Thursday, November 15, 2012

Let's All Stop Making Rebel Wilson Tell Fat Jokes, Mmkay?

Yesterday I went to see Pitch Perfect with my sister and realized that we are really not okay with fat people in this country. More specifically in the media. It’s not a shocking statement, and I think we all suspected that, but seriously. Hollywood. The hell?

Let me back up. Pitch Perfect is a hilarious sports movie type flick about competitive college acapella, which is totally a thing and may have been a major part of my college experience. It follows Beca (Anna Kendrick), a fiercely independent only slightly damaged college Freshman who gets pulled into the world of acapella and finds herself revitalizing the all women’s group on campus.

When I say it’s like a sports movie, I mean that the film follows a pretty standard rise and fall and rise again pattern. First, Beca joins the “Barden Bellas”, who failed at nationals last year due to some projectile stress vomiting. Next, she and the other new recruits try to shake up the game. A battle for the soul of the group ensues, culminating when Beca faces insurmountable setbacks in her quest to win at acapella, and quits. But the group, lost without her, rallies and when Beca rejoins them, they surge to the finish line!

So, you know, every sports movie ever. Especially Bring It On. I’m just saying.

That in and of itself isn’t super interesting, though. The plot, hilarious though it may be, isn’t all that original. It’s a very familiar pattern. What makes the film stand out is the really spectacular jokes. From Brittany Snow’s vocal “nodes” to Elizabeth Banks’ really terrifying commentary to absolutely everything that the other members of the Bellas say, the jokes are what make the film. And that’s good. It’s a comedy for crying out loud.

Standout in the jokes department is Rebel Wilson’s Fat Amy, and here is where I start to take issue with things. Because, yes, Rebel Wilson is freaking hilarious and I have loved her in everything I’ve ever seen her in, but don’t you think a few too many of the jokes in the movie are about how fat she is?

Fat Amy, so called because she decided to call herself that before anyone else could, is a loud, proud, sexually confident singer, who happens to be completely insane and totally awesome. Seriously. She’s amazing. It’s just that every once in a while the movie reminds us that we’re not really laughing with Fat Amy, we’re laughing at her.

Like when the whole team does cardio to prepare for their dance routines. Fat Amy decides to do “horizontal running” and appears constantly out of breath. On its own? Hilarious. In context? A little less so. Like when the guy on the opposing team tells her that she’s ugly. Or when the former Bella’s comment about how ugly the team is this year, consisting as it does of a bunch of insanely attractive people, and a few average looking people. Or when we’re supposed to laugh and be shocked because Fat Amy is surrounded by really hot guys on spring break.

I get it. It’s a comedy, and it’s funny. It is seriously funny, I’m not denying that. But I dislike the culture it perpetuates. The idea that large women are only funny if we’re laughing at them about their weight. Fat Amy can’t just be confident, she has to be absolutely insane with overconfidence. She can’t just have a healthy sexual appetite, she has to be crazy oversexual. She’s can’t be a funny character who happens to be fat, she’s Fat Amy.

It’s what I’ve come to think of as “Melissa McCarthy” syndrome. The idea that a fat woman is never a woman who happens to be fat, but is instead a fat woman. That her fatness is somehow integral to her identity. If you recall in Bridesmaids, this was kind of a thing. McCarthy’s character was milked for humor related to how undesirable she was, and yet how interested she was in sex. It was funny because she was so ugly, right? Her confidence was misplaced because obviously that woman was a loser, right?

It felt like I was being slapped repeatedly in the face with a reminder of how much it must suck to be fat and how epic it is to be skinny. Which, come on. Really?

Right now Rebel Wilson’s career is kind of standing on this kind of fat humor, and I feel like it’s pulling her back. I mean, kudos to her for being willing to do this kind of movie, and I definitely don’t mind seeing her in big ticket flicks, but I want to see her play someone who’s more than her weight for once. Rebel, honey, you’re better than this. Really.

And the new Melissa McCarthy movie, Identity Thief? Just looks like more of the same. Ick.

Go watch the movie because it's hilarious.

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