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Melissa McCarthy’s Elle Cover–Fat Acceptance or Fat-Shaming? I’ve Lost Track

October 23, 2013

Putting 43-year-old, distinctly plus-size Melissa McCarthy on the cover of Elle this month, instead of the usual 20-something ectomorphic supermodel, was supposed to be a courageous feminist blow against “society” and its slender beauty ideal for females. Callie Beusman at Jezebel gushed:

Melissa McCarthy is one of the women covering Elle‘s Women in Hollywood issue, and she looks absolutely gorgeous and glamorous.

Now, however, it seems that McCarthy’s Elle cover, instead of being a landmark in the progress of fat-acceptance rights, is actually a example of “fat-shaming”–all because McCarthy is wearing a ginormous Marina Rinaldi coat over her dress in her cover photo. In the world of fat acceptance, taking most of your clothes off while fat is good, but covering up is a sign of society-induced embarrassment about your body–and we can’t have that. So culture critic June Thomas of Slate weighed in:

McCarthy’s hair covers a quarter of her gorgeous face, and with her hands stuffed deep into her coat pockets, the only visible flesh is a tiny triangle between the coat’s lapels and the briefest glimpse of calf. Perhaps photographer Thomas Whiteside only knows how to photograph the usual stick insect models, because he clearly has no clue how to highlight McCarthy’s curves.

Note the dutifully feminist “stick insect” diss of slender women. Thomas also had unkind things to say about Sarah Jessica Parker (“scrawny bod”), as well as Lady Gaga, Shakira, Kerry Washington, Taylor Swift, and Claire Danes. Thomas does not like svelte, and neither should you if you want to be feminist and fat-accepting.

Now, though, McCarthy says she picked the coat out herself, so there.

Actually the coat is indeed hideous and unflattering, as is usually the case when Hollywood stars are permitted to select their own apparel. On the Elle cover McCarthy, also sporting diamond earrings, doesn’t looks so much gorgeous as like the rich lady courted by the struggling artist hoping she’ll spring for some of his paintings.

So–are we supposed to buy this month’s Elle because McCarthy is “gorgeous”–or boycott it? You’ve got me.




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