Why Melissa McCarthy Is Our New Body Image Role Model

She's stealing the show and our hearts in Bridesmaids

The movie Bridesmaids made $24 million at the box office last weekend, exceeding expectations for a female comedy -- especially one without any proven box office stars. (Here's why, if you haven't seen it yet, you really need to get on that for the good of chick flicks everywhere.) Between Kristen Wiig, a Wilson Phillips cameo and Jon Hamm as a skeezy sex buddy, it's pretty hilarious all around. But if you ask me, the film's true star is Melissa McCarthy.

Full disclosure: I've loved Melissa since she played Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls. What's great about her part in Bridesmaids is that it's a total departure from sweet Sookie and her current turn as giggly Molly of Mike & Molly fame. Instead, Melissa plays bridesmaid and groom's sister Megan, who wears hiking sandals and a carpal tunnel wristband, pushes a Fight Club-themed bridal shower and steals puppies for no apparent reason.

When the trailer aired back in February, Jessica Grose of DoubleX worried that Megan-the-heavy-bridesmaid would be the butt of every joke, and I admit, I walked into the movie theater with the same apprehension. However, I found that fear to be refreshingly groundless. As Melissa told EW last week: "I thought Megan was the most well-adjusted [...] Whoever is saying she was the mess-up or the this or that, I don’t know what movie you were watching. That’s their own perception just because I didn’t look a certain way. Well, not everyone who’s successful and has a happy life looks one way. Being happy has nothing to do with how you look, or whether you wear weird pants or athletic sandals [...]"

In fact, (spoiler alert!) Megan turns out to be the heart of the movie. She's able to get Kristen Wiig out of her downward spiral when everyone else fails, including the film's white knight, Chris O'Dowd. And the only joke that hints at size-ism actually flips it smartly on its head: When the other bridesmaids worry about feeling fat and bloated before trying on dresses, Megan doesn't blink. "Physically, I don't bloat," she shrugs. "It's a gift." The smaller women around her are left speechless in the face of such total body confidence.

We live in a culture drowning in weight bias and nobody knows that better than Melissa, who was caught in the cross-hairs last fall when MarieClaire.com blogger Maura Kelly opined that Mike and Molly should "get a room." So I love that Melissa has scored the ultimate comeback with this delightful performance. (If Kelly was too grossed out to watch Mike and Molly kiss, she better skip the final take of Bridesmaids, where Megan and McCarthy's real-life husband Ben Falcone make a hilarious sex tape.)    

So, dear Hollywood: Make more movies with complex, quirky female characters. And get Melissa McCarthy to play them. Pretty please!

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