The Anti-Fat Suit Petition

Dear Hollywood,

We have a request. We'd like you to stop putting thin actors in fat suits. Yes, we understand this might confuse you, seeing as how in the past we've made hits out of Shallow Hal and Tyler Perry's Madea franchise. We know the timing of this petition may frustrate you, seeing as how you've just greenlit another installment of Eddie Murphy's The Nutty Professor series. But seriously, this trend needs to stop. Please allow us the opportunity to present our case:

1. There are overweight actors out there who could use the work
It seems like ever since the Oscars, everyone has been fretting over whether or not Precious star Gabourey Sidibe will go on to have a successful career without shrinking down to a more "cast-able" size. Sidibe herself has given the appearance of being happy and confident in her body and has expressed no interest in losing weight. Many people profess to want to see Sidibe succeed and worry that there are not enough roles available for an actress of her size. Yet no one complains when Eddie Murphy insists on donning fat suits and drag to take up roles that could have gone to several actresses in the Nutty Professor films. Is it wrong to suggest that the Klumps might still be funny if they were portrayed by an ensemble of actors of diverse sizes, ages, and personalities who actually work together and develop chemistry as a cast? We think that might result in a more accurate depiction of a family than watching one actor attempt to interact with himself.

2. Thin actors just don't get it
One actress who once received a lot of praise for her fat-suit work was Shallow Hal star Gwyneth Paltrow. But when Paltrow discussed in an interview how the experience of wearing the suit gave her an understanding of how it feels to be overweight, her remarks felt, well, shallow. Paltrow spoke of feeling invisible when people wouldn't make eye contact with her in a hotel lobby, and bemoaned the lack of fashionable clothing available to overweight women. But these were issues she dealt with for only a fleeting moment. She knew within a few hours the suit would be removed and she'd be able to slip back into her designer duds. In contrast, Renee Zellweger gained weight to play the chubby title character in Bridget Jones's Diary. During the filming she was famously dumped by her then-boyfriend Jim Carrey, who claimed he was no longer attracted to her because of the weight gain. Which actress do you think was able to empathize better with the overweight character she portrayed -- the one who spent an embarrassing afternoon in a hotel lobby without being recognized, or the one who went through a public breakup and saw aspects of her life truly change when she gained a few pounds? We'll leave that for you to decide, but first we'd just like to point out that Zellweger received an Oscar nomination for her work in Bridget Jones's Diary.

3. Anyway you look at it, fat suits are just plain demeaning
Let's return to the example of Shallow Hal, a movie that claimed to contain a message that inner beauty is more important than what's on the outside. In this film, Jack Black played Hal, a man who was "cursed" to see all women as conventionally beautiful and begins dating an overweight woman without realizing it. We were supposed to find it hilarious that Black (who doesn't exactly have a physique you'd find on the cover of Men's Health) could possibly be tricked into doing something as unacceptable as dating a woman who didn't fit the Hollywood ideal of beauty. The over-the-top shtick Murphy and Tyler Perry employ in their fat suit roles also serves to dehumanize overweight people by turning them into caricatures. The joke of these films is that we are not seeing an actual fat person, but a thin person made up to be fat. It's OK to laugh at their fatness because it's not real. Even if we are too polite to laugh at an overweight person we might encounter in real life, laughing at an image of a thin actor in a fat suit still proves that we think being overweight is something to ridicule.

Fat suits don't ring true. Movies -- and comedies in particular -- may be about escapism and suspension of disbelief, but they don't work if we can't recognize some truth in the performances of the actors.