Tag Archives: Melissa McCarthy

Once upon a body…Comparing Ourselves to Pretend People

Melissa McCarthy is almost unrecognizable in these American and UK posters for the movie "The Heat".

Melissa McCarthy is almost unrecognizable in these American and UK posters for the movie “The Heat”.

In popular culture it can be pretty difficult to find examples of bodies that represent how most people in our world actually appear.  While the average American woman is a US size 12 on the top and a US size 14 on the bottom, the average American actress, pop music icon or model is closer to a size 0 or even a size 00.  Both of these sizes are quite a distance from what most of us see in the mirror every day.  But even these sizes often prove too large for film studios and record labels and fashion magazines.  Even the size zero girls are likely to be “shopped”.

By “shopped” of course I mean digitally retouched in an image editing software package like Adobe Photoshop(R).  And sometimes this digital retouching is done without the will of the original actress, model or performer.

Just today, I’ve run across two amazing examples of Photoshop culture.  Apparently, one of the few plus-sized actresses in Hollywood, Melissa McCarthy was significantly “shopped” in both the American and UK version of the movie posters for her upcoming movie The Heat.  In the American version her image is seriously washed out, and this over exposure seems to make both her signature dimples and her double chin disappear.  The UK version is even more noticeably retouched.  In fact the slimmed down face, redrawn chin and tiny head in relation to the body not only render her as unrecognizable, but also, not necessarily human.  She just looks weird.


In other news, Beyonce was severely Photoshopped into a “model artists rendering” of herself in order to display a Roberto Cavalli dress.  Not only does she not look like herself, but she also doesn’t look quite human with those impossible, stick-thin arms and legs and ludicrously elongated body.  Which seems especially ludicrous when you compare these images with real images showing just how gorgeous she looks in this dress in real life.

beyonce2Even Minnie Mouse is not immune to being “shopped” to sell a dress.

Check HERE for more Photoshop fun (and make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom…)

More and more often, stars are speaking out about the process of being digitally retouched against their will.  They understand the impact that these impossible images are having on  the way women, and especially young girls feel about themselves.

It’s no longer enough to compare ourselves against the very small, and elite number of actors and performers who happen to wear a size 0 or a size 00.  Now we are expected to compare ourselves to artist renderings of impossible people.

Until we say “Basta!” or “That’s enough!”  The only way for us to move beyond the tyranny of these images is to identify them as fictional constructs, and then refuse to buy products from companies that feel the need to display their wares on pretend people.

In other words, it is in our power to decide, “If it ain’t real, it don’t appeal”.

So what do you think?  How do you feel when you see Photoshopped images?  Are there any examples you’ve run across that are particularly misleading and damaging?  Can  you share them with us and let us know how you felt?  Can you share stories about how you presented these images to your friends, your students and your kids?  Or have you noted any amazingly and refreshingly honest images about how real people look?  Please feel free to share those examples with us.

And in the meantime, you can resolve to stop comparing yourself to pretend people once and for all!


The Fat Chick

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The Courage to Try

dance_pictureIn putting together my new college “Love Your Body” speech and in reading Ragen Chastain’s awesome blog post, one thing has been coming up over and over again.  That thing is how being uncomfortable with our bodies tends to rob us of our ability to reach our full potential.  Ragen talks at length about how many people in our society react with genuine surprise when they encounter a fat person with talent.  I have to admit, it’s really got me thinking.

I think any time a person performs in public or even simply raises their hand in class or is willing to take a definite side in a public debate, it takes a lot of courage.  Anyone putting themselves out in this way is open to somebody calling them out, calling them names or simply laughing at them.  As a fat person, simply walking down the street can be enough to fuel criticism, catcalling or cruelty.  Is it any wonder then, that many fat people don’t want to call additional attention to themselves by raising their hand, taking part in a debate or getting up in front of an audience to dance, recite poetry, act or sing?

Lately it seems everywhere we turn we see talented people being publicly ridiculed for their weight.  Recently, star actress Melissa McCarthy was skewered by film critic Rex Reed, not for her performance, but rather for being a “cacophonous, tractor-sized, female hippo…who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success…”  This woman, with her “short acting career” spanning a mere 17 years, currently stars in a hit prime-time network television show and a movie that opened number one at the box office, has been nominated for over 15 major awards including an Oscar and boasts a Prime Time Emmy on her mantle.  Apparently that’s considered a short, gimmicky career if you happen to be fat.

And regardless of how you might feel about Governor Chris Christie’s politics, here’s a guy who’s had a hard time in the public eye.  Apparently being a governor who has done yeoman’s work in helping rebuild New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is not enough to quiet the noise about his weight.  Christie faced criticism from Former White House physician Connie Mariano who recently told  CNN that she’s worried Christie might die in office were he elected president.  When Christie pointed out that Mariano has never examined him or his medical records and therefore has nothing upon which to base this prediction, a wave of sympathy was unleashed–towards the doctor.  Mariano responded to Christie’s criticism asking whether he is acting presidential.  However, it doesn’t look like anybody is asking whether Mariano is acting like a real doctor by diagnosing a person based on the way he looks in a suit on TV.

So what happens when you are a talented fat person, taking those first tentative steps towards sharing your gifts with the world and you are confronted with these stories?  Does it help you feel more courageous?  Are you eager to be creative and make yourself vulnerable in a world like this?

I have no doubt that there are millions and millions of deeply creative people in the world who happen to be fat.  But in this climate, in this environment, I think it’s a wonder any of us step out into the light.  Even those of us who have had tremendous success face constant criticism for our size. We are constantly dismissed because we don’t fit an exceptionally narrow standard of beauty.  And so we learn, at a very young age to keep our talents to ourselves, to hide our light under a bushel basket, to be quiet, to be small.  And many of us, for fear of being laughed at, may not even try.  We may not dance.  We may not sing.  We may not even speak.

I wonder what we can do to help encourage the young people around us.  It’s a tough world out there filled will bullies.  Are there kids around us that we can nurture?  Can we help the kids around us learn to reach deep inside in this world filled with hate and give it all they’ve got? Can we encourage them to lift their lights out of the bushel baskets and let them shine?  We can, if we only have the courage to try.


The Fat Chick