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Why People Don't Want Frontrunner Brendan Fraser to Win the Oscar This Year

Audiences love the actor, but his movie has inspired a lot of negative feedback.

We're in the thick of awards season now, with the big conclusion—the Academy Awards—taking place on March 12. Even ahead of this year's nominations being announced, Brendan Fraser is an Oscar frontrunner for Best Actor for his role in The Whale. But, while critics and viewers have praised Fraser's performance and respect the actor's comeback story, the movie itself has received harsh criticism.

Many have accused the Darren Aronofsky film as being offensive and fatphobic and aren't happy to see The Whale celebrated in any way, as much as they may want to see Fraser succeed. Read on to find out more about the movie, the backlash it's generated, and this year's complicated Oscar race.

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The Whale was controversial from the start.

In The Whale—which is based on a 2012 play by Samuel D. Hunter—Fraser stars as Charlie, a 600-pound man, who is mourning the loss of his partner and living with a disability in his final days. The film co-stars Sadie Sink, who plays his estranged teenage daughter, and Hong Chau, who plays his caretaker and friend. The movie marks a major comeback for The Mummy star, who worked frequently as a leading man in the '90s and early 2000s, but who had backed away from the industry in recent years to deal with some personal issues.

Prior the film even being released, critics took to social media to denounce the use of a "fat suit" and prosthetics for Fraser. One Twitter user wrote in July 2022, "I don't even care what 'The Whale' is about. They cast Brendan Fraser as the title character and put him in a fat suit. The title is 'The Whale.' I promise you it's fatphobic as [expletive]."

The director defended Fraser's casting.

Darren Aronofsky at the premiere of "Kindred" in 2022
Ovidiu Hrubaru / Shutterstock

In a December 2022 interview with Yahoo!, director Aronofsky said, "Actors have been using makeup since the beginning of acting—that's one of their tools. And the lengths we went to to portray the realism of the make-up has never been done before." He continued, "People with obesity are generally written as bad guys or as punchlines. We wanted to create a fully worked-out character who has bad parts about him and good parts about him …  So [the controversy] makes no sense to me. Brendan Fraser is the right actor to play this role, and the film is an exercise in empathy."

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The Whale has been accused of "[perpetuating] hate against fat people."

Brendan Fraser in "The Whale"

It wasn't just Fraser's transformation that upset audiences. Many also found fault with the movie's plot and its portrayal of Charlie. He is often shown eating fast food and snack food to excess, including in one long and graphic binge eating scene. He won't leave the house or turn his camera on for the online writing courses he teaches. He is depressed and refuses medical treatment, even though he's told that his life is in danger. Charlie is also berated for his size by other characters, including his daughter.

In an article for The Advocate titled "What It's Like to Watch The Whale as a Queer Fat person," writer Yael Tygiel claims that the movie "perpetuates hate against fat people and argues they shouldn't exist."

"As a fat person, I found The Whale a devastating nearly two hours of intentional fat shaming," she continues.

Many others have spoken out on social media. 

Brendan Fraser at the FX Annual All-Star Party in 2018
lev radin / Shutterstock

On social media, people have expressed that while they want to root for Fraser in his career, they cannot root for The Whale.

One Twitter user wrote, "when you want nothing but the best for brendan fraser but think the whale should never be lauded on any kind of awards stage." Another said, "I really want to be happy for Brendan Fraser's comeback, because I genuinely really love him as an actor. It just feels so gross that it's on the backs of fat folks who once again get depicted as sad, grotesque individuals with no self control. The Whale is a harmful movie."

Sharing a similar sentiment, someone else wrote, "I really like Brendan Fraser, but The Whale is such a gross, [expletive] thing to make. Another person tweeted, "Seeing Brendan Fraser getting praised for his role in the whale is a slap in the face to fat people honestly."

"Hey pals, I love Brendan Fraser," a Twitter user wrote. "Please remember your fat friends have shown some discomfort and warranted anger at the use of obesity within the whale. We can support the man and still be super pissed at the fatphobia involved. Awards and speeches only add to the gut punch."

Fraser just won a major award for his performance.

Brendan Fraser at the 2023 Critics' Choice Awards
Joe Seer / Shutterstock

While The Whale is far from universally loved, it still has its fans (it has a 66% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes), and Fraser's work has been praised in particular. He has already been nominated for a number of awards from film critics' associations and other groups. On Sunday, Jan. 15, he won the Critics' Choice Award for Best Actor. He's also nominated at the upcoming Screen Actors Guild Awards and was nominated at the Golden Globes, losing to Elvis star Austin Butler.

Oscar nominations will be announced on Jan. 24, and Fraser is expected to be on the Best Actor list. Other top contenders include Colin Farrell for The Banshees of Inisherin, Butler, and Bill Nighy for Living.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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