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Nicola Coughlan is right; we need to just stop commenting on other people’s bodies


By Sarah Finnan
25th Feb 2022

@nicolacoughlan

Nicola Coughlan is right; we need to just stop commenting on other people’s bodies

The ‘Bridgerton’ actress recently asked fans to keep their opinions about how she looks to themselves, thank you very much.

As a woman in the spotlight, Nicola Coughlan has had to deal with more public scrutiny than most. It kind of comes with the territory of being an industry favourite. That’s not to justify it, but merely to point out that it’s, unfortunately, all part of the job. 

Fame is a bit of a double-edged sword when you think about it. On the one hand, people knowing your name means that you’ve ultimately done something right in your career. Presumingly,  actors get into show biz because they want to achieve some sort of international acclaim, and so, celebrity is a good thing. Or it is by that reasoning, at least. 

There are obviously many downsides to being famous too though, one of which is the constant public commentary on everything you do, say, eat and wear. Media coverage doesn’t start and end with the movie you’re in or the series you just wrapped on. It goes beyond the job and suddenly your life isn’t really your life anymore. People feel entitled to know everything about you… you’re there for their entertainment, after all. 

Then there’s social media to contend with too. Platforms such as Instagram allow A-listers to promote their work, interact with fans and share updates on exciting upcoming projects… but it’s yet another medium that puts them at the mercy of the public. And the internet rarely filters the nastiness out. 

Finally reaching a point where she felt the need to address the situation, Coughlan gently asked followers to refrain from messaging her what they think of her – particularly where her appearance is concerned. 

“Hello! So just a thing – 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.”

Knowing that people having an opinion about her is inevitable given the nature of her job, Coughlan simply asks that fans respect her boundaries and keep their thoughts to themselves. “If you have an opinion about me that’s ok, I understand I’m on TV and that people will have things to think and say but I beg you not to send it to me directly.”

That sounds like a completely reasonable request if you ask us; no one should have to contend with unsolicited comments about how they look, even if they are meant in good faith. And with 1.2million followers, we can only assume that the scale of the problem is much more severe for Coughlan. As her Instagram bio notes, she is but one “small Irish acting person”. 

Unsurprisingly, the Derry Girls star is not alone in facing such problems and fellow actress Melanie Lynskey also recently spoke out on the topic of body shaming too. Part of the stellar cast for the new hit series, Yellowjackets, Lynskey said that her main gripe is with those who camouflage their comments under the guise of being “concerned” about her health. 

Venting her frustrations on Twitter, she referenced a now-deleted tweet from writer Ashley C. Ford, who shared that people sometimes seem “confused” by the fact that she’s “not thin and also not trying to lose weight”. 

“Story of my life since Yellowjackets premiered,” Lynskey wrote in her own, separate tweet. “Most egregious are the ‘I care about her health!!’ people… b*tch you don’t see me on my Peleton! You don’t see me running through the park with my child. Skinny does not always equal healthy,” she wrote. 

Last year, actor Jonah Hill pretty much said the same thing when he shared a message with fans asking them to just stop talking about his body altogether – regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. “I know you mean well 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.”

A couple of months earlier, he posted a screenshot of a Daily Mail article about him “going shirtless to towel himself off”, admitting that he never took his shirt off in a pool until he was in his mid-30s. “Probably would have happened sooner if my childhood insecurities weren’t exacerbated by years of public mockery about my body by press and interviewers,” he wrote at the time. 

All three celebrities are proof that even throwaway comments have an impact. Commending someone for losing weight could inadvertently be fuelling an underlying problem such as an eating disorder. Disparaging them for not being a certain size – while camouflaging comments as “concerns” – feeds into the narrative that being thin equates to being healthy, which isn’t the case. 

The only solution is to do as both Nicola Coughlan and Jonah Hill have already asked; just don’t comment at all.