A Disgusting, Body-Shaming Debacle by Skinny People
I’ve been puzzling over what to write about this movie since seeing it a little under 24 hours ago. Part of me wants to bash it violently with a club for its relentless cavalcade of body-shaming that does nothing to help those with low self-esteem. Part of me wants to praise its intentions, and a decent second-half, which diverges from a terribly sloppy first-half, turning I Feel Pretty into a watchable narrative, with a contrived, but important speech at the end that I think fat kids should hear.
Full disclosure, I grew up as a fat kid, and am a current fat person. I experience body shaming on a daily basis, and although I’ve learned in my 30s to offer a solid middle-finger to anyone who judges me, I also went through a period, starting as a freshman in college, in which I threw-up every meal and disordered my way to what I thought was the dream of my life – to be skinny.
What I Feel Pretty gets right is what happens when a formerly fat person becomes skinny and what society deems “attractive.” It’s a time-consuming process, losing weight, it happens in stages, and as you go through it, you start to notice strangers smiling rather than snickering. And, unfortunately, the change begins to go to your head. One of the biggest problems in my life that I developed as a fat kid was (and still is) a need to feel accepted, and once I was, I went overboard with it, partying hard, and trying to be everything I thought I wanted to be when I was fat. I became an alcoholic, I had one-night stands, I dropped out of college my senior year, got into an overly emotional relationship with the exact wrong person, and became very selfish. I was no longer the sweet, humble, caring kid I grew up as, instead, I had turned into Ronnie from Jersey Shore – a ridiculous person who thrived on drama and couldn’t see anything beyond my own perspective – in other words, I was a complete jerk. This is the part of Renee’s journey in I Feel Pretty that actually struck a chord with me, as she becomes more and more successful in winning over the types of people that normally wouldn’t have given her a second thought, she assumes it’s because of her outward appearance, rather than her new-found freedom to be confident, and she stops focusing on what makes her special in the first place. This leads Renee down the path to ruin – she treats her real friends like shit, she starts ignoring the guy who loves her, almost cheats on him, and almost ruins her new career. In the real world, those friends never come back, you do end up cheating, and you lose your job – trust me, I lived through each, and there was no redeeming speech at the end to save the day. No, I was scarred very deeply, and went back to what I knew – eating, moved away, and became a totally different person in another part of the country where I could forget the monster I had become when skinny. I had to put all puzzle pieces back together.
I feel like I’m in a therapy session here, but honestly, that’s what seeing this movie feels like for people with body issues.
Amy Schumer has taken a lot of shit for this movie already and it’s getting pretty lousy reviews overall, and although I’m a Schumer fan, I do have to pile on with a couple of points I wish Schumer had considered before she took on this script from the writing-directing team of Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, two skinny people.
This movie has a ridiculous amount of fat-shaming. There were points in this film when I wanted to curl myself up into a ball and simply cry. There is nothing older and more stale in this world than a fat joke. I saw the movie in a pretty packed theater with two chatty teenage girls behind me, and I got a sampling of their thoughts throughout. Comments included: “She’s not that fat,” and “She’s not that ugly, come on.” The assumption being that if she was THAT fat, and THAT ugly that it would be OK to laugh your ass off at her expense?
The cruelty with which Kohn and Silverstein treat their main character is disgusting, quite frankly.
“Renee, it’s you, I thought I smelled animal products.”
“Oh, you just ate my hot dog, there was two of them.”
“At least your girl can handle herself in a knife fight.”
“You are invisible.”
Over and over and over again, Kohn and Silverstein take a demonic glee in bashing their lead while the audience I saw the film with remained mostly silent. I heard more than a few groans and gasps at particularly cruel moments, but not a ton of laughter.
Here’s the thing, Kohn and Silverstein, you cannot make a body-positive movie that spends a full hour getting off on itself over how funny it is that fat people suffer every day. Tell me, Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, why did you need a fat guy opposite Schumer in her “Troll Den” basement workplace to start the film? Was it just so you could bring him back to smile at Schumer’s final speech, or was it because you could mine a few lazy laughs by making him act with no pants on and have him pretend to masturbate publicly? Newsflash, fat people get laid. And if they aren’t getting laid, they certainly aren’t jerking off at work in bathroom stalls.
Another question I have for the writers – how many fat people do you know that love fashion and want to be a part of a world that thinks they are invisible? Beyond that, how many grown-ass women do you know that would take a pay cut for the “dream job” of receptionist? What message are you sending to young women? That it’s better to take less pay just to be a part of the vapid, self-obsessed world of fashion cosmetics?
What a joke, and not at all funny.
And, of course, like every other shitty romantic comedy in the history of film, we end it with Schumer only seeing herself as her boyfriend sees her. She gives a heartfelt speech about how fat people need to stand on their own two feet, then falls into the arms of prince charming who assures her, “I’ve always seen you.” And with the male-validation complete, totally undermining the so-called message of independent strength, let’s roll the credits.
For her part, Schumer is game to the task here and plays this hideous role with straight-up bravery. The crap Kohn and Silverstein put her through is pathetic. In almost every scene, Schumer is the butt of a terribly unfunny joke meant to shame her for her weight. Yet, Schumer breezes through the gauntlet of body-shaming torture with a bright smile and a ceaseless energy, doing her best to make lemonade out of a script made of dog shit.
I Feel Pretty is a movie about fat people made by body-shaming skinny people. Bravo.
All involved should be ashamed of themselves, save for Schumer, who miraculously comes out of this debacle smelling like a rose.