Rex Reed on Melissa McCarthy

The Price of Fame Is Shame

Posted Feb 08, 2013

I haven't seen Identity Theft, but Rex Reed did and her gave it its co-star, Melissa McCarthy, a biting review. The trailer and other, less offensive reviews, do not inspire me to trek out in a blizzard in order to critique it for myself and this is not what I want to write about.  Mr. Reed's review, calling Ms. McCarthy a "female hippo," "humongous" and "tractor-sized," has set off a small fire-storm on the gossip sites, calling him to task for his descriptions of her.  Readers have reacted with outrage -- thankfully -- and they are right to call out Mr. Reed on his disgraceful abuses against M. McCarthy, who seems to be a warm, funny, real person in her interviews and on Mike and Molly, as well as a true blessing to Bridesmaids.

While I'm angy at his treatment of the actress, and I'm also a little outraged at US, Cosmo, and Gossip Cop for using those epithets as part of theier eye-grabbing titles. Could they have provoced readers' curiosity without such glaring headline quotes that don't even mention the villain of the piece, Mr. Reed?

But I want to address something more serious, which is the line between a realistic body (unlike any of the images next to the readers' comments box on my screen) and being obese. Mr. Reed writes that Miss McCarthy has "devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious". I see nothing particularly obnoxious about her in her other work -- I would call it sassy -- but directors have made as much of her size as they did with Roseanne Formerly-Barr.

That leaves her in a small corner and with a big question. What would happen if she lost a lot of weight? Would she lose her career?  In show biz, I suspect the prospect of work, even if it's ghettoizing, is so alluring that one is happy to accept it. Miss McCarthy is in her 40s, which is also a limitation in youth, double-zero obsessed Hollywood.

I identify with her body type and I think she is beautiful. I think she's a good enough actress. The problem is, if you're a star, you can sidestep, as it were, some of the usual hurdles that the rest of us who are obese wish we could handle better. Airplane seats. Walking. Housework. Finding great clothes.

The price of obesity isn't just getting slotted into certain kinds of parts with certain kinds of attitudes, it's also not being able to live fully.

Readers are right to be outraged but should not use Miss McCarthy as a standard of realistic body types.