Rebel Wilson graces the cover of Marie Claire U.K.’s July issue, and in the accompanying interview, she reveals a lot about her life — from crippling shyness as a child to her strict no-nudity policy — but it’s the latter that really stands out for us.
Filming for her new role in The Brothers Grimsby (she stars as the girlfriend of Norman Butcher, Sacha Baron Cohen’s character), Wilson said they wanted full-frontal nudity, something she stated in her contract that she would not do.
“They got in another girl — this larger burlesque dancer from South Africa — to be a nude double. And they got her to do all this stuff. Sacha would go, ‘See, she looks good.’ I’m like, I’m not doing it. I don’t care what you say,” said Wilson.
While we have complete respect for Wilson sticking to her guns and not going against what she feels is right (and what was previously agreed in her contract), a decision to film nude scenes could actually be more powerful than a decision not to, because there is very little representation of plus-size women in the acting world.
The fact that Hollywood lacks diversity is nothing new: You can probably count the number of plus-size actresses you know on two hands, and you could then probably count the number of plus-size actresses who have filmed nude scenes on just one hand. So in my opinion, Wilson should be filming nude scenes (if the role is right), without a body double, as this would send a powerful message about body confidence and acceptance. It would show the world that being bigger than a size 4 doesn’t mean your body is not worth showing off and loving.
According to The Mirror, a study from Durham University proved just how important representation is, finding that women who were habitually shown images of thin body shapes had an increased preference for thin bodies, whereas after being shown images of plus-size women, their preferences for slim frames was significantly less.
“This really shows the power of exposure to super-slim bodies,” said Dr. Lynda Boothroyd, the lead author of the research. “There is evidence that being constantly surrounded through the media by celebrities and models who are very thin contributes to girls and women having an unhealthy attitude to their bodies. Our findings certainly indicate that showing more ‘normal’ models could potentially reduce women’s obsession for thinness.”
Having only thin women put their nude bodies on full display creates unrealistic expectations and also sets a very narrow example for what is and isn’t beautiful and largely accepted by society. Over the past few years, the industry has made some changes for the better, with actresses like Melissa McCarthy, Rebel Wilson, Jennifer Hudson, Mo’Nique and Gabourey Sidibe joining the ranks of Queen Latifah, Kathy Bates, Octavia Spencer and Margo Martindale. So Hollywood is slowly adopting less-rigid standards of beauty, but we’re not there yet. In an industry where nudity is so commonplace, it seems odd, at best, that there isn’t better representation of women with fuller figures.
Having said that, the decision should largely depend on the type of scene being filmed, and it should definitely be a role for which getting nude is actually empowering and not just for comedic value. Wilson did hint to the fact that she could be persuaded to film nude if the role was right, telling Marie Claire, “You want to know that the people [behind the camera] have a certain sensibility and decency. And a lot of times in comedy they’re not those people.”
An actress should not have to portray a character whose weight plays a large part of the storyline. Instead, they should be able to play a serious role, one where their weight is irrelevant and not the punchline to a crass joke. Herein lies the second issue: Are plus-size actresses getting the roles they really deserve, or are they being typecast into certain roles? Even the label “plus size” is an issue, because it suggests that it’s not normal, something which already makes women question if their bodies are good enough to be accepted by society.
An article in The Wall Street Journal previously detailed the problem with so many roles: The actresses’ size cannot go unnoticed. Wilson herself starred as Pitch Perfect‘s Fat Amy, and when she was Becky in 2012’s Bachelorette, for the first half of the movie, her size was, once again, a major storyline — and she is not the only plus-size actress who has found herself in this situation.
The world needs more plus-size representation, and we all need to realize now, rather than later, that there is more than one body shape that can be considered beautiful. You should embrace who you are, regardless of your size — naked or with clothes on.