Nasty Body Slams

Weighty criticism of Melissa McCarthy, Adele and even Chris Christie expose their detractors as the biggest losers.

Adele took home her ninth Grammy Sunday night, overshadowing fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld's recent declaration that she's "a little too fat." Melissa McCarthy's No. 1 box office showing in "Identity Thief" this past weekend to the tune of $34.6 million, meanwhile, offered her sweet revenge on critics – none so more than Rex Reed, whose pan derided the comic actress as a "female hippo."

The nasty body slams represent a form of attempted identity theft – efforts to define the two top performers by their weight rather than by the size of their talent. The comments underscore the celebrity world’s unnatural obsession with appearance – especially during an awards season in which more attention seems at times paid to designer outfits than accomplishments. The remarks also highlight the disconnect between the entertainment industry and ordinary folks of all sizes.

As Adele told People in responding to Lagerfeld: “I represent the majority of women and I'm very proud of that.”

The McCarthy and Adele flaps surfaced amid the related, but more complicated case of portly New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who last week poked fun at himself on “Late Show With David Letterman” by eating a doughnut mid-interview. Just two days later, he said former White House physician Connie Mariano should “shut up” after she told CNN Christie might die in office if elected president at his current weight.

Politics and comedy can be cruel games, especially when played together. As we saw with the Letterman appearance, Christie accepts that he’s fair game for comics – but he clearly draws the line when it comes to more serious doubts about his stamina. Christie, whatever you think of his politics, appeared to show remarkable endurance during the worst of the Hurricane Sandy crisis. He’s said his doctor gave him a good bill of health, but wants him to lose weight.

Whether Christie’s girth is a factor in his ability to govern is for voters to weigh, among other factors. But a dire pronouncement from a physician who hasn’t examined him borders on a cheap shot.

There’s no denying the weight crisis in this country, with more than one-third of adults and 17 percent of children classified as obese, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. First Lady Michelle Obama’s three-year-old “Let’s Move!” campaign targeting childhood obesity with exercise and healthful foods appears to recognize that healthy comes in different body types, particularly in a country where the average dress size is 14. The effort’s positive, step-by-step approach also seems a better weight-loss motivator than humiliation and public condemnation.

The once-famous Reed, whose comments earned him his most notice in years, reportedly defended himself – saying he was talking about McCarthy’s movie character and suggesting his review in The New York Observer was being blown out of proportion to sell tickets. Lagerfeld offered an apology of sorts to Adele, citing his own past weight struggles.

But McCarthy and Adele don’t seem to be sweating the criticism amid apparently good health and good, hard-earned fortune. Their triumphs ultimately expose their critics as the biggest losers.

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.
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