As our TV screens fill with images of fat people being beaten into submission on The Biggest Loser or beautiful women apologizing for their muffin tops on reality shows, Rebel Wilson appears. An Aussie comedian and actress with the proverbial "such a beautiful face," she is starring in a sitcom she writes and produces. In Super Fun Night, she exposes much of a body that most actresses would be trying hard to camouflage. She unabashedly exults in eating cupcakes and shows off her Spanx. She is at least a size 20 who wears belts and garments that don't hide any of her voluptuous body. What to make of this?
Since I was born as a roly poly baby more than 50 years ago, I've grown up in a society that increasingly stigmatizes overweight women even as an increasing number of women join the ranks. The message seems to be that we are fat, but it's not okay. So shame is heaped upon zaftig women and girls, and it is the rare fat woman who appears in commercials or television shows or movies. When she does appear, she is generally the funny sidekick or pathetic miscreant. There are of course exceptions, but they are rare.
So what do we do with a woman named Rebel who seems to revel in her girth? A woman who, on a late night talk show, pointed to her giant necklace that said "Bitch" and claimed it was her grandmother's? A woman who isn't afraid to wear spandex and jeggings? A woman who appears to accept and even love her body at the size it is? Not only that, but she isn't afraid to call a spade a space. In Pitch Perfect, she introduced herself as "Fat Amy." And then proceeded to steal the show from a slew of cookie-cutter cuties.
Rebel Wilson isn't funny because she's fat; she's just funny. But she is a conundrum in an age when overweight women are expected to at least pretend to be on a diet and never get the guy in the end. Appearing on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live, Rebel wore some crazy shirt with huge cat's eyes over her breasts and skin-tight leggings in day-glo colors. She's hardly a shrinking violet and if she's ashamed of her figure, she doesn't let that show.
Is it possible that Hollywood is ready for fat women who have good jobs, good relationships with men and are happy with their lives and thighs? It would be a huge step forward for girls and women everywhere to see someone who accepts who she is today, even at a size 20 or 22. I can already hear critics saying that it isn't healthy to be that size, that dieting is the answer. But what if the answer is to be happy with who we are at this moment in time? What if Rebel's first name is also a call to all of us who eat cupcakes in the dark or pretend we don't know what Spanx are?
Let's all Rebel!