Now that that’s done, let’s talk about Melissa McCarthy and the humor of fatness.
In his review of Identity Thief, film critic and professional asshole Rex Reed referred to McCarthy with a series of offensive and derogatory phrases relating to her weight, which totally undermined any valid points he may have been making about the film’s quality (which he did conclude was awful and unwatchable, and asshole or not, he wasn’t wrong about that). You can read a summary of that kerfuffle here.
First and foremost, Reed can go fuck himself for making totally unnecessary personal attacks on an actress who, regardless of what she looks like—because this would be equally offensive if he’d attacked, say, Keira Knightley for having a flat chest—was being paid to portray a character in a certain way as determined by a script, a director, and a group of producers who thought the result would be humorous to audiences. I don’t want to talk about Rex Reed and what a tremendous dipshit he is. I want to talk about that cabal of filmmakers who thought this would be funny in the first place. I want to delve into the actors who participated in this film even though their families do not appear to have been kidnapped and held under threat of violence to ensure their cooperation. I want to discuss the audience that drove this mountain of dinosaur dung to over $37 million at the box office.
WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH EVERYONE?
I sat through Identity Thief—on the studio’s dime, thank god, because if I’d paid for it I would have been forced to stab myself with a pencil—and gaped as everyone around me laughed at the barrage of fat jokes and terribly timed sex gags. I was, as far as I could tell, the only person not enjoying the movie. And it’s not that I don’t think that fat can be funny. I happen to think that anything, in the right hands, can be funny and you have to look no further than Rebel Wilson for proof of this. Her “Fat Amy” character in Pitch Perfect is a prime example that fat jokes can be mined for solid, positive humor.
The thing about Wilson, though, is that she was in control of every joke. The humor derived not from pointing and laughing at a fat person for being fat, but from her flipping the script on the kind of person who would usually do exactly that. Zach Galifianakis mines a similar space on “Between Two Ferns”, responding to jokes about his weight with a deadpan, “That’s hurtful,” or, “You know I’ve been trying to lose weight”. We laugh not because these people are fat, but because they highlight the vapidity of the fat joke—we laugh at the resulting discomfort of the person who tried to laugh at their fatness. They hold a mirror to our own societal shallowness and we laugh because we recognize the cheapness of the fat joke, because we get the subversion of the expected punchline.
Identity Thief, however, is not being subversive. It’s not holding a mirror up to anything. It makes no attempt to say something about how we perceive one another based on looks, how we talk to and interact with one another because of that, or how our wrong assumption of someone because they look a certain way can lead to comedic gold when they turn out to be so much more than what we initially expected. Identity Thief is just pointing and laughing at fat people. It’s very mean-spirited, cruel even, and a whole lot of people went along with it. I have never in my life been so disappointed in McCarthy (whom I’ve liked since her Gilmore Girls days) and Bateman for participating in this junk.
Melissa McCarthy is the butt of every joke in Identity Thief and all because she happens to be overweight. Fat people fall down! Haha! Fat people stuff their faces constantly! Gross! Fat people having sex! Ew! That’s the whole movie in a nutshell. There is nothing more to the humor than pointing and laughing at fat people for being fat. Every gag is based on the idea that fat is disgusting, that a fat person’s sexuality is inherently revolting (and, because Identity Thief is racing itself straight to the bottom of the barrel, must also be deviant), and that fat people exist only as objects of scorn and derision for the thinner people around them. I am not endorsing being fat as a healthy lifestyle, but there are fat people in the world, and just because they’re fat doesn’t mean they deserve to be the target for this kind of vicious mockery, just like a gay person doesn’t deserve to be the object of scorn or derision just for being gay.
Identity Thief isn’t just stupid and shitty and a waste of money. It’s cruel, deliberately and repeatedly cruel. And what the fuck is wrong with us, that we embraced this and made this okay?