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Brendan Fraser’s Oscar Win Leads to Weight Loss for Overweight Individuals

Brendan Fraser's Oscar Win Leads to Weight Loss for Overweight Individuals

On March 12, Brendan Fraser won Best Actor for his leading role in “The Whale” at the Oscars, and I was not pleased. Fraser was awarded for a role where he wears a fat suit, pretends to choke on fried chicken and sandwiches and pizza, and literally eats himself to death. The movie is supposed to be a metaphor for love and redemption, but it fails to do anything close. His win is the confirmation from Hollywood that this is a good, worthwhile film and performance.

When I talk about my issues with “The Whale,” I feel pressured to add that I love Brendan Fraser; he’s great in “The Mummy!” He has spoken about his battle with depression and the pain he experienced at its depths, and I’m happy to see him navigate through those challenges and return to a career he loves. But that doesn’t excuse him from starring in a movie like “The Whale;” it actually makes it worse. People suffering from depression are ostracized and stigmatized in American society, and so are fat people. Instead of Fraser’s own journey leading him to greater empathy for and identification with those in larger bodies, he and his awards campaign used it as justification for why he deserved to win.

The movie also won for best makeup and hairstyling at the event, which was clearly because of the fat suit Fraser wore. On the broadcast, an unseen announcer said, “The team transformed Brendan Fraser into the whale through the first-time use of all-digital prosthetic makeup for a major feature. This pushed Fraser’s weight into the severest extreme without covering his face and allowing his emotional range of expression.” This is so dehumanizing; Fraser’s weight didn’t actually move in any direction; that’s the point of a fat suit. This implies that people who live at high weights live on the “severest extreme.” Plus, the whole idea of his unique, digitally enhanced fat suit is an overly complicated solution for a problem of the movie’s own making.

Other nominees were also tapped for movies that employed fat suits. Colin Farrell wore one for “The Batman,” Tom Hanks and Austin Butler wore them for “Elvis,” Emma Thompson wore one for “Matilda,” Renee Zellweger wore one for NBC’s “The Thing About Pam,” Sarah Paulson wore one for 2021’s “American Crime Story: Impeachment,” Chris Sullivan wore one for “This Is Us,” Gary Oldman won best actor at the 2018 Oscars for his performance as Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour” wearing a fat suit, and Eddie Murphy famously wore fat suits in the “Nutty Professor” and “Norbit” films.

There is rising backlash online about the use of fat prosthetics, but Hollywood doesn’t seem ready to listen. They seem more attached to star power than they are willing to give fat actors a chance. Even using an actor closer to Charlie’s size wouldn’t have fixed the many problems of “The Whale,” a movie that’s vicious in its hatred toward fat people and portrays a warped perception of fat lives. Jimmy Kimmel opened the evening with a joke about the weight loss drug Ozempic and the actors assembled before him, which was a tacit acknowledgment that for most people (and pretty much all women) to succeed in Hollywood, one must be thin.

After I published my review of “The Whale,” calling out its fatphobia back in December, Internet commentators accused me of not wanting to accept the truth of what it’s like to be fat. They claimed I just didn’t like it because I don’t want to admit that I’m going to die because I’m fat. Is that the empathy Fraser wanted to spread? That real fat people should be ignored for a fictionalized account?

I hope thin people who love and defend “The Whale” can examine why they find such a mean-spirited movie so moving and wonderful. I hope they realize the way their ingrained fatphobic attitudes have let them openly celebrate this film and Fraser’s success. I hope they open themselves up to work actually created by fat people that reflects their real lives.


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