Link: The Trials of ‘Tammy’: Stop Policing Melissa McCarthy’s Body

So here’s the deal: I’m wrestling with my desire to see Tammy.

On one hand, I think Melissa McCarthy is great and her star status never fails to put a little sunshine in my day.  I’d like to support a film that she not only starred in, but co-wrote.  It’s rare to see a film where a fat character is written by the person portraying them.  (The example that immediately springs to mind is the British TV series Gavin and Stacey, written and acted by James Corden and Ruth Jones, complimenting each other as unstoppable force/immovable object sassy fat best mates of the nice normal title characters.  I digress.)   On the other hand, I currently need to budget my trips to the theater, which I’d rather use to focus on imaginative visuals (i.e. Snowpiercer) and movies I’ve been anticipating for a while (i.e. Boyhood).  Luckily, there are professional film critics who have been compensated for seeing Tammy, due largely to the fact that they are much better at this sort of thing than I.

Nathan Rabin of the Dissolve declared, “a crowd-pleasing, proudly working-class celebration of large women, old women, broke women, and women who love women,Tammy isn’t just consistently funny and unexpectedly touching and tender, it’s also genuinely subversive.” Today’s roundtable discussion at the same site about women in comedy was generally amiable towards it as well. The critical reviews (beyond the website where I daydream about being friends with most of the writers, that is) have been on the negative side of mixed, with a current Metacritic score of 39.

Teo Bugbee’s piece in the Daily Beast doesn’t afford Tammy commendations the same way that Rabin’s review does, but it does provide a smart analysis of Melissa McCarthy’s celebrity and career, looking specifically at the concern trolling directed towards her:

Sookie [McCarthy’s character on Gilmore Girls] was a “good representation” of obese women. She is also entirely unfeasible as a lead character. Her relative lack of drama made her perfect as a sidekick, but a show or a film structured around Sookie St. James would be like making a movie about Robin with no Batman. What’s the point?

The nastiness masquerading as concern is always present around McCarthy, policing her body in ways that her films never even come close to suggesting. If these concerned citizens were really upset about Hollywood’s mistreatment of actresses, they’d only have to look to McCarthy’s left to find Susan Sarandon, amiably stranded as a grandma in Tammy because Hollywood has no clue what to do when faced with a woman who’s just as volcanically sexy now as she was 40 years ago.

No, the distress of McCarthy’s fans has very little to do with women’s roles, and everything to do with distaste for working-class women and their bodies.

 

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One comment

  1. First – I love this blog concept. I’ve enjoyed reading back through some of your past posts, and I’m looking forward to seeing more.
    I saw Tammy, and the problems with the movie, IMO, aren’t really McCarthy so much as a less than stellar plot. I wrote about it myself in an entry that should post to my blog a little later today – it has spoilers in it, but I talked about what I liked and what I didn’t like. One of the things I talked about is that, unfortunately, Melissa McCarthy can’t escape being a political/cultural statement, no matter what she does, because seeing fat bodies in leading or major roles in movies is still such a radical thing.
    Personally, I’m not sure the movie was quite as subversive as it could have been, but there were some interesting moments.

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