Friday, February 8, 2013

Really, Rex Reed?

Earlier today I read that someone had made disparaging remarks about comedienne Melissa McCarthy, who happens to be one of my favorite actresses. As a fan of Gilmore Girls, her character Sookie St. James made the show for me. I remember vaguely watching her on Samantha Who (it wasn't my favorite show) but when Mike & Molly premiered in 2010, I knew that there was no way she could ever do wrong in my eyes. As someone who has struggled with weight issues since I was a kid, I completely felt for her character and I continue to empathize with McCarthy as someone kind-of, sort-of in the public eye now. So, when I read the words "hippo," "tractor-sized," and "obese" on the website for the New York Observer earlier, I felt like critic Rex Reed had written those words about me.

I have generally tried to keep Kentucky Geek Girl a positive space. I like to write posts about good things that happen to people, movies that I like, places I enjoy going, but this hit too close to home for me not to make a comment. Reed's review went live on February 5, yet today is the first that I have heard about what he said, as things often make the rounds around the Internet and I suddenly find them in my newsfeed. I have not yet seen Identity Thief, but wanted to check out some early reviews of the movie so I could decide if it would be my movie of the week. I do intend to see it and by and large support actors that I enjoy watching (McCarthy and Jason Bateman) however, I will not be able to see it without Reed's thoughts in my head.

I want to get so fired up about this that I write some brilliant piece of prose that causes people to raise a fist in the air to cheer me on. I want people to understand simply how mean-spirited this was. There are writers much more eloquent than I out there who have already done that. I just simply could not stand by without making a comment, however. I remembered Reed from watching The Critic when I was a kid I know that he was parodying himself on the show. I also recalled that he had been arrested over a decade ago for shoplifting from Tower Records. Having seen him on television at various times, I knew that he was probably my least favorite critic. I was always a fan of Siskel and Ebert at the Movies growing up.

After reading through his review of Identity Thief again, I decided to check out a few of his other reviews. One recent movie reviewed was Hansel & Gretel, a review of which you can check out here on Kentucky Geek Girl. In the review he not only attacked Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton's acting abilities, he also spoiled major plot points in the movie. He accused Hansel of having a "raging Johnson" and the like. It was distasteful and just generally not well-written and this writer wonders how it ever went to print.

This week, with his review of Identity Thief, his attack on Melissa McCarthy is the main purpose of the review. He accuses her of ruining the movie and calls her a "cacophonous hippo." Reed wonders how that Jason Bateman could ever have become involved with a project like this, which is the worst road movie since The Guilt Trip, which starred Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen. While he is a critic and can comment on the film's director, plot, or how the actors meshed as an ensemble, Reed had absolutely no right to personally attack McCarthy with his downright hateful remarks.

Reed has pigeon-holed McCarthy by saying that she has "devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success." Really? Not only has Melissa McCarthy been acting since the mid-1990s, according to her IMDB entry, she has not made her weight an issue in all of her roles. Yes, Mike & Molly is about a couple of met at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, however, at its heart its about two people who are looking for acceptance in a world that is cruel and unwaveringly mean-spirited, just like Reed in his review of Identity Thief.

Female celebrities have always been under much more scrutiny regarding their weight than their male counterparts. Chris Farley, who made his career with characters like Matt Foley, often used his weight in physical comedy and people laughed, perhaps at him rather than with him. However, I cannot recall instances where he was openly mocked in a review of any of his films, though he, in fact, did have a very short career. In recent years, actors Seth Rogan, Jonah Hill, and Jack Black have all emerged as much trimmer versions of themselves, possibly because it is easier to obtain a leading role as a thinner actor. Even still, I never heard of anyone openly mocking them for their weight.

Fat shaming and discrimination based on weight is one of the last acceptable prejudices. I have been harshly judged based on my appearance on more than one occasion and have received extremely hateful messages on Facebook and on the blog because of it. On the Internet, it is very easy to hide behind the name Anonymous, though I have often received stares and have seen people whisper about me, especially when I was at my heaviest weight in 2010. Negativity like that can weigh heavily (no pun intended, I assure you) on a person. It made me nervous about being in the spotlight, even in this limited capacity with Kentucky Geek Girl. I cannot even imagine what it would be like to be a real, honest to goodness celebrity. I'm thankful that I have received more positive comments than negative and have had incredible support as I have documented my weight loss journey, something that I will begin doing again very soon.

The bottom line not just that Rex Reed was rude, which he most certainly was, but at the end of the day, there are people that feel the same way that he does. There people who are willing to go on the Internet and seek out weight loss bloggers just to tell them how they should live their lives, to tell them that they should not be happy with their bodies, to say that "healthy at any weight" is a fallacy. Well, it's not a fallacy. I have a lot of weight that I want to lose to be at a healthy BMI, but in the last two years, I have reduced my risk for Diabetes and have brought my blood pressure into a normal range. I'm still not where I need to be, but I'm not as unhealthy as I was.

I have no doubt in my mind that Melissa McCarthy is incredibly healthy. Will she be able to shrug off Reed's comments? I don't know. I don't think I would be able to, and as someone who is a plus size, I really took his hate speech to heart for her. I am left wondering if he will issue an apology or if the Observer will take action against what he said.

When I was in middle school, my English teacher would tell us, "You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar." Well, if his acerbic exercise in stupidity is any indication, few will ever want to have anything to do with him.

Before I close (and because this didn't really fit anywhere else) I will say that I didn't enjoy Melissa McCarthy's episode of Saturday Night Live which aired earlier this season. I,  however, don't blame her for this. Like many hosts, she was not given the right sketches. Also, I think she is simply gorgeous.

Images from North Dallas Gazette, Screen Rant, San Francisco Chronicle.

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