However Rebel Wilson’s “Isn’t It Romantic” does at the box office this weekend, I hope it’s not the beginning of a genre.
I hope, in fact, it’s the end of a genre.
The genre, that is, that stars a female whose body type veers beyond our conventional beauty standards, but only because she’s not in on the joke. (The joke being her.)
In “Isn’t It Romantic,” Wilson plays an architect who suffers head trauma and wakes up in a dream scenario in which the men adore her and the women envy her.
Last April, it was “I Feel Pretty,” in which Amy Schumer suffers the usual mix of low self-esteem and miserable future prospects that accompany a weight of more than 125 pounds in most rom-coms. Until she falls in an exercise class and wakes up believing she’s a supermodel.
Have we progressed at all beyond “Shallow Hal,” the 2001 movie deemed by one site “the most fat-phobic movie in Hollywood?” In that disaster, starring Gwyneth Paltrow wearing a costume that packs a bunch of extra pounds on her, the woman isn’t concussed. But the male lead (Jack Black) only finds her attractive when he’s hypnotized.
What if we just had more rom-coms to go to that starred women with Wilson’s body type or Schumer’s body type or Gabourey Sidibe’s body type, without it being, you know, hilarious, wink wink, that someone would find them attractive?
Wilson caught some flak for saying she was “proud to be the first-ever plus-sized girl to be the star of a romantic comedy” on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show” last fall. Queen Latifah and her fans were quick, rightly, to point out Latifah’s role in 2006’s “Last Holiday.”
It says something, though, that there are so few examples for Wilson to count her character among. It’s also saying something that she’s best known for playing a character named “Fat Amy.” (In “Pitch Perfect” and its sequels.)
Movies have the power to shape and influence the way we experience the world around us and the people walking around in it. Instead of continuing to treat bodies that aren’t rail-thin as the butt of our jokes, instead of pretending a woman who hovers above a size 4 can be attractive only as long as someone in the relationship is concussed or hypnotized, maybe Hollywood could take a look around and see that bodies come in all different shapes and sizes, and the rail-thin ones aren’t the only ones worthy of love.
And then maybe they could reflect that, loud and clear, on the big screen.
Heidi Stevens is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @heidistevens13.