Political Correctness Delusions #1: Melissa McCarthy’s Weight Has Nothing To do With Her Success

melissa-mccarthyOne of the many reasons political correctness is unethical is its attempt to not only exercise speech and thought control, but thought distortion and fantasy. In “Entertainment” magazine, Karen Valby scolds journalists and fans who keep mentioning the weight of actress Melissa McCarthy….you know, the morbidly obese comic who has made her career playing funny obese characters. According to Valby, this is sexism. After all, she says, heavy actors aren’t constantly hectored about their girth. Then she cites a group of actors who are usually heavy but do not play “fat” characters, and mixes in a few who do (John Goodman, Kevin James), hoping we won’t notice. John Goodman’s weight never discussed? Tell us another. Kevin James? James’ body fat percentage was a punchline approximately ten times a week on “The King of Queens.” Moreover, of the men, only Goodman is obese. Like McCarthy. Oops, I said it.

McCarthy is one of those comic actors, like Kathy Kinney, Jackie Gleason, Fatty Arbuckle, Lou Costello, Curly Howard, and Wayne (“Newman”) Knight, whose rotundity is inseparable from their character’s comedy. In “Mike and Molly,” a sitcom about a blue collar, obese married couple, the fat is the gimmick. McCarthy is funny and talented, but playing the funny fat woman is her niche. Valby (or McCarthy) can argue that she would still rake in starring turns if she was 130 pounds, but who is she kidding? A thin McCarthy would be thrown into a large, competitive pool of comic actresses, and there would be no guarantee that she could prevail. McCarthy is no fool: Valby says she is comfortable with her body, and maybe she is, but she is especially comfy with the income her unique body type generates. Continue reading

More Evidence That Word Banning Is Unethical

WHAT did you say?

WHAT did you say?

There is more to discuss, a lot more, regarding what I will now call “The Klosterman Apology,” because it sounds like  a Robert Ludlum novel. For now, however, since it is fresh in my jet-lagged mind, I’d like to focus on the inevitable result of declaring certain words and phrases so objectionable, hurtful, uncivil or politically incorrect that extraordinary means are employed to eliminate them. In the case of The Klosterman Apology, the words were “retard” and “retard,” and a Mom with a blog threatened “The Ethicist” from the New York Times magazine with an onslaught of political correctness bullies if he didn’t immediately express his abject contrition for having used these words in a harsh way a decade ago, in another job that didn’t directly involve ethics. Chuck capitulated, gracefully and well. As I will discuss in another post, I don’t think he had much choice. Still, word-banning is an ugly, and ultimately unethical business. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Fat-Bashing Film Critic Rex Reed

melissa_Elle

Actress Melissa McCarthy stole the film “Bridesmaids” right out from under its better known stars, including the screenplay’s author, Kirsten Wigg. In that film, her hit CBS sitcom “Mike and Molly,” and subsequent films (of varying quality), McCarthy has shown that she is s versatile, appealing comedienne with deep dramatic resources. Film critic Rex Reed, however, is mostly concerned with her weight, which is usually a component of the characters she plays and the quality, other than her talent, that sets her apart from the standard issue, impossibly thin, fit and sexy Hollywood actress.

In his withering review of her latest comedy “Identity Thief,” Reed causally refers to McCarthy as a “female hippo” and reduces her career to this: “Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) is a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success.” Called on his fat-bashing, Reed responded, “I have lost entirely too many friends to obesity-related diseases to pretend Ms. McCarthy’s alarming obesity is anything to applaud.”

There are two aspects of this that are striking. One is that Rex Reed, who played the pre-op Myra Breckenridge in the awful movie version of Gore Vidal’s gender-bending, and considered scandalous at the time, satiric novel (Raquel Welch, now over 70, was post-op), is still alive and reviewing, albeit obscurely until, as now, he writes something outrageous. At one time—40 years ago? Longer?— Reed was considered the most quotable and one of the most influential film critics; now, to say he is passé would be a compliment.

The other striking aspect of this incident is this:  while the culture will turn with unforgiving venom on any public figure who derides individuals for their color, sexual orientation, malady or disability, any of which would be considered cruel, bigoted, and hateful, deriding individuals because their weight doesn’t meet with aesthetic norms—among which are now out-sized breasts on otherwise fat-free frames and sharply chiseled abdominal muscles, a look that was literally freakish until the dawn of Nautilus and personal trainers—-still is largely regarded as justified and acceptable. Continue reading