Body confidence campaigners have criticised Renee Zellweger for wearing a fat suit in her upcoming series, The Thing About Pam.
The Oscar-winning actor plays Pam Hupp in the true-crime series, which is based on the real-life murder of Betsy Faria. Zellweger was photographed (here via Metro) wearing a fat suit, along with prosthetics on her face to make her appear larger than she is.
But the decision to cast the 52-year-old in the role has caused a stir, with many calling the star out. Body confidence content creator and curve model, Jess Megan, branded Zellweger's use of a fat suit as "another grim message to talented fat actresses that despite the fact that they have the lived experience of existing in a body like that, a thin actress would still somehow play the role better."
She added: "There are some brilliant fat actresses out there, and even if none of them were suitable, they could have found a new star for the limited amount of representation fat people already have"
On the wider implications that the issue has, Jess pointed out that "we don’t show enough love and support towards people in larger bodies, partially because we don’t see them represented within the media."
She continued, "That's because directors and producers aren’t seeking them out and casting them for these roles, choosing people like Renee Zellweger, a famously slim actress, to play them instead. It's a vicious cycle."
Podcast host and body confidence influencer, Rosey Blair, agrees. "There are so few roles available to actors in larger bodies it’s truly insulting to see any successful working actor put on a costume to resemble the bodies Hollywood won’t employ," Rosey told Cosmopolitan UK, "There are so many juicy, nuanced roles available to thin actors – how dare they take roles explicitly written as fat?"
But, it's not the first time a thin-bodied actor has used a fat suit for a role. Gwyneth Paltrow famously wore a fat suit for her starring role of Rosemary in 2001's Shallow Hal, while Courteney Cox did the same for "Fat Monica" flashbacks in Friends. Two decades on and the issue is still, albeit frustratingly, relevant. Earlier this year, Sarah Paulson came under scrutiny for wearing one to play Linda Tripp in the upcoming season of American Crime Story: Impeachment.
In the aftermath of the backlash, Paulson admitted to the LA Times that she "wouldn't make the same choice" to wear a fat suit again. "The thing I think about the most is that I regret not thinking about it more fully," she said, "And that is an important thing for me to think about and reflect on. I also know it’s a privileged place to be sitting and thinking about it and reflecting on it, having already gotten to do it, and having had an opportunity that someone else didn’t have. You can only learn what you learn when you learn it. Should I have known? Abso-f**king-lutely. But I do now."
The issue is this: as thin-bodied actors put on fat suits to play the roles of larger-bodied characters, they leave no room for actors who actually fit the profile of the character in question, which ultimately reinforces the idea that being thin = being accepted.
"Fat suits take jobs from fat actors and actresses. That's the bottom line," stresses Jess, "It tells fat people that their bodies are not worthy of being shown in their real form."
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