Discussion Thread: Visibility in Pop Culture, Part 2

As a follow-up to yesterday's thread, I wanted to open up a discussion about visible characters from marginalized populations that are unhelpful (for lack of a better word) in some way.

As an example: Iain and I recently watched Identity Thief, because Melissa McCarthy. (And please note that the film is problematic in more ways than I am about to describe here, e.g. trans/misogyny and consent issues.) And it is so transgressive in so many ways: Melissa McCarthy is just an amazing physical comedian, and she just crushes all sorts of stereotypes about fat bodies and what they are capable of. She is shown as physically strong and flexible and graceful in many ways throughout the story. The film is also remarkably supportive of the idea that fat women can be beautiful and sexy and desirable.

But. There is a sex scene between Melissa McCarthy and Eric Stonestreet (who is a fat man), and the entire scene (even in the "unedited" version, which is what we watched) is filmed in a way that never shows their bodies. The way it is filmed we know they engage in enthusiastic and athletic sex in a variety of positions, but all we ever see are their faces, hanging over the edge of the bed (or wherever) in various arrangements.

It's so deeply weird to watch an extended sex scene where no bodies are ever shown at all, and clearly the reason is because it was considered gross to show fat bodies engaged in a sexual activity. The only time we ever see either of their bodies, clothed or unclothed, is afterwards, where Eric Stonestreet's naked butt is shown while he's sleeping afterwards, which is played for laughs.

So, one the on hand, I was glad to see a film, even with its other problems, that did not treat fat bodies as incapable and weak and ugly. And, on the other hand, I was disappointed that even in a film that is remarkably positive on fat bodies, fat bodies having sex is just a bridge too far!

What have you seen lately in terms of visible characters from marginalized populations that are two steps forward, one step back? Or just the same old tired collection of stereotypes, zero steps forward at all?

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