Monday, July 11, 2011

On Megan in Bridesmaids

I don't know what to say. I saw the movie twice. I took notes. I tried to keep an open mind. I didn't read any articles (because I'm weird like that sometimes, but also) because I wanted to have an unshaped reaction to it all. But ungh. Megan still kind of broke my heart.

I hate calling out Melissa McCarthy, who is great, gets a lot of screen time and in some ways steals the show. I love her--I think she's a great actress and comedienne. And I liked that Megan turns out to be the "together" character. And I liked the movie all right (Maya Rudolph is just wonderful).

But what the fuck. Is this the only way we can let a fat person into a mainstream movie, by making them as out of it, as weirdly-dressed and outsider as possible--arriving in the form of some weird stereotype? Does it make us that nervous to have a fat actress as just a another character?

Megan is definitely the Zach Galifianakis of this movie--the giant clueless toddler with no sense of social norms. McCarthy being a very pretty woman, effort is needed (and expended) to make her to look weird. Her makeup is handled differently than the other female characters--she's made up (or not at all) in harsh ways. Her clothing is unflattering and full of ZG-like touches--arm braces, etc.--as well as being strangely mannish (paired with pearls) and tailored in awkward ways. She gallops around, flops over couch backs, is sexually rapacious in unwanted ways as only fat people are in movies.

Okay, she's weird. Her character has a right to be weird. McCarthy's good at it! But it feels, watching it, as if the makers of Bridesmaids were so nervous at the thought of McCarthy on the same footing as the other actresses who, while all having personality quirks, were allowed to look semi-normal in Hollywood ways, that they make her a freak. The only scene in which McCarthy's makeup and wardrobe is treated as the others is the final scene when she is in bridesmaid wear and it suddenly becomes clear on what a different footing she has been treated through the movie because she looks gorgeous.

The absolute worst part of the movie is the little coda during the end credits of a videotaped homemade sex scene between Megan and her boyfriend. It's a lame sight gag involving a sandwich that makes it clear that people think fat people fuck food, not people. It was just miserable to watch (twice).

I feel like my original guess about the movie was right: McCarthy is miscast. She would have been a great lead and Kristen Wiig would have been a good Megan. I like Wiig a lot, but didn't feel like she had the emotional range needed for the character, ultimately. McCarthy would have been great.

The best thing to come out of Bridesmaids with regards to McCarthy is that she is getting more high-profile work: the Knocked Up spinoff, and another Paul Feig movie with she and John Hamm as "unconventional lovers," about which I don't even know what to think. From where I sit it would make sense to just cast them as lovers, but you know--we'll see.


  1. Also she's a lot more covered up in her dress in that bridal photo. I don't see why she couldn't have wore the same dress as the other ladies.

  2. Yahright? I meant to mention that in the piece. God forbid a big girl show her shoulders.

  3. I just saw (and wrote about) this movie as well! I was also horrified at how much they thinned her for the promotional posters/photos. I kind of went into it knowing how bad it would be.. I had read a few critiques of the movie's portrayal of Megan, but I tried to keep an open mind. I liked that her character was very strong and confident, but that's about where the good parts ended. Even the part about her being the together one in the end... while that's mostly true I thought they also seemed pretty unsympathetic and harsh (I'm not big on the "pick yourself up by your bootstraps" approach.. I think it dismisses people's feelings and problems). It seems obvious that they made her as unfeminine and unsexy as possible because hey, she's the fat one! so she just *has* to be gross and masculine, right?

  4. I haven't seen the movie yet (and I'm not sure I want to), but I had the same reaction about the poster -- why is Megan the only one not in a strapless dress? Maybe it was her choice, but still, I was disappointed.

  5. I wanted to see this movie, but the more clips and bits and pieces I read, the more I feel like it just slaps fat women (and women who don't fit the beauty norm) in the face. I'm just not sure I can suffer it for a film that's supposed to be aimed at women, you know?

    Maybe when it's on DVD.

  6. I haven't seen the movie, so take this with a grain of salt. But it seems that every minority/nondominant population goes through this. First we're not there at all, then we move up to (for example) the 7-11 owner, and then comic relief, and then sidekick (where we can stall out for a LONG time) and finally, finally someone imagines us as a lead. It takes a LONG time.