Tyrannoboorish Rex —
Back in the day, I had an all-too-brief run as a movie critic.
I wrote for The Maneater, Mizzou’s bi-weekly student-run newspaper. I wrote mostly Feature articles, but would occasionally submit these vitriolic movie reviews about some of the crappiest movies from 1998 and 1999.
(Note: Apologies in advance for two things: (1) I was 18 or 19 when these came out, and even more obnoxiously opinionated than I am today and (2) if you like these movies, you will not like what I have to say about them.)
When you see a bad movie — particularly a long, bad movie — it can make you mad. It can make you mean mad.
But over the years, I’ve gradually come to learn that even when you’re mad, there are some things better kept to yourself.
For instance, let’s say you’re an infamous film critic who’s growing increasingly obsolete over the years. Let’s say you have a well-documented and disturbing history of being a bully and a dumbass, such that it surprises no one when your instinct is to criticize an actress’s body over her performance. And let’s say that this shallow sack of monkey shit is also a bloated, pasty troll carved from braunschweiger.
Were such a trainwreck of a human being to actually exist, then it would be best for that person keep his opinions on other people’s bodies to himself.
But lo! The Good Lord hath bestowed just such a dickweed unto Creation.
And his name is Rex Reed.
As you can tell from this photo, Rex Reed is a big guy. Particularly compared to his salad days shortly after his career-ending role in the critically panned and commercially embarrassing “movie,” Myra Breckinridge.
Time magazine said of the film, “Myra Breckinridge is about as funny as a child molester. It is an insult to intelligence, an affront to sensibility and an abomination to the eye.”
And you know what they say, “Those who can’t do, spend the rest of their lives flinging poo at those who can do.”
As you’ve no doubt read by now, Reed referred to her as “cacophonous, tractor-sized Melissa McCarthy”; “a screeching, humongous creep”; a “female hippo”; and finally, “a gimmick comedian who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success.”
After everyone told him to go fuck himself, Reed defied probability and proved himself an even greater jackass:
Reed certainly didn’t apologize to McCarthy or anyone else, asserting that his review is “constitutionally protected, so there’s nothing anybody can do” to stop him, and blaming the outrage on “the big publicity machine called Universal Pictures” who have organized people to attack him out of their “desire to sell tickets to a bad movie.” He also took credit for “Identity Thief”‘s big weekend at the box office (“That’s what sold the tickets”) and insisted that he cares deeply about obesity-related health issues:
My point was that I object to using health issues like obesity as comic talking points… [McCarthy] is basing her career on being obnoxious and being overweight. And I don’t think that’s funny. I have too many friends that have died of obesity-related illnesses, heart problems and diabetes, and I have actually lost friends to this. I have helped people try to lose weight, and I don’t find this to be the subject of a lot of humor. I have a perfect right to say that. My review was really more about the movie and about the character she plays in the movie than it is about her. I don’t care how much she weighs. I don’t care how much Melissa McCarthy weighs. She wants to be fat? Mark, she’s crying all the way to the bank.
When cowardly assholes want to defend their hatred of fat people, they throw down the health card. “It’s not about how repulsed I am by the fatness, it’s about health!” That’s MeMe Roth’s bread and butter: say outrageous shit about fatties, then claim it’s for our own good.
But Reed’s defense is patently absurd. First, was anyone threatening to revoke Reed’s First Amendment rights? And why is it that the most obnoxious idiots get freedom of speech so damned wrong? Yeah, Rex Reed can say whatever he wants about McCarthy’s weight, and in return we can tell him what a terrible human being he is. That’s how the First Amendment works.
Second, if Reed didn’t care how much Melissa McCarthy weighs, then why stress her weight four times? Oh, that’s right, you’re concerned about the health implications of being a female hippo.
Which brings me to the third point: REX REED IS OBESE.
In fact, Rex Reed looks like a fat Largo from Thunderball.
(Sidenote: Adolfo Celi also plays Beta in Operation Double 007, the guy who gets his back Flowbee’d.
So Rex Reed is basically a fat Bond villain, minus the eye patch.
My point is not to say that if Rex Reed were slim, that it would be okay for him to body shame anyone. It wouldn’t. But there is a special kind of irony at work here when the offender is himself a fatty. And who knows what other unhealthy habits (besides shoplifting) Rex Reed engages in. I mean, if we’re making assumptions about the lifestyles of others, I could just as easily turn the interrogation light on him. How’d you get so fat, Rex? Is it just a little hate-induced bloating?
But here’s the best part of Reed’s defense, IMHO: “I have helped people try to lose weight, and I don’t find this to be the subject of a lot of humor.”
Richard Roeper gets straight to the hole in this claim:
Has Reed employed such terms throughout his career to disparage John Belushi, John Candy, Chris Farley, Kevin James, John Goodman and dozens of other male actors who often used their size as comedic fodder?
But more interestingly, if Rex Reed has helped people try to lose weight, then why hasn’t he lost weight himself? I really don’t care myself, but it seems like if he’s concerned about the health of the world, it should start with himself, right?
You’re a sad, lonely man, Rex Reed. You have failed at pretty much everything you’ve tried your hand at, including your pathetic attempt at being the next Truman Capote back in the mid-80s. Your one success in life is being a professional asshole toward others who have actually succeeded. You do so with blind impotence, spewing jealous projections of your own inadequacies. I feel sorry for you because your obituary will say that you were a bitter, spiteful troll that nobody liked.
Because of that, his column wasn’t what really bothered me about the whole thing. If you’re a professional asshole, then fatties are easy targets. There is still the risk of backlash, but that’s why people like Reed talk shit, and then throw down the health card. Combine that with the First Amendment and you’ve got a Dickweed Forcefield!
The Rex Reeds of the world are inevitable. But what changes is how we respond to them.
And that’s what I think both encouraged and bothered me most about this incident. It wasn’t so much what Rex Reed wrote as it was the reaction to Reed’s column. Granted, it was heartening that so many people like Roeper called Reed out on his bullshit. The outpouring of support for Melissa McCarthy was a breath of fresh air.
But Reed’s column simply reflects the national attitude toward fat people. Reed’s inglorious attempt to capitalize on the fat panic is not simply the result of what an asshole he is. Rex Reed’s column encapsulates our collective failure to recognize that it is just as wrong to treat non-famous fat people the same way.
The only difference between Rex Reed’s outrageous review and the FLOTUS-approved cruelty on Biggest Loser is that America loves Melissa McCarthy. The cruelty on TBL is just as overt, just as hurtful, but because the insults are hurled in the name of “health,” it’s acceptable.
So if you’re fat, famous and funny, then America will defend you from bullies. But if you aren’t, then you’re fair game.
I’m glad people reacted to Rex Reed the way they did, and I hope this incident awakens more people to the ruthless nature of body shaming. But even more importantly, I hope people begin to realize that in our nation’s War on Fat, Rex Reed was only following orders.