At first, I didn’t want to review I Feel Pretty. I’d seen the trailers, where an average-sized woman expresses confidence in her average body for laughs, and I decided the movie was going to be infuriating. Other people would adequately tear it apart, I figured, without me throwing my 500 words into the void. Being a woman is already exhausting, and I wanted to sit this one out. Just this once. I am tired.
But then I realized I’d spent a fair amount of time crafting a thoughtful “No way in hell am I subjecting myself to this garbage” e-mail to my editor. I’d read (and hearted!) the cutting tweets and posts that criticized I Feel Pretty’s offensive trailer. And since I follow I Feel Pretty’s stars, Amy Schumer and Aidy Bryant, on Instagram, I’d read all the statements they (or their publicists) had written in defense of the film. Sure, I rolled my eyes every time, but I also kept reading. Whether I liked it or not, I was paying attention. I was in this. Didn’t I owe it to myself, and to other women who like comedies, to give I Feel Pretty a chance?
So I went. And guess what? It turns out I was being a shrill harpy, and I loved it!
Just kidding! It was exactly as offensive and infuriating as I thought it would be, and I’m mad!
I Feel Pretty is about a woman (Schumer) who suffers from a lack of confidence due to, you know, existing. After hitting her head in a spin class, she starts to believe she’s beautiful, which leads first to a positive attitude and then to successes in love and her career in selling makeup. (UGH.)
It’s supposed to be funny, because everyone can plainly see that Schumer is disgustingly average! LOL, right?! A silly lady over 30 who weighs more than 120 pounds thinks she’s pretty! HA HA HA! HA HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAA! I laughed until I cried, because I am also over 30 and weigh more than 120 pounds, and my body could serve as a punch line, too.
In one scene, Schumer’s character enters a bikini contest. The audience at my screening ate it up, because she looks different in a bikini than the 19-year-old models behind her. But you know what? Schumer has actual six-pack abs. Like, you can see all of the muscles in her body. Her legs are thick and toned as hell. The woman did not have a visible bit of cellulite on her. And this is what we’re supposed to laugh at? A Hollywood-sculpted ass that won’t quit and boobs without stretch marks? Most women in America would love to have that body. And if we did, we wouldn’t want to be laughed at for it.
To be clear, my criticism here is not “Schumer isn’t fat enough for I Love Pretty’s premise to work.” It’s that I don’t want to laugh at this premise at all. Every time Schumer and Bryant have defended this film—saying they’d never be part of something that punched down at women—I wanted to believe them. Because I like liking stuff! Especially stuff for women! I would have loved for I Feel Pretty to have challenged my cynicism. I would have loved for I Feel Pretty to have been good.
Instead, my reward for wanting to believe celebrities’ publicists was sitting in a theater and feeling shitty for two hours. Thanks, Hollywood!