Here's Why Everyone's Mad at Renée Zellweger Right Now
For her new TV role, the actor changed her appearance in a controversial way.
Renée Zellweger's new TV show doesn't premiere for another month, but it's already facing backlash. On Feb. 3, the trailer for true crime series The Thing About Pam was released, leading to a lot of discussion about how "unrecognizable" Zellweger looks. The Oscar-winner is playing Pam Hupp, a convicted murderer who is currently serving a life sentence. For the role, Zellweger wears a fat suit, which caused backlash when photos from the set were published in October and has been rekindled with the released of the trailer.
Zellweger has spoken out about wearing prosthetics for the role but has not directly addressed the backlash. Read on to find out more about the criticism and to see what Zellweger had to say about taking on the role.
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The backlash began last fall.
After pictures came out of Zellweger filming the NBC series and a member of production carrying the fat suit on set, the backlash began. Explaining the issue, writer Sarah Alexander told Metro, "For Zellweger to masquerade as a plus-size person is damaging, fatphobic and potentially triggering to other plus-size people. It seems like she has not considered the effects this will have on fat people, and is unaware and/or naive that she is adding to the stigma fat people already face on a daily basis." Alexander added, "Why were [larger actors] overlooked and a fat suit considered a viable option?"
Podcast host Rosey Blair told Cosmopolitan UK of the situation, "There are so few roles available to actors in larger bodies it's truly insulting to see any successful working actor put on a costume to resemble the bodies Hollywood won't employ. There are so many juicy, nuanced roles available to thin actors—how dare they take roles explicitly written as fat?"
The trailer brought on more criticism.
After the trailer was released on Thursday, people took to social media to call the show and its star out. For the most part, critics are arguing that an actor who actually matches the body type of the character should have been cast rather than having a thin actor wear a padded suit and prosthetics.
"It's 2022 and we're still putting people in fat suits instead of hiring fat actresses," wrote one Twitter user. "I like Renee Zellweger, but why didn't they hire an actual overweight person for her new role? That was a good opportunity to bring a new talent in," said another. Someone else tweeted, "how r fat ppl supposed to be cast in anything when they won't even cast us as fat characters."
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Zellweger has talked about her transformation.
While Zellweger has not made any comments about the backlash, she did speak to Vanity Fair about what went into playing the role.
"It was pretty much head to toe. It was prosthetics, it was a [padded] suit, it was the choice of clothing, it was the briskness in her step-step-step, her gait," Zellweger said. "All of those things were really important because all those bits and pieces are what construct the person that we project our own conclusions and presumptions onto."
The star said of people maybe not realizing it's her right away, "Oh, gosh, if you don't recognize an actor or an actress in a performance, that's a great compliment. You're not trying to tell your own story."
Other stars have faced backlash for wearing padded suits in roles.
Zellweger is not the only actor to receive backlash for this issue. For instance, just last year Sarah Paulson said she regretted wearing one when she played Linda Tripp in Impeachment: American Crime Story.
"I think the thing I think about the most is that I regret not thinking about it more fully," Paulson told the Los Angeles Times. "And that is an important thing for me to think about and reflect on. I also know it's a privileged place to be sitting and thinking about it and reflecting on it, having already gotten to do it, and having had an opportunity that someone else didn't have … I wouldn't make the same choice going forward."
Paulson also expressed her belief that the entire responsibility shouldn't fall onto the actor, who is focused on portraying more about the character than their physical appearance. "I do think to imagine that the only thing any actor called upon to play this part would have to offer is their physical self is a real reduction of the offering the actor has to make," she said.
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