Renée Zellweger is transforming her appearance for her newest TV role, and already the look is drawing controversy.
Earlier this week, the Oscar-winner was spotted in New Orleans while filming the upcoming NBC limited series The Thing About Pam. In the show, Zellweger plays convicted murderer Pam Hupp, who is currently serving a life sentence for killing Louis Gumpenberger.
In order to look like Hupp, the 52-year-old actor is apparently wearing facial prosthetics and a fat suit.
In the shots, Zellweger is wearing jeans and a winter jacket, and is sipping on a pop while walking down the street. Some photogs also snapped shots of a costume designer or assistant holding the suit in question while filming.
Already, the decision to wear the suit is coming under fire from some online, as people wonder why the casting directors didn’t just find an actual plus-sized actor to play the part. To many, seeing actors continually put on these kinds of suits is damaging and fatphobic, not to mention triggering.
“A fat suit has always been a way of mocking fat people no matter who wears it, even if it is for an acting role,” plus-sized writer Sarah Alexander told Metro. “It seems like she has not considered the effects this will have on fat people, and is unaware and/or naive that she is adding to the stigma fat people already face on a daily basis.”
This isn’t the first time Zellweger has used body prosthetics to make herself appear larger than her actual size for a role. After yo-yo dieting for the first two Bridget Jones films, the actor refused to put on weight to play the character for the third installment, saying at the time it was hard to lose the weight afterwards and that the fluctuations gave her anxiety.
It should be noted also that Zellweger's own body and looks have been a talking point since she entered the spotlight -- something that is was, and still is, totally inappropriate. In 2019, she addressed how conversations and speculation about whether she had plastic surgery were "sexist" and "perpetuating the problem" of Hollywood's denigration of aging women.
And even before people were speculating about Zellweger's face, they were talking about her body and how her weight fluctuated during the time she played Bridget Jones. In 2016, she explained "Bridget is a perfectly normal weight and I've never understood why it matters so much," adding, "No male actor would get such scrutiny if he did the same thing for a role."
Zellweger isn’t even the first actor this year to come under fire for wearing a fat suit. Recently, Sarah Paulson apologized for her decision to wear one for her role as Linda Tripp in Impeachment: American Crime Story after saying she wouldn’t.
“It’s very hard for me to talk about this without feeling like I’m making excuses. There’s a lot of controversy around actors and fat suits, and I think that controversy is a legitimate one,” Paulson told the Los Angeles Times. “I think fatphobia is real. I think to pretend otherwise causes further harm.”
Other actors who have come under fire for wearing fat suits include Gwyneth Paltrow in Shallow Hal and Courteney Cox in the problematic “Fat Monica” flashbacks on Friends. It’s not a woman-specific problem either, with actors like Jared Leto in House of Gucci and Chris Sullivan on This Is Us also being criticized for wearing them.
“When actors wear fat suits for roles, they often stress in interviews that these suits reflect their dedication to a role and to cinematic realism,” wrote Hazel Cills this past summer in a think piece for Jezebel. “Fat obscures the actor’s real form and face, the implication is that they are erasing their identity as a name-brand actor for the greater good of the project,” she continued.
“But instead of truly disguising a celebrity for an immersive role, the fat suit becomes a spectacle that only draws attention to how thin the star really is, upholding the harsh dichotomy between what bodies are acceptable for actors in Hollywood and what bodies are acceptable only as a costume.”
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