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Rebel Wilson in a leopard-print dress in a nightclub.
Rebel Wilson in a leopard-print dress in a nightclub.

Rebel Wilson in “How to be Single.”

In a recent interview, Rebel Wilson reveals that she gained weight so that she would be better as a comedic actress. After watching a heavier woman get more laughs than her, she compared their performances and assessed that the main difference was their weight.

So she decided to get fatter. I have one thing to say about that.

WTF, REBEL?! My body is not a punchline and neither is yours. 

I wanted to like Rebel Wilson. I really, really did. Because she’s a fat almost-millennial with an infectious smile taking on the world of comedy, I thought that I would find fat sisterhood in her comedy. I dismissed the initial “laugh-at-me-cuz-I’m-fat” jokes as just having to function within fatphobic Hollywood, as the rules of engagement for fat folks had been set in place decades ago. It seems that big-bodied folks have to play by those rules to get their footing and often have to continue to do it occasionally (see: Melissa McCarthy) to keep their careers going for mainstream audiences while doing their own thing on the side for themselves and fellow fatties.

I patiently waited for Wilson while she found her career footing, giving her way more room and excuses to do so because I wanted to like her so damn badly. I was thrilled when she wore the angel wings to the MTV Movie Awards as a protest against the minute sizes of the Victoria Secret models out there.

Less than six months later, she lost me with her absolute asinine, insensitive and downright unfunny “Fuck Tha Stripper Police” gag at the MTV Music Awards. It was an act of total white privilege and foolishness that showed other white people it was OK to make fun of the deaths and violence of Black people in the wake of Ferguson and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests. When a person with clout does things like that, it leaves space for other white people to point and say, “Well, this star did this, so clearly it’s OK,” instead of actually examining their actions critically.

Related Article: Do Black Lives Matter to White Feminist Comedians?

Even with that, I hoped that she had learned from the backlash. I hoped that she would be able to look at life a bit more objectively and see where her privilege comes into play and how things that she perceives as “little things” can be truly damaging.


Rebel Wilson — Without A Cause

Instead, Wilson discusses gaining weight to get famous in an interview with The Telegraph. In the interview, Wilson spoke of a time when she wrote and starred in her first play and also cast a girl who was larger than her.

“And I was like, ‘Oh. That girl’s getting a lot of laughs, a lot easier than me. What is it?’ Because I don’t think there’s much difference in talent. And I remember distinctly thinking, ‘I think it’s because she’s fatter,'” Wilson said. “And then, I don’t know if it was mega-conscious, but I thought, ‘How can I get more laughs? Maybe if I was a bit fatter…’ And then suddenly I was fatter, and doing comedy.”

“I saw my size as being an advantage,” she added. “Whereas so many women see it as a disadvantage.”

“I took something that was seen as a disadvantage — no one thinks if you’re fat, that you’re going to be an actress and everyone’s going to love you — and turned it into a positive,” she said, adding that “bigger girls do better in comedy.”

As innocuous as it may sound to some, it really is not. “Bigger girls” only do better in comedy because our bodies are seen as a punchline. It’s also a lot easier for a white, blonde haired woman who is beautiful by the most common Eurocentric beauty standards, including being “fat in the right places.” Take away the chub and what do you get? A woman that could legitimately run (and win) a beauty contest at the height of its exclusivity. By perpetuating the stereotype that you have to be fat to do comedy and reaching for nothing more than bottom-of-the-barrel laughs, we’re only setting ourselves back. And you know what? The other actress probably was more talented. When the competition’s only reliable schtick is poking fun at their large body, it’s not that difficult to outperform them.

Do better.


Laurel Dickman is an intersectional feminist, plus size model, stylist, and fat activist that can also be found via her blogs, Exile In Dietville and 2 Broke Bitches. She grew up in the south between Florida and North Carolina, migrating to the Portland, OR in 2005. All three places inform her perspective of the world around her a great deal. While in Portland, she worked with the Alley 33 Annual Fashion Show, PudgePDX, PDX Fatshion, Plumplandia, and numerous other projects over the near decade that she was there. In August of 2014, she moved to the Bay area with her partner, David and trusty kitty, Dorian Gray. She continues her body positive and intersectional feminism through various forms of activism, fashion, photography projects, and writing from her home in the East Bay. She can be reached at laurel@wyvmag.com and encourages readers to reach out to her to collaborate!

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