Too fat for film

Today I was on Morning Jolt with Larry Flick on Sirius Radio. I’m lucky not only because I get to answer questions from his audience, but I get to laugh myself silly with Larry and Keith Price.

As I waited in the holding area before I went on, there was large group of people gathered. Eager women with firm handshakes and notes in their hands. I deduced they were publicists. Whatever it was, there was a lot of commotion going on. When Keith came out to get me, he revealed that Howard Stern had made a comment earlier on his show that the Academy Award nominated actress, Gabourey Sidibe, star of the film, Precious, “Is just another fat, black girl.” I’m paraphrasing.

His comment set off a firestorm of debate from those who mistook his observation as prejudice toward the obese and African American. Later, when I got back to my office and signed onto my computer, Pop Eater prompted me into taking a poll, asking me if I thought Miss Sidibe was too fat for film?

Debating whether or not overweight actresses can maintain a career without succumbing to peer pressure and losing weight, is nothing new. Whoopie Goldberg, an African American Academy Award winning actress has battled her weight for years. She talked about it openly on The View. Even Jennifer Hudson slimmed down after winning her Oscar last year. So have the Academy Award nominated Oprah Winfrey and Queen Latifah. Although these women have maintained that they will never and can never be an unrealistic size 2, the fact remains that all of these women have tried to lose weight. Regardless if it was for their own benefit or an attempt to be more commercial has yet to be proven. Unfortunately, there are so few roles available for African American women and even fewer that require an overweight one.

With so many actors and actresses vying for roles, I predict Miss Sidibe will attempt to lose weight in order to continue working. Movie goers want to see beautiful people up on the screen. Heaven forbid we see a romantic comedy starring a fat girl with a hot guy. I’ll admit Hairspray did just that, but it doesn’t happen often. That’s interesting to me when you consider that we’re often color blind when it comes to casting, particularly on Broadway, but we don’t condone the same equality when it comes to body habitus or beauty. Women get the short end of the stick. Unattractive, overweight women are not treated equally as their male counterparts.

Think about it. If you turn on the television you’re likely to see a sitcom featuring a fairly attractive, slender actress with a robust, which is just a macho euphemism for fat, male lead. I can name several: King of Queens paired my sister’s doppelgänger, Leah Remini, with Kevin James. Poor Courtney Thorne-Smith was married to Jim Belushi in According to Jim. And who could forget the forgettable Still Standing, a show that asked us to believe that Jami Gertz might have actually bedded down with actor Mark Addy and not come away with ruptured pancreas.

But the obesity hypocrisy doesn’t stop there. It extends onto the silver screen. Movies like the disastrous Couples Retreat had not one but three weight discordant couples. Writers Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn appropriated the above mentioned sitcoms’ recipe and actually believed that we could imagine a world where a beautiful woman like Kristen Davis would marry someone like Favreau. Sure Harvey Weinstein is really married to the stunning, Georgina Chapman, who is co-designer of the house of Marchesa, but their relationship doesn’t resonate with non-celebritites.

Most guys don’t make a gazilion dollars and their wives basically look the girls they dated in high school only older. You’ll not likely find an Angelina Jolie look alike driving an SUV in Jersey City towing three boys whose father is some one who looks like John Goodman.

The real issue here is not Miss Sibidie at all. It’s the fat, out of shape men we allow to brainwash us into thinking that a huge torso is manly and muscular whereas on a female it’s flabby and gelatinous. Maybe Howard Stern was a tad bit snide when he made that comment, but his point is well taken. There will be no High School Musical starring Zac Ephron and Gabourey Sidibe. Neither do I see a future film starring Ms. Sidibe working for an evil boss played by Meryl Streep whose unrelenting demands becomes the impetus for her transformation. In the case of the Devil Wears Prada: frumpy into chic. In Miss Sidibe case: fat into thin.

And why is it the women always have to change and never the men?

Unfortunately, there are so few precious roles to go around.

I don’t have a solution of course, but as Whoopie Goldberg in Ghost put it, “Gaby, you in danger girl.”

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5 Comments

  1. Posted March 11, 2010 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Great commentary on a sad fact of our society at the current.

    I am not trying to challenge you, perhaps this even emphasizes your point, that when there are those “Precious” moments, they somehow get swept under the carpet of the collective awareness.

    I bring up Hattie McDaniel, of course a stereotypical role but of course the first African American Oscar winner.

    Camryn Manheim, hmmm. Momma Cass, Totie Fields.. Kirstie Alley keeps her plate full, so to speak with her struggle about fatness…

    But you are right. The above are reduced to novelties in the public mind.

  2. Posted March 11, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Oh My God, Camryn Manheim is not a “novelty”, she is a wonderful actress, but you know what I mean…

    I’m sorry Camryn..

    (i know camryn my face is so red)

  3. Posted March 21, 2010 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Great comment… I agree with you.

  4. Siddharth
    Posted March 22, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Your blog is always fun to read, because your opinion on some issues is very very similar to mine.

  5. Siddharth
    Posted March 23, 2010 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    you are forgetting Peter Griffin from family guy and Homer Simpson both of whom have big guts but beautiful wives.


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