AS YOU MAY or may not have heard, Rebel Wilson’s starring in a new romantic comedy called ‘Isn’t it Romantic?’.
It’s not your typical romantic comedy, firstly because it seems like the Scary Movie equivalent of a rom-com, in that it pokes a lot of fun at the ridiculous tropes that the genre heavily relies on. Secondly, the protagonist is played by Rebel Wilson, who is a plus-sized woman.
This may not be something we’re used to seeing on the big screen, but as we noted last week, she’s definitely not the first plus-sized woman to star in a romantic comedy. See: Queen Latifah, Mo’Nique and Ricki Lake.
So, people were pretty confused when Rebel Wilson went on The Ellen Show and said, “I’m proud to be the first ever plus-sized girl to be the star of a romantic comedy.”
Naturally, plenty of Twitter users felt that Rebel was discounting and erasing the work of plus-sized black women who came before her and they let her know that she was patting herself on the back just a little too much. At this point, you’d expect her to acknowledge the criticism, try to learn from it, apologise and move on but nah.
Rebel decided to respond to this criticism by saying Queen Latifah and Mo’Nique’s work was a “grey area”.
Yeah I of course know of these movies but it was questionable as to whether: 1. Technically those actresses were plus size when filming those movies or 2. Technically those films are categorized/billed as a studio rom-com with a sole lead. So there’s a slight grey area.
Somebody should have taken Rebel’s phone off her at this stage. In her response to this fan, Wilson added that she fully “takes all the comments on-board though, so thank you.” A couple of days later, Mo’Nique weighed in, asking Rebel not to “erase her talent” by dismissing it as a grey area with technicalities.
Somehow, things managed to get even messier after this.
Rebel didn’t explicitly apologise here, but said that she didn’t intend to erase Mo’Nique and Queen Latifah’s achievements. People began to reply directly to this tweet, asking Rebel Wilson why she had blocked numerous black and non-black women of colour who had pointed out that she was mistaken in thinking she was the first plus-sized woman to star in a romantic comedy.
Bustle got in touch with some of the women who were blocked by Rebel Wilson, and one of them, writer Kayla Sutton provided a brief statement about why she was bothered by Wilson’s comments and behaviour.
What prompted me to step in was the fact that many black women and non-black POC were getting blocked for responding to her, while white women were getting very kind responses. I checked in to see what the replies said of those blocked, they were very polite and cordial.
Sutton attempted to point this out to Wilson, and then found that she too had been blocked. Other Twitter users told Bustle that they had been “very gracious (even though we didn’t need to be) and took the time to educate her on why she was incorrect.”
Nearly a week after her initial comments, Rebel Wilson is still trying to sort out the situation.
Last night, she took to Twitter to say that she was “deeply sorry”.
In a couple of well-intentioned moments, hoping to lift my fellow plus sized women up, I neglected to show the proper respect to those who climbed this mountain before me like Mo’Nique, Queen Latifah, Melissa McCarthy, Ricki Lake and likely many others.
With the help of some very compassionate and well-thought out responses from others on social media, I now realise what I said was not only wrong, but also incredibly hurtful. To be part of a problem I was hoping I was helping makes that much more embarrassing and hard to acknowledge.
I blocked people on Twitter because I was hurting from the criticism, but those are the people I actually need to hear more from, not less. Again, I am deeply sorry.
Many of the women Rebel blocked, including authors Franchesca Ramsey, and Blair Imani revealed that they had finally been unblocked by the 38-year-old actress.
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