e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


Tammy, Concern, Comfort

Nicole and I both enjoyed Tammy, a funny, sometimes uneven Melissa McCarthy vehicle that has largely received negative reviews. And not just the kind of negative reviews that comedies with swear words and physical comedy usually receive. Tammy has gotten sometimes angry reviews about the end of civilization and the lowest common denominator and how dare she? Of course those reviews are silly.

Often they're sexist too, as this sharp analysis points out. Andi Zeisler admits that the film is flawed and even that it has its share of easy fat jokes, but suggests the film has a radical streak too. Zeisler critiques the negative reviews that feign concern for McCarthy's lack of range (because she's been in multiple Hollywood movies playing over-the-top, outrageous, ne'er-do-wells) or, worse yet, suggest her type "functions better as a supporting player." It's one thing to criticize the movie's fat jokes, it's another thing in the age of eating disorders to wish publicly that McCarthy herself wouldn't draw attention to her own body.

Zeisler concludes: "She can be fat, they [these decorous critics] seem to be saying, but just maybe not, you know... act fat." Boom! These critics--the same ones who were appalled when Rex Reed called McCarthy a "hippo" last year--are pissed off because in Tammy McCarthy is the film's protagonist, not the sidekick. She never apologizes for being fat. There's no b-plot where she joins weight watchers (but there is a b-plot where a good-looking dude has a crush on her). She eats desserts on screen and makes jokes about sometimes eating too many of them.

Zeisler rightly calls the tone of these reviews "concern." Once in the campus rec center, I was approached while on a treadmill by a "nice" and "concerned" individual who shook his head and with much decorum said he thought it was great that I was "trying." Gee, thanks. I think I had walked 3.5 miles at that point, mostly at a pretty sharp incline. In a world where I've exercised my way out of a family history of high blood pressure (I've had perfect blood pressure my whole adult life), in what way was I trying and not succeeding? Look at the fat guy giving it a try even though he's, you know, fat. If only he wasn't fat, wow I wish we all looked alike. I'd be a lot more comfortable if we all looked alike.

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