Last week, film critic Rex Reed wrote a childish, shallow attack on actress Melissa McCarthy’s appearance masked as a legitimate review for the film “Identity Thief”.
He describes McCarthy as “tractor sized,” a “humongous creep,” a “female hippo,” and “a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success.”
While McCarthy’s size is held in derision by Reed, her co-star and a producer of the film, Jason Bateman, is an innocent bystander: “Poor Jason Bateman. How did an actor so charming, talented, attractive and versatile get stuck in so much dreck?” By attacking McCarthy’s appearance over and over again, Reed suggests that it is her weight that is in some part responsible for the overall creative failure of the film.
Rex Reed, it is not Melissa McCarthy’s job to be hot for you.
I’d like to group this review in the same category of other men’s public comments made over the past few years -- that women aren’t funny -- though Reed’s language is more overtly cruel and personal. This review upholds the same belief system: Women in entertainment exist to be window-dressing and nothing more. We are meant to be objects of sexual desire for the audience and in the characters we play. If we can’t pull that off, we better be able to play the mom -- but be the hot mom.
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of that belief system when you are a woman trying to find your place in this industry. It’s very easy to use your gender, appearance or age as reasons for why you are unsuccessful. The cards are stacked against you because of who you are, so you’ll take whatever scraps the industry throws your way.
I would like to say something to my fellow women actors and comedians:
Men that only value women for what they look like or don’t think we’re funny are dinosaurs in this industry. They will go away. Don’t pay attention to Reed’s review. Instead, pay attention to the more than 1,100 critical, angry comments of his review. That is your audience. Those are the people who will buy a ticket to see your movie or show, who will click on your link or turn on the TV to watch you.
I believe there is a place in the entertainment industry for anyone who wants to work to be here. I believe talent and quality will win over appearance. McCarthy’s success proves that. People pay money and take time out to watch entertainment that makes them feel something.
Melissa McCarthy makes people feel good when they watch her having fun doing what’s she’s good at. All the Spanx, spinning classes, Botox and juice cleanses in the world cannot replicate that. There are a lot of women in Hollywood who are really good at window dressing. Let them window dress. If you have something else to offer, how do you want to make people feel? What makes you watchable? If it’s something else other than admirable abs or cheekbones, then it’s not your job to be hot for anyone.
Oh, by the way, “Identity Thief” was the highest grossing film at the box office this weekend, earning $36.6 million -- three times more than the second place film, “Warm Bodies,” which stars a lot of dudes and a thin, pretty blonde girl whose name I don't know.
The market and audiences have spoken.