That was my exact thought when I heard Rebel Wilson tell Ellen in her interview on Halloween that she was the first plus size actress to be the lead in a romcom (romantic comedy, if you’ve been living under a rock).
And apparently I’m not the only one confused and a bit upset by this.
I wasn’t originally going to write this post, as I felt that others whose voices who are more well-known that mine were doing a good enough job at it. I figured the whole thing would blow over, Rebel would issue a formal apology and promise to “do better” and we would all be on to the next controversy in the plus size industry.
But then she started blocking people from Twitter that voiced their concerns with her statement and giving diplomatic and wrong responses to others. When a Twitter user mentioned that both Mo’Nique and Queen Latifah have both starred in romantic comedies, this was Rebel’s response:
“Hey girl! Yeah I of course know of these movies but it was questionable as to whether: 1. Technically those actresses were plus size when filming those movies or 2. Technically those films are catorgorized/billed as a studio rom-com with a sole lead. So there’s a slight grey area”
- Those actresses were absolutely plus size while filing those movies. That’s not questionable at all. Especially considering Mo’Nique’s movie was called “Phat Girlz” and Queen Latifah has always been plus size her whole career.
- You’re kind of arguing semantics and making technicalities that general movie consumers wouldn’t know. But they probably were “billed as a studio rom-com with a sole lead.”
Claire Willet made some absolutely fantastic points about the erasure of the work of black women in film and because I couldn’t even hope to articulate those points as well as she did, I’m just going to link her Twitter thread here and you can go read them.
What really fueled me to write this post, though, was Nabela Noor’s video about the controversy, and then the screenshot showing the Rebel blocked her which you can see here. “I want to see women doing well. I want to see women win, but not at the cost of other women,” she said in her video. She also mentions how Queen Latifah is and was a huge inspiration to her and pointed out that Queen Latifah didn’t have to make her size the butt of a joke (Fat Amy, anyone) in her movies.
Besides the blocking people and the lack of an apology, what gets me about these statements Rebel has made is the effect that movies like Phat Girlz and Just Wright had on me growing up. I saw a character on the screen who I could identify with. I saw her struggle and fight, not just with others, but with herself. And as a teenager with no adults or older siblings who could relate to my struggles, those movies made me feel less alone. They made me feel like things could still work out for me. They were human and substantial and honest.
So, no, I don’t want to see her ripped apart or whatever the case may be. But I would like to see a real, genuine apology and promise to do better. I would like to see more plus size women taking lead roles in movies that aren’t at all about their size or overcoming some sort of adversity related to their size. I’d love to see more women of color being the lead in mainstream box office films. And I’d really love to see more women in director, writer, and producer roles. That’s how we’re going to do better for future generations of women and girls.
P.S. GO VOTE!