Have you seen the trailer for the Rebel Wilson/Liam Hesmworth romantic comedy Isn’t It Romantic yet? Meet me on the other side.
That movie is a thing! That is happening! It is coming out for Valentine’s Day next year! And Wilson has decided to promote it by claiming she is the “first-ever plus-sized girl to be the star of a romantic comedy,” which is, you know, wrong. I’m sorry, but are we pretending Queen Latifah doesn’t exist? Because she does, and she has been playing women who are adored and desired for a while now. Let me remind you of her greatness!
Great in: The forever under-appreciated Living Single, which I know was a TV show, but I have to set the stage here!
Great in: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which I know was a TV show, but HELLO, IT’S FRESH PRINCE!
Great in: Last Holiday with LL Cool J before he started wasting away years of his life on NCIS
Great in: Just Wright with Common, a movie I adored (and for which she was nominated for a Teen Choice Award in the “Romantic Comedy” genre)
Great in: Joyful Noise, with Dolly Parton! (and I will always relish any Jesse L. Martin presence)
Great in: Girls Trip, because of course (she doesn’t have a romantic subplot in this film, but really, how can I resist Girls Trip?)
People have told Wilson she is wrong, and yet she is sticking by this claim. On Twitter yesterday:
I mean … is there really “a slight grey area” here? Because it feels to me like making the argument “Well, maybe Queen Latifah wasn’t really plus-sized” is a real shaky moral leg to stand on. And honestly, pretty shitty! Just acknowledge that you made a mistake. Just acknowledge that Queen Latifah has been doing this shit for years. Why is that so difficult?
That isn’t to say that Hollywood isn’t a fucked up place. I remember in the ’90s when Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones’ Diary and Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed and Charlize Theron in Monster and America Ferrera in Real Women Have Curves were all presented as grotesque. And even now, searching online for “plus size actresses” wields wholly depressing results:
That’s it. That’s all of the Google results. Not kidding!
But I’m not sure that claiming to be the first in this particular instance really does good things for anyone, and it takes us into this murky uncomfortable area of discussing women’s weight as a way to question whether Rebel really can say what she said. Representation is necessary and essential, and I say that as a person who has three sizes of clothes in her wardrobe because sometimes I’m bigger and sometimes I’m even bigger than that and that’s all fine. But should we really be wondering, “Well, what about Mo’Nique? Was she plus-size in Phat Girlz? Or Amy Schumer? Was she plus-size in I Feel Pretty? Or what about Melissa McCarthy? Was she plus-size in Life of the Party? Or what about Shannon Purser? Was she plus-size in Sierra Burgess is a Loser? Will Danielle McDonald be plus-size in the upcoming Dumplin’?”
Those are essentially the questions Wilson is encouraging us to ask with her statement, and it’s, well, icky. It ignores Queen Latifah’s ’90s and early ’00s trailblazing and also ignores the increased representation that is happening already without Wilson. Girl, find another way to sell your movie. (Which has also been accused of plagiarism, by the way, and Wilson kind of brushed off those claims, too. Great.)
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