Back in February, New York Observer film critic Rex Reed caused a stir when he called Melissa McCarthy “tractor-sized” and a “female hippo” in his review of Identity Thief. Earlier this month, McCarthy finally responded, expressing alarm that Reed’s editor allowed these attacks to appear in print. She also voiced pity for “someone who is swimming in so much hate.” Having made his name on largely irrational opinions—seriously, read some of his reviews—intended to ruffle feathers, rather than express any real truth, Reed didn’t take much notice of the outrage over his Identity Thief review. A born troll, he lives to exasperate and, in that regard, the McCarthy controversy was one of his greatest triumphs.
Four months later, US Weekly has given the critic an opportunity to repent for his hurtful words. Given all that time to reflect on the pain he caused McCarthy and others like her… he has not changed his opinion one bit. “As a critic whose opinions are constitutionally protected by law, I stand by all of my original remarks about Melissa McCarthy’s obesity, which I consider about as amusing as cancer, and apologize for nothing,” he wrote in an email to the magazine. “What I object to is the disgusting attempt to pretend obesity is funny. It is not remotely humorous, and every obese comedian who ever made jokes about the disease are now dead from strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.”
Reed’s earlier references to tractors and hippos didn’t really capture the full breadth of his perspective, but his latest rant is no less misguided. While he seems to believe that overweight actors should only play tragic victims lying on their deathbeds, McCarthy herself makes it clear that people her size are perfectly capable of being active, productive, and yes, funny. The idea that this humour is somehow tainted by future health concerns says more about Reed’s own health-based anxieties than McCarthy’s acting abilities. Identity Thief has major problems, but as is usually the case with Reed, he has completely misdiagnosed them.