In Rebel Wilson's 'Super Fun Night,' The Fat Jokes Are All On Her
Before last night, I had no particular opinions about Rebel Wilson other than "she was funny in Bridesmaids." I watched the premiere of her new sitcom Super Fun Night because I was with a friend who wanted to watch it. If I had any bias, it was toward wanting to like it, both because liking things is more fun than not liking things and because any time I see female-fronted shows I want them to succeed. So I went in with an open mind that quickly begot a sort of half-hour long skeptical half-grimace. A one-sentence summary: In a world where everybody is inexplicably half-British, Wilson's TV alter-ego Kimmie Boubier is a near-constant Fat Girl stereotype.
In a Time review, Lily Rothman notes that reviews and comments are less focused on Wilson's body type, per se, and more critical of "the way the show relies so heavily on it for its humor." It's hard not to focus on that, as at least every other joke or gag in the pilot relied on Wilson's weight as the punchline. To be fair, everyone in the series so far is a bizarre caricature (the Asian nerd, the bitchy blonde rival, the clueless British boss). And so far, no one seems to be saying anything new, making any kind of comment on these stereotypes or even being particularly funny with them. As the Daily Beast's Kevin Fallon puts it: "With everyone else laughing at them, the only thing to do was cringe."
Presumably we’re supposed to find Wilson’s incessant self-deprecation somehow empowering, like a veiled form of self-confidence. But the frequency of the weight-related punchlines, not to mention the droll way in which Wilson delivers them, ends up being depressing.
In one scene, she races through the halls of her law firm in a panic. Why? “Gary just tweeted that there are jelly doughnuts in the break room,” she says. Heh. She’s introduced to a colleague, but they have already met at a conference. “During one of the breaks, I’m the girl who got her hand stuck in the vending machine.” Har. “Cute shoes, by the way—what are they?” the colleague asks. “Orthopedics,” Kimmie replies.
Even USA Today is a little uncomfortable, saying that while Wilson's "skill is beyond question, the show may want to limit how often it asks us to laugh at what are, essentially, fat jokes, even when the overweight person is in control of the joke. There are only so many times you can use Kimmie being disrobed in public as a subject of humor without it crossing from comic to cruel."
Exactly. I don't want to judge the show too harshly yet; plenty of shows start off with ill-defined archetypes that morph into more robust characters over time. But the first episode is a reminder that someone belonging to a marginalized group isn't above reproach when it comes to satirizing that group. Rebel Wilson's weight doesn't mean she can't fat shame, and that's mostly what she seems to be doing so far.