Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jonah Hill and my former life.

For those of you who don't know, Jonah Hill is a 26-year-old actor whose star is on quite the rise. He first garnered major attention in 2007's "Superbad" and has since become something of a go-to dude in dudecentric movies like "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"* and "Funny People". His latest film, "Get Him To the Greek", matches him with U.K. comedian Russell Brand, who reprises his role of Aldous Snow from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall". He's featured prominently on the posters for the comedy, and I'm guessing from the general tone of the trailer, he's essentially the star of the movie.

Oh, and he's fat. Fat, white, and male. Hmm.

I don't begrudge Jonah his success - it's rather refreshing to see a fat guy (not Hollywood fat, but full-metal fat) in the spotlight, even if it's in movies that aren't exactly warm fuzzy huggles for anyone who isn't male or white. He's even done a somewhat arty indie dark comedyish flick called "Cyrus" alongside Catherine Keener and John C. O'Reilly, so he seems invested in expanding his range beyond just baffled/affable zinger-doling fat guy. The thing that just kind of rubs my chub a bit is that we all know goddamned well that if Jonah was Joanie, Joanie wouldn't be toplining a major summer comedy release from Universal Studios. Joanie would be doing heartfelt, tear-streaked interviews with "Entertainment Tonight" or "Access Hollywood" about how repellent a person she was for being fat and how many personal trainers she had in her employ and what diet plan she was currently using to finally GET CONTROL of her life. She'd be doing the usual bullshit song-and-dance that almost every full-metal fat or even showbiz fat woman does the second she receives any sort of notoriety. Just now, I did a google search for interviews with Jonah Hill, trying to see if there was anything referring to him going on any sort of diet or weight loss effort for his "health", and while there's plenty of places where *others* discuss his fat, there doesn't seem to be anything from his mouth itself. His fat - at the present time, at any rate - isn't a liability.

And that just kind of frosts my ass a bit. In my younger days, I did some performing, I trod the boards, if you will. In college, I took improvisation classes with a wonderful teacher, Martin deMaat, probably the singularly most inspiring teacher I had in all my years in school. One of the initial exercises we did in my level one Improv class was standing in the middle of a circle of fellow students and loudly proclaiming, "I AM A GODDESS/GOD!". Ohhhh, I struggled with that a lot. Insecurity and cynicism does not lend itself to proclamations of goddessness. The size of my body and my general disdain of its size restrained me more often than not. I knew I was good at improv, I wasn't afraid of performing, I wasn't afraid of being funny - really, my only fear was saying unfunny things at inappropriate times. Martin gave me one of the best compliments I've ever received - that one of my strongest skills was being able to revive a scene that was dying and make it funny again. I could have easily moved into the training center at Second City, I reckon. But at 21, I also suspected what the score would wind up being. Second City was not (and still isn't) known for being a springboard to success for funny deathfat chicks. So I turned to writing - screenplays, primarily - and lost that improv muscle I'd worked so hard to develop.

Which, really, frosts my ass a bunch to this day. If there are any regrets I sport, it would be how I allowed my fat to guide my chickening out, because it was chickening out. Oh, I don't doubt for a second that my fat would have limited my "potential", and I would have struggled mightily, and hell, probably would have given up the ghost at some point. But I loved improv and I loved performing. I still love making people laugh. Not just *shrug* "love". We're talking LOVE in gigantic puffy letters. Looooooooooove from the back of your throat, looooooove from the bottom of your feet to the top of your skull. But my love couldn't overthrow the voice in my head that said "you need to apologize and make amends for being as fucking fat as you are/you need to be X size in order to be a success". My love (at that time in my life) couldn't have held up against the inevitable barrage of questions and demands my body would have inspired. Hiding was easier. Writing romantic comedies (ironic since when I was in my major screenplay writing mode, my life severely lacked both romance and comedy) that always featured a heroine that was just this side of plump was easier (Kate Winslet would be employed for eons if I had my own production company). I couldn't have borne the brunt of rejection that would have revolved solely around my fat rather than my ability.

Which leads to my ultimate frosting that frosts on behalf of both women AND men - that when you fucking google Jonah Hill, it autofills shit about his weight. It offends me that there are forums discussing Jonah Hill's weight or any other celebrity's weight. It's a plumb fucking miracle that I read an interview with him where he was discussing his part in writing the movie version of "21 Jump Street" and his weight wasn't referenced at all. While fatness might not be quite the liability for male performers as it is for females, we're always but a concern trollesque question or barely-disguised fat joke away in a puff piece or a movie trailer from being reminded that Jonah Hill or Kevin James or Jorge Garcia or Seth Rogen (though not so much at present) are GOOD SWEET CHRIST FAT!!!! They're Hollywood employable-fat, mind you, but fat all the same. And the shame is that 95 percent of the time, it's the performers themselves who work overtime to let us know that they are a) fat and b) will gladly humiliate themselves as needed onscreen or onstage in order to apologize for said fatness.

My dreamiest dream, which I don't expect to be fulfilled anytime soon, would be for a fat actor to be in a leading role where one's character didn't sob miserably due to one's fat; didn't engage in constant, snarky self-depreciation because of one's fat; didn't embark on a wacky montage illustrating just what a lumbering, clumsy oaf one was in physical/exercise situations because of one's fat; didn't sit down in front of a dinner plate piled with towers of "junk" food and proceed to shove it all into one's face because of one's fat; and didn't "strike out" with a romantic interest because of one's fat. I know, I know, it's asking an awful lot to see a movie or a television show where a fat person is portrayed as human, but I told you, my dreams are terribly dreamy.

*I am, despite its many problems, fond of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" as the movie made a valiant attempt *not* to portray Sarah Marshall as the world's most awful harpy woman in the entire world - an effort was made to, you know, give her something resembling depth. Also, frankly...I have a Jason Segel thing.

1 comment:

Dianae said...

It's amazing when I think about how many jobs I couldn't get or had to leave (US Navy) not because I wasn't qualifies to do the job but because my body size did not "fit" the image the employer wanted to portray for that position. I can only hope that the misery of that judgement led me to the job I was meant to have.

I still think you could make it as a stand up comedienne. There's gotta be some comedy clubs smart enough to see your talent and give it stage to play on.
I'd go see you in a heartbeat.
You got what it takes, Jane!