It's no secret that Hollywood isn't kind to plus-size characters—especially female ones. But Gabourey Sidibe just said something at Glamour's Powered by Women panel at SXSW that even shocked me, a plus-size person who, at this point, is pretty numb to Tinsel Town's incessant fat-shaming. The actress revealed that a part was created for her where the character was literally referred to as a "hippo" and an "elephant." Let's break this down for a second: Imagine you're an actress. Then, imagine that a big-shot screenwriter tells you they've written a role specifically for you. Exciting, right? Now imagine reading this script and realizing your character is called a "hippo" on the first page. Yeah, it sucks.
"I get a lot of scripts and offers where someone has to make mention of my body immediately," Sidibe said at the panel. "Someone wrote a script with me in mind, and the first time someone other than my character was talking about my character, they say 'this hippo' or 'this elephant.'"
She continued, "I'm like, 'Are you serious? You wrote something for me, and you're calling me a hippo?' This is my body. This has been my body my entire life, and in my life my friends and my colleagues are not constantly talking about my body. But in most of my roles, somebody has to make mention of it."
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This is horrible, but, unfortunately, not that surprising. Hollywood still hasn't wrapped its head around the fact that plus-size people are human beings—not punchlines, slapstick vehicles, or, ya know, animals.
But the dial is moving along slowly. We have Kate on This Is Us, a plus-size character who hasn't been subjected to any reductive, fat-person humor; still, her character is obsessed with losing weight, which is problematic. Plus-size people are completely capable of loving their bodies as they are. Shocking, I know.
One of the ways to solve this problem is to talk about it—to shed light on these gross incidents of discrimination and hate. Gabourey Sidibe is a total boss for opening up. Hopefully, screenwriters realize just how disrespectful this is and start depicting plus-size people the right way: as people.
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