He broke out of prison, now he’s breaking his silence. Wentworth Miller, former star of Fox’s “Prison Break,” and currently known for his role as Captain Cold on CW’s “The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow,” announced in an open letter that in the past he was suicidal, following the appearance of an internet meme that shamed his physical shape.
This is not the first time that celebrities have been targeted by people in the media or on the Internet about their physical appearance. This harsh weight criticism happens to women constantly, but we should all remember that it’s equally detrimental to men. There is no gender or social barrier on mental illness or self-consciousness; it can happen to anyone at any level in society. Miller is just one of the recent male celebrities to announce that he suffered from depression. Should this influx of publicized mental illness not induce some type of change in the thinking of people in our society?
The meme that went viral featured Miller lean and muscular from a “Prison Break” promotional poster on one side. On the other, was a picture that the paparazzi captured of a heavier him, back in 2010, with the caption, “When you break out of prison and find out about McDonald’s Monopoly.” Miller, who has battled depression for much of his life, stated in his letter that during the time this picture was taken in 2010 he was at “the lowest point in my adult life, I was looking everywhere for relief/comfort/distraction. And I turned to food.”
In the picture, Miller is sporting a red t-shirt and a smile, but with his body soon the subject of unflattering and cruel headlines, that smile didn’t remain for long. This is not the first time that popular male celebrities have been criticized for weight. Miller’s “Flash” co-star Grant Gustin, who plays the titular character, has struggled with his image in the other direction. The tall and lanky actor has trouble putting on pounds of muscle that we are accustomed to seeing on superheros. Gustin has gotten backlash on being too thin and repeatedly told that he should be gaining weight.
Gustin is nearly two full seasons into “The Flash” and it’s his portrayal of Barry Allen that should be the focus of fan and critics, not how lanky he is. He does a wonderful job, but the fact that he needs to continuously prove himself as able to lead one of the highest rated shows on the CW based on his size or lack thereof is ridiculous.
Miller, who has been acting for just under two decades, has taken on various roles — and those roles require all different body sizes. Even all these “Hollywood Hunks” that we have grown accustomed to have to work to maintain that superhero image — it’s not normal. And we should remember that these body images are not the societal norm, as we degrade and comment on other people’s weight and body image if we do not hold ourselves to their standard.
It’s easy to sit on your couch, eat chips and make a joke about Miller or another celebrity’s weight gain. These stars can come across as larger-than-life and we forget that they are people struggling with problems just as we are. Miller’s struggle with depression and his suicidal thoughts were not public knowledge. Take a step back and consider that we don’t know what the people we see on television are battling once our screens are turned off.
Body-shaming across all genders needs to stop. There is no “perfect body.” There is no right or wrong unless we deem it so. The need to look a certain way is unhealthy and can be not only physically damaging, but mentally and emotionally as well.
Break the chains that you conform to and be comfortable with who you are and what you look like. We should be working to build up one another, not damage each other’s self confidence. Miller is using the meme as a reminder that he survived; he persevered through his struggles and wants others who may be suffering as well to know that there is help and hope. He closed his letter with a plea and places available for people to get help, as will I. If you are battling a mental illness, please reach out for help; talk to someone or contact Fairfield’s Counseling & Psychological Services. Fitting into a size small isn’t worth your happiness and health; just ask Miller.