Howard (1), Hollywood (0)
Howard Stern was right. Gabourey Sidibe is a big girl. And with the exception of The Biggest Loser, Celebrity Fit Club, Frat Boy Comedies, and Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, there aren’t many heavyweight folk in Hollywood or in much of TV land. Thus it isn’t a surprise Gabourey can’t find anyone in the audience that looks like her. In addition to being obese, she is also black. And while Hollywood has undergone some changes, black actresses still have to quote/give thanks to old Ms. Hattie McDowell because each time a black woman wins, it is still that much of an achievement. Meanwhile, Meryl Streep (phenomenal by the way) can kick back laughing, arms relaxed, knowing yet another meaty role will find its way to her. She will sing, she will dance, she will be horrific, she will be sexy, she will be everything. So Stern’s comments about Gabby aren’t as far off as they seem and may say more about Hollywood and the rest of the world than it does about Gabby.
It isn’t wrong to image how much her weight has impacted her ability to be cast nor is it wrong to assume that in Hollywood’s pale and thin world, there won’t be much room for someone like Gabby. Afterall, her breakthrough role was as an overweight abused girl who’s mother often screamed, “you fat, don’t nobody want you” a horrific realism that won Monique the Oscar. Stern’s view, despite Oprah’s proclamation that she is a “modern day Cinderella” is closer to Hollywood’s view of Gabby. It is why we are more likely to see her in a movie a la Blind Side where she plays a character that needs to be saved, who has been abandoned than we are to see her as the romantic lead.
So while Howard Stern may not be right to suggest Gabourey won’t have a film career at all, she may be relegated to some very limiting depictions. She may not end up with Eddie Muster signing autographs as the next odd people convention, she is more than likely going to appear as your next bully, sassy girl who can fight back, or sweet-despite-her-size role as we’ve seen before in the movie’s like the Green Mile. Of course, the sassy and feisty roles are often relegated to black women and now we will witness her weight be used as a prop and not simply something overlooked, but also used to depict the harsh things we think when we see someone who is grossly obese. Of course, Hollywood, one of the most imagine-conscious places aside from the fashion industry would rather get on stage and say “you go girl” rather than be a Howard Stern. But what would Hollywood be without a little bit of fantasy?