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Amy Schumer's latest 'body positive' film I Feel Pretty seems so offensive and morbid it's frankly exhausting

Schumer has all the trappings of Western beauty standards. So this idea that, both in this movie and in her real life, she is some kind of grotesque outsider who dares to rebel against Hollywood aesthetics with the circumference of her waist is ridiculous

Kate Leaver
Monday 12 February 2018 16:45 GMT
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I Feel Pretty - Trailer

Amy Schumer has a new movie coming out – which always makes me nervous because she tends not to pay much attention to things like tact, sensitivity or her own privilege. The trailer for the film I Feel Pretty premiered yesterday on The Ellen Show and then did the rounds on Twitter, where it did not go down well.

Here’s the premise: Schumer stars the “unattractive” protagonist Renee, who wants to punch her thin friends in the face, struggles with her own body image and, despite probably being a size 12, has trouble finding clothes in her size. She can’t get a bartender’s attention to order tequila, she’s not having any luck with online dating and she makes babies cry simply by showing them her face – the implication is that this is all down to her apparent hideousness.

Then she suffers a pretty rough-looking head injury during a SoulCycle class and wakes up thinking she’s drop-dead gorgeous. All of a sudden, she has infinite confidence – she wears what she wants, flaunts what she’s got and generally delights in the way she looks. In one scene, she performs impromptu at a wet T-shirt competition because of course that’s the pinnacle of self-acceptance. Her friends seem to think this is outrageous behaviour; meanwhile, a bearded gentleman falls in love with her because her seemingly high self-esteem is attractive in itself.

For a start, it is exhausting that Amy Schumer has built a career on the idea that she is fat. As a female comedian, her appearance is unfairly relevant to her fame, in a way that is simply not applicable to male comedians. That must be frustrating, so I can see that perhaps through self-deprecating humour onstage and in films, she is making an effort to reclaim autonomy and essentially beat the haters to criticising her body.

However, Schumer is still blonde, able-bodied and well-dressed, with all the trappings of Western beauty standards. So this idea that, both in this movie and in her real life, she is some kind of grotesque outsider who dares to rebel against Hollywood aesthetics with the circumference of her waist is flawed from the beginning – and insulting to anyone her size or larger. If she is in any way fighting for body positivity, she’s going about it in a clumsy, self-defeating, tone-deaf way.

The second problem with this movie (judging by the trailer) is the fact that Schumer’s character Renee actually had to suffer a head injury in order to feel vaguely comfortable in her own body. Yikes. What exactly is Amy Schumer trying to say here? That self-confidence is so outrageous an idea we might need to suffer neural damage to achieve it? That self-acceptance is so improbable for a woman living in the modern patriarchy that we can’t get there any other way?

I can see that appearing as a one-liner in an Amy Schumer stand-up routine, but it hasn’t exactly translated well into a film plot. As it is, it seems cheap and offensive, even weirdly morbid. It’s definitely not funny, which I can only assume is at least half the purpose here. So far, this comedy about body positivity doesn’t nail the funny thing or the body positivity thing, so I’m not quite sure why it exists or what it’s trying to achieve.

Now, to be fair to Schumer, we’ve only seen two minutes and 54 seconds of this movie so far. In its full-length form, perhaps she finds a way to make it about loving your body and yourself without the aid of a brain injury. Maybe she tones down the self-flagellating and gets real about how complex and tortured a woman’s relationship with her body can be.

It’s still possible that she uses this film to call for a change to the way we judge one another so powerfully by the way we look. We will have to wait and see in June, when it comes out – if, of course, we can bring ourselves to sit through 90 minutes of Amy Schumer’s unique brand of body image commentary.

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