Posts Tagged ‘bad humor’
One step forward, several pounds back
Let me make one thing clear. I am a huge fan of actress Melissa McCarthy (Mike and Molly, Bridesmaids, etc.). Yes, huge. No pun intended.
I have been a fan of Ms. McCarthy’s since seeing a short film, God, she appeared in over a decade ago. So it was with great respect and admiration that I watched her recent Emmy win. She was the epitome of class and grace as she accepted the acting award from her peers in September of this year.
Cut to her appearance this past weekend on Saturday Night Live, on which she pissed all of that grace away. I had been initially very excited to see her host, wondering what characters she might portray and how the show would showcase her talents. Sadly, Ms McCarthy (and the show) missed the mark.
From her first appearance as a fat bumpkin to her opening monologue, during which the audience was encouraged to laugh at the overweight actress announcing that her true passion has always been dance, the so-called jokes were all size related. The dance sequence continued to make a joke of Ms. McCarthy, given that she never actually started to dance, as if her girth prevented her from doing so (or so the “joke” would lead us to believe). Thus, throughout the number, she was simply in constant ‘warm up’ mode.
I thought the very backward fat jokes might stop there. But they continued throughout most of the 90-minute program – from the overweight office belle who wanted to have sex with her thin coworker to an overzealous product tester that loved salad dressing and downed what seemed like gallons of ranch dressing to prove it.
These tiresome skits weren’t just mean spirited, they were also repetitive. And as an actress who has recently earned her more-than-deserved share of clout in the entertainment industry, I would have expected Ms. McCarthy to take a stand against performing what was essentially the same fat joke over and over again.
Would it have been so wrong for an equal amount of the show’s skits to not have anything to do with girth or an over-hungry attitude?
After all, Ms. McCarthy is a highly accomplished performer (she’s even a former member of the acclaimed improv group The Groundlings). Thus, there was a real missed opportunity here. Not only did she allow the SNL writers to waste her talents, but she allowed them to mock them – as if the only reason she’s famous is because she’s big and funny. In that order.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for laughing at ourselves (and myself, for that matter). As readers of my blog know, I’ll be the first to be lighthearted about my past adventures as a fat man. Good humor can be just that (good!) – even when occasionally aimed at a certain demographic. But when one group of people (be they fat or otherwise) is portrayed to be one big stereotype and not much else, it’s time for someone to step in and suggest a different path toward humor.
I am a big fan of Mike and Molly, the sitcom (along with the movie Bridesmaids) responsible for Ms. McCarthy’s sudden mass appeal. Sure – there are fat jokes from time to time on Mike and Molly. But all of the characters (fat or not so fat) are multi dimensional with unique qualities all their own. Heck, the characters Mike and Molly even attend Overeaters Anonymous meetings, during which they learn to just stop eating so much. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that.
So why couldn’t Ms. McCarthy insist on some of this kind of scope while appearing on SNL?
When a certain group is made the target of endless jokes, that not only says “It’s okay” for society to be prejudiced against the group, but it also encourages the kind of low self-esteem (amidst people who affiliate with the group) that can shut people down (mentally), encourage depression and even convince them to give up on their goals (including the goal of getting healthier). Under a constant barrage of fat jokes from an early age, I suffered from this kind of low self-esteem for years and, as a result, found myself weighing over 450-pounds when I graduated from college. Low self-esteem is one of the very things that keeps us fat – not to mention fat headed.
It’s time we stepped away from the stereotypes (including the kind seen on this most recent episode of SNL) and start rounding out obese characters so that we’re building people up instead of tearing them down. But if someone as talented and seemingly compassionate as Ms. McCarthy isn’t going to lead the charge against this kind of barrage of hurtful humor, then who will?