A line about cleavage in The New York Times review of A24’s new horror film Bodies Bodies Bodies is the source of social media’s latest dust-up, this one involving Amandla Stenberg.
The actress, who stars in the Halina Reijn-directed film opposite Pete Davidson, Lee Pace, Maria Bakalova, Rachel Sennott, Chase Sui Wonders and Myha’la Herrold, took to Instagram Stories on Thursday to clarify why she sent a pointed DM to NYT’s Lena Wilson after the critic posted their back-and-forth on Twitter late last night. It has as since inspired hundreds of comments about everything from homophobia to how critics write about actresses and their bodies, particularly Black women.
“Ur review was great, maybe if you had gotten your eyes off my tits you could’ve watched the movie,” Stenberg wrote to Wilson on Aug. 8. The DM was in direct reference to this line from Wilson’s review: “The only thing that really sets Bodies Bodies Bodies apart is its place in the A24 hype machine, where it doubles as a 95-minute advertisement for cleavage and Charli XCX’s latest single.”
Wilson responded by saying that she’s “generally a big fan of your work, but this sure is something. Really wishing you well in your career and life.” She then took the exchange public by posting it on Twitter and questioning whether Stenberg also sent messages to critics Alison Wilmore of New York Magazine/Vulture, Justin Change of the Los Angeles Times or Anthony Lane of The New Yorker, all of whom reviewed Bodies Bodies Bodies.
When the exchange started to catch some heat and headlines online, Stenberg, 23, responded via Stories in clips that included moments of reflection about the “extreme” commentary she’s fielded about her chest since she was a teenager while also laughing her way through the perceived hilarity of the initial messages.
“I just thought I would get out here really quickly cuz I’m receiving a lot of commentary on the internet for being a very naughty girl and sending a DM that I thought was hilarious,” Stenberg said in addressing the situation. “I’m proud that a piece of work that I was part of was described as such in such a renowned publication. That is a really unique experience that I get to have.”
She continued by saying that because both she and Wilson are gay, “I thought that, as gay people, we would both find this comment funny. I was also curious to know why Lena would say such a statement, but Lena decided to publish it and say that I am homophobic for saying that.” Wilson did post that on Twitter, writing, “Always weird when the homophobia is coming from inside the house.”
Aside from that, Stenberg said that the amount of commentary she’s fielded about her breasts “is so extreme” and has been happening since she was a teenager. “I could literally be wearing a t-shirt and just because of the size of my boobs, there will be some sort of sexualization or commentary on my chest,” explained the actress, whose comments come on the heels of a cancel culture dialogue she just had with Euphoria star Hunter Schafer for The Cut’s August cover story.
As for her attire in the film, Stenberg said she worked with costume designer, Katina Danabassis, and together they thought a tank top “fit the character well.” As such, “I know that when I’m wearing a tank top, the result is there’s going to be some cleavage because I have boobs.”
Stenberg said she’s tired of the focus on her chest, and she closed by offering levity about the entire back-and-forth. “Lena, I thought your review was hilarious. I thought my DM was funny. I did not mean to harass you and I do not wish you any harm. You are allowed to have your criticisms on my work and I’m allowed to have my criticisms of your work, and that is A-OK with me. I wish you the best anyways. Thanks to anyone who has gone to see our 95-minute advertisement for cleavage.”
Bodies Bodies Bodies is now playing.