, toughening-up gubbins, this new venture should do just fine.
There’s much awfulness to unpack with the cross-complaint that Angelina Jolie has filed against her ex-husband Brad Pitt, not least because it details the alleged physical abuse that involves their children.
Over at the court of public opinion, Pitt is getting plenty of love (not sure what he has done to invite such fierce defending, but hey ho). Meanwhile, there’s a whiff of ‘why is she only bringing this up now?’ with regards to Jolie’s allegations.
In case anyone needs reminding, that is the very last question any alleged victim of domestic violence should be asked.