The Whale backlash controversy

Here’s the controversy around Brendan Fraser and Sadie Sink’s new film The Whale explained

‘The Whale is unapologetically fatphobic, and deserves to be critiqued for that’

Last week, the trailer for The Whale – the new film by Darren Aronofsky that stars Brendan Fraser and Sadie Sink as a father and daughter duo – dropped, and with it came a resurgence of the backlash that has surrounded the film since its conception and continued when it debuted at film festivals. The Whale has seen Brendan Fraser revive has career and garner critical acclaim, with standing ovations being given  but the premise which sees him don a fat suit has not been well received by all – however good the intention and heart of the picture. Here’s all the backlash and controversy surrounded The Whale fully explained.

What is The Whale actually about?

The premise of the film is that Charlie, a reclusive English teacher living with severe obesity attempts to reconnect with his daughter for a last chance at redemption. Charlie’s a 600 pound gay man, and played by Brendan Fraser. The film is based on a play by Samuel D Hunter. In the play, Charlie’s called a “monster” by his daughter Ellie – the role Sadie Sink plays in the film.

The opening scene of the play shows Charlie almost dying from the effort it takes to masturbate to gay porn. When the play premiered, Vulture said of Charlie “”We recoil from his bulbous grunt, his sweat-stained pits, his rippling excesses.” There’s always been anti-fat energy around the source material – and some people feel this has continued into Darren Aronofsy.

What is the backlash?

A l0t of fat writers and creatives have condemned the film online over its use of the source material, and its decision to put Brendan Fraser in a fatsuit. Author Aubrey Gordon wrote the following about The Whale on Twitter: “There’s a lot of talk about judging a film before you’ve seen it, particularly amongst thin people. While it may feel important to reserve judgment, it’s perhaps more important not to put our heads in the sand. This is the source material: profoundly anti-fat from jump.

“The number of people who describe this premise as “humanising” is so disheartening. If the only way you can “humanise” a very fat person is to watch them humiliated, terrified, ashamed and killed off in a stereotypically stigmatising way, it’s time to do some serious reflecting.”

Another said “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 fuck.”

The use of the fat suit is widely controversial – Renée Zellweger and Sarah Paulson came under fire for wearing them of recent and they perpetuate the issue that Hollywood only casts a certain body type and that even these roles of fat characters aren’t going to fat actors.

Brendan Fraser addressed the backlash and controversy surrounding The Whale at London Film Festival, saying: “I’m not a small man — and I don’t know what the metric is to qualify to play the role. I only know that I had to give as honest a performance as I can.

“I’m hopeful that we can change some hearts and minds at least in terms of how we think and feel about those who live with obesity. 

“So often, those people are dismissed in our society, or the object of scorn and derision, and it’s unfair to them. I believe that shaming people for that reason is almost the last domain of prejudice that we overlook, and I think we can do better to change that.”

Darren Aronofsky addressed the backlash and controversy around The Whale in an interview with Variety, saying: ”

“There was a chapter in the making of this film where we tried to research actors with obesity. Outside of not being able to find an actor who could pull off the emotions of the role, it just becomes a crazy chase. Like, if you can’t find a 600-pound actor, is a 300-pound actor or 400-pound actor enough?”

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