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In Defense of Amy Schumer

Hear me out, I'm not a fan of Amy Schumer. Once upon a time I found her comedy fun, I thought her show was nice because she has always had an agreeable personality that resonates with me; she's not aggressive or overbearing, or at least she wasn't. But through her rise to fame she's descended into inanity, her jokes are a combination of strange noises and faces as if she were entertaining a baby, and contrastingly talking about her genitals as if it were edgy. She's grown away from my interests, but to each their own if you still enjoy her comedy.

That being said, today I found a thread in my Twitter Moments just tearing apart her new movie, "I Feel Pretty". If you haven't watched the trailer for it, you can watch it now if you want better context. The plot synopsis is this, a girl has the same self-esteem issues with her body that so many people have, she aggressively exercises to lose weight and ends up falling off a bike and hitting her head, causing a mental switch-flipping; she essentially becomes a savant of self-esteem. She looks in the mirror and is amazed by her beauty, wouldn't that be amazing? The rest of the movie appears to be the shenanigans that ensue when a woman misperceives herself in the world.

Rare in Hollywood, this is a pretty fresh idea––not entirely though, acquired savant syndrome is a real phenomenon and there are movies that inadvertently take advantage of it, such as Mel Gibsons', "What Women Want", which has a fictional twist, but it's essentially the male version of "I Feel Pretty". Men find women attractive and want to be dateable, versus Women find men attractive and want to be dateable. But we can't fault her for unoriginality here, her history of plagiarism puts this movie in a place of stark originality by comparison, potentially, we haven't heard all the jokes, yet. And we certainly can't fault her because all of art is inspired by other art. I recently realized the book for one of my favorite movies, Arrival, was inspired by Slaughter-House Five, which made perfect sense by all accounts, but it's not plagiarism, because knowing this expands my appreciation for and understanding of the movie––it's just odd to be putting that in the hands of Mel Gibson.

Anyway, the twitter thread belaboring the faults of the trailer is here if you'd like to read it. I have no clue who this woman is, she's verified so she's managed to have garnered some amount of relevancy, but reading her thread makes me feel a lil goofy.

After watching the trailer I couldn't quite piece together why people were mad, I assumed it would be another joke-stealing controversy, but as I said, she was given points for originality because she'll break ground if this comedy isn't somehow part of the Marvel Universe™. The main criticism I've read from this thread is that Schumer isn't fat enough to be considered fat, it's just gate-keeping.

There are a lot of people in the world who weigh more than Amy Schumer, yes, but to say, "Amy Schumer is blonde, white, able-bodied, femme and yes, thin. She IS society's beauty ideal." is completely disingenuous, and lacks self-awareness. The people who would argue this, argue that women's bodies are misrepresented in the media and say too many women are forced towards anorexia because they want to act in a movie and need to lose 15 pounds to look the part, or just your average Jeanine who wants to put herself on the market but feels uncomfortable in her body because she's surrounded by these images of super-models. These stories have saturated public dialogue because we all know people who exist within this paradigm, but to then turn around and group Amy Schumer in the realm of people who inspire women to be anorexic is to reject the beauty standards they've called out themselves! It's kind of funny.

To say Amy Schumer is obese, is incorrect, she's overweight, she's not a model, and that's the joke she seems to be trying to make with this movie. Shouldn't people from the sphere of body-positivity be rejoicing that a woman who's not a size 2 is getting her own movie? That being said, I don't completely disavow the body positivity movement. We should find ways to be happy with our bodies, but we should also strive to be healthier and to do what makes us stronger. Maybe your metabolism is a little slower than someone else's, that doesn't mean you should gain 30 pounds and laud yourself for being true to your hedonism; self-control is a much more admirable quality, and it's one I struggle with constantly, which is I think why this topic interests me.

I don't appreciate when people receive feigned praise for living dangerous life-styles, and that's what it is. Our bodies are meant to store fat but they deteriorate much more rapidly with every pound past a certain point, that's just biology. Amy Schumer is not as fat as some, but she's certainly at the upper limit of what is considered healthy, and that's the issue we face in America. We are not healthy.

I grew up in a household where every family occasion was rife with meals, we plan meals while eating, and plan to plan. Not because we've always been particularly glutenous, but my mother grew up as one of seven siblings while her father went to fight in Vietnam, and her mother was left home taking care of the kids and feeding them. You can imagine how only living off the money sent home from the war would lead to some cut-backs in order to feed eight people. There was not a lot of food, so when my grandfather was lucky enough to have made it home safely and the kids started working, money became less a burden and food became much more abundant. Thus, this has been handed down to me.

It's odd though, a diet is set in our youth, unfairly, when our metabolism is higher than it will be ever be. You develop a taste for things that may not be the healthiest and then when your metabolism bottoms out after puberty you're left at the whim of your appetite––it's truly infuriating trying to manage it. Over the course of the past few years, the sum of my weight loss/gain has traveled north of 60 pounds. So, I understand the rollercoaster that it can be. At my worst I weight around 215, my lowest was 160, now I sit at an uncomfortable-but-better-than-215, 180.

So, as a person who's been overweight for most of my 20 years, I never felt there was a lack of representation for me because to me what's on the screen isn't about reality, it's about aspirations and showing the limits of human potential. We know when something isn't realistic, not because it's not humanly possible––*cough* Interstellar *cough*––but because it's not realistically human––*cough*Anne Hathaway in Interstellar *cough*.We look up to characters (emotionally and physically) because they represent being literally larger-than-life and emulate the boundaries of human potential for both good and evil. I enjoyed Arrival because it's interesting to see what an intelligent puzzle-style communication with Aliens could look like, and because its non-linear story-telling was brilliant at answering the moral conundrum of "what would you do if you knew you were headed towards your own tragedy?"

I'm not saying Amy Schumer's new movie will answer any of the bigger questions (pun-intended), but to say her movie is bad because it doesn't represent bigger people, is wrong. For women who struggle with their weight, Amy Schumer might be emulating the discontent that they feel and might be exactly what they need. We should all have aspirations, we should see the person we are and tease away the flaws until we are better in control of our demons, and it should be outrageous for anyone to argue that we accept the things we can change just because it's much easier to let ourselves be less than we could be.


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