Celebrity Fat-Shaming

Melissa McCarthy

As Childhood Obesity News noted last time, film critic Rex Reed wrote extremely rude things about obese actor Melissa McCarthy and sparked a heated exchange of comments, some even more insulting toward McCarthy than the article which inspired them. But most of Reed’s readers thumped him resoundingly, characterizing him as a cyber-bully and flinging vile epithets back at him.

Some even confessed surprise at learning that he is still alive, and theorized that making fun of a dramatic artist’s weight is the only way Reed can get any attention for a long-dead career. One called the review a hate crime. Another brought up a lousy 1970 movie that Reed acted in. Some readers called for a boycott of The New York Observer, and the suggestion was made that the magazine should look for a new movie critic. Commenter Charlene Naomi Eldon said:

Jonah Hill, Seth Rogan, Jason Sudeikis — the list of overweight and unattractive men who are cast in wildly popular comedic roles goes on. This is because as a culture, we can tolerate an ugly man as long as he’s funny, but a woman has to be both attractive and talented (in that order) to be deemed worthy of a leading role. Check yourself, Mr. Reed — you’re part of the problem.

To her credit, Melissa McCarthy did not immediately flare up, but allowed some time to pass and then made her thoughts known via the dignity-enhancing pages of The New York Times through an interview conducted by Dave Itzkoff, who quotes her as saying:

I felt really bad for someone who is swimming in so much hate. I just thought, that’s someone who’s in a really bad spot, and I am in such a happy spot.

McCarthy, who is married and has two daughters, admitted that if such a crushing review as Reed’s had been published when she was in her twenties, the effect might have been devastating. Fortunately, she has accomplished enough good work and won enough awards by now to feel secure in her talent. Itzkoff writes:

In her unassuming way, Ms. McCarthy has quickly earned a freedom to play a wider range of characters than her female peers, and to play them as hard, crude and over-the-top as her male counterparts. Her rising celebrity means she can have roles rewritten for her and movies green-lighted by signing onto them; it has also made her a target for some unexpected and shockingly personal criticism.

And that of course is the crux of the matter. McCarthy is not the first show business luminary to be pilloried for her weight. Childhood Obesity News has looked at the treatment of many celebrities by the media — Oprah Winfrey, Kirstie Alley, and Carnie Wilson among them — and also at the media coverage of the waistlines of politicians such as New Jersey governor Chris Christy.

How much difference does obesity make, compared to the traits necessary to make a great actor or a great statesman? Why does this matter to people so much? Should overweight public figures be publicly scolded? Observing the success of overweight adults, is there any kid whose ambition is to grow up and make being fat their “thing”? Are obese celebrities dangerous bad examples?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Declined: In Identity Thief, Bateman’s Bankable Billing Can’t Lift This Flick out of the Red,” Observer.com, 02/05/13
Source: “Melissa McCarthy Goes Over the Top,” The New York Times, 06/13/13
Image by Mingle Media TV.

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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