No one puts Melissa McCarthy in a corner. One of the things we love about our favourite plus-size actress is that she’s not afraid to respond to negative criticisms of her work which are,more often than not, rooted in her appearance. It’s no secret that women are held to a stricter standard of physical perfection then men and Melissa McCarthy, a rare female icon in the male-dominated field of comedy, is no exception. When her film Tammy premiered, critics were up in arms over her appearance. Unlike Will Ferrel or Zak Galifinakis who regularly sport unflattering costumes in their films without receiving any negative feedback—at least not about the costumes anyway—Melissa’s audacity in daring to appear unattractive onscreen drew a score of negative comments from film critics.
One of these critics was Rex Reed, a top-critic for The Wall Street Journal who described McCarthy’s titular character Tammy as “as a shuffling, nose-picking waitress for a greasy junk-food chain called Topper Jack’s” and “ looking like she’s been wolfing down most of the grease all by herself”. Throughout the review he continues to tear her down, finishing with:
In the chaos, I applaud the star—not for any discernible talent, but for sheer stamina. Her entire performance—if you can call it that—consists of being slapped, slugged, dumped in various lakes and rivers, and bounced off walls and pavements like a big rubber Shmoo doll. She isn’t smart, imaginative or creative enough to be a real female clown, like Lucille Ball. Nothing that resembles a fresh approach to slapstick farce ever engages the mind or the eye. Instead she recycles every fatso cliché from John Candy to Totie Fields, which only turns the viewer cynical.
Rex Reed, The Wall Street Journal, “Melissa McCarthy Gives ‘Tammy’ Her All, But It’s Nowhere Near Enough”
While strong criticism like this is not unusual in film critique, the attacks here feel personal and all too often centre on her physical appearance as much as her acting skills. The hurtful, fat-phobic comments of Rex Reed are, unfortunately, not a rarity among the critics that review Melisa McCarthy’s films who seem unable to separate issues with the films from their issues with her body. Recently, Melissa had the ability to strike back against these critics while promoting her new film Spy at the Toronto International Film Festival.
In the interview she describes confronting the (unnamed) critic, saying:
“Do you have children? I hope you don’t have a daughter.” And I didn’t mean that in a mean way, I said, “If she came home to you” — he spoke about his children so lovely — and when I said, “If she comes home and someone says you can’t have a job because you’re unattractive, are you going to say, ‘That’s right!’” And he took that in his heart and was like, “No, I would never want that to happen! Never in a million years want that to happen.” I said, “Just know every time you write stuff every young girl in this country reads that and they just get a little bit chipped away.”