Why negotiating a ‘jobbymoon’ before you start your new job is actually a great idea
Why negotiating a ‘jobbymoon’ before you start your new job is actually a great idea

Erin Lindsay

Skin Proud is Glossier’s new 100% vegan and cruelty-free competitor
Skin Proud is Glossier’s new 100% vegan and cruelty-free competitor

Sarah Finnan

The dos and don’ts of supporting someone who might be suicidal
The dos and don’ts of supporting someone who might be suicidal

Erin Lindsay

‘You’re suddenly painfully aware of the fragility of all that is being asked of you as a mother’
‘You’re suddenly painfully aware of the fragility of all that is being asked of you...

Amanda Cassidy

What you need to know about Olivia Rodrigo and that plagiarism backlash
What you need to know about Olivia Rodrigo and that plagiarism backlash

Jennifer McShane

One of our readers’ favourite Irish homes from ‘IMAGE interiors’ is now on the market
One of our readers’ favourite Irish homes from ‘IMAGE interiors’ is now on the market

Lauren Heskin

Naomi Osaka has just launched her own skin care brand, specifically for people of colour
Naomi Osaka has just launched her own skin care brand, specifically for people of colour

Sarah Finnan

We love the warm tones and sculptural details of this Sandymount extension
We love the warm tones and sculptural details of this Sandymount extension

Megan Burns

Women’s education bursary set up in memory of the late Marian Finucane
Women’s education bursary set up in memory of the late Marian Finucane

Sarah Finnan

What to do when your career goes to plan but you’re still not happy
What to do when your career goes to plan but you’re still not happy

Colette Sexton

Image / Living / Culture

Gaining weight for a part is good but wearing a ‘fat suit’ is bad? Unpacking the Sarah Paulson backlash


by Sarah Finnan
30th Aug 2021

Run movie

blank

Prosthetics are ok but fat suits aren't: the latest controversy surrounding Sarah Paulson's casting as Linda Tripp begs the question of where exactly Hollywood draws the line on such matters.

The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal has been drawn back into the limelight recently thanks to the latest instalment of Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story. 

One of the most infamous improprieties of the late 1990s, there’s been plenty of renewed interest in the story but while most eyes have been on the season lead Beanie Feldstein (she’ll play Monica Lewinsky herself), it’s Sarah Paulson that has found herself in the bad books. 

Cast as Linda Tripp, a civil servant who secretly recorded phone calls between Clinton and Lewinsky at the time, she was a key component in The Starr Report that led to the then president’s impeachment. As is often the case with movies/programmes based on real people though, Sarah Paulson looks vastly different to Linda Tripp and so the actress had to undergo a dramatic physical transformation for the role. 

The controversy

Morphing into the character by way of a blonde wig, a prosthetic nose and false teeth, Paulson also gained 30 pounds for the role – completing the look courtesy of 4.5 pounds of additional padding. The decision to wear a “fat suit” did not sit well with some viewers though, many of whom pointed to Hollywood’s long history of fatphobia as the reason behind their anger. 

Later addressing the backlash in a subsequent interview with The Los Angeles Times, the American Horror Story star said, “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. I think fatphobia is real. I think to pretend otherwise causes further harm.”

Acknowledging that the controversy is warranted in one breath, but trying to rid herself of blame in the next, Paulson admitted that she doesn’t think the onus lies completely with the actor in such a situation. “That entire responsibility, I don’t think, falls on the actor for choosing to do something that is arguably – and I’m talking about from the inside out – the challenge of a lifetime. I do think to imagine that the only thing any actor called upon to play this part would have to offer is their physical self is a real reduction of the offering the actor has to make. I would like to believe that there is something in my being that makes me right to play this part.

“Was I supposed to say no [to the part]? This is the question,” she pondered. Noting her own privilege in being able to reflect on the experience after having “already gotten to do it and having had an opportunity that someone else didn’t have”, she finished by saying, “Should I have known? Abso-f*cking-lutely. But I do now. And I wouldn’t make the same choice going forward.”

Her comments seem to have had the opposite effect than intended though, and much of the public has only been further agitated by her sort of blasé response. Hiring a fat actor to play the role would have been the obvious solution – it’s “the challenge of a lifetime”, by Paulson’s own description so no doubt there would have been a queue of hopefuls more than happy to step up to the plate. 

Going method

Let’s stick with Paulson as Tripp for a minute though. As previously mentioned, she already put on 30 pounds for the role… what if she had gained just 4.5 pounds more and no additional padding was needed, would there have been such a backlash to her casting in that case? Actors are often lauded for the extreme efforts they go to for their art but unhealthy habits are fostered in the name of authenticity. Strict filming schedules mean that celebrities employ dangerous tactics to speed the transformation process up, with that then feeding into diet culture and the toxic ideology surrounding how men and women are “supposed” to look. 

Christian Bale lost 63 pounds in four months for his role in The Machinist. Matthew McConaughey shed 50 pounds for Dallas Buyers Club, eating fish, tapioca pudding and “as much wine” as he wanted to drink. Beyoncé dropped 20 pounds on a juice cleanse for Dreamgirls. Reneé Zellweger put on 30 pounds to play Bridget Jones. The list goes on. It’s notable too that Christian Bale and Matthew McConaughey’s performances were lauded for their dedication and “method acting”, while Beyoncé was lauded for her new physique and too much was said of Zellweger’s weight. It’s always about the appearance of their bodies rather than their commitment to the role.  Leo DeCaprio won an Oscar for basically filming his own Bear Grylls film, living as an 19th-century trapper so he could act as a 19th-century trapper. 

Each of the above transformations has been talked about over and over and over again, but are such drastic measures really necessary? “Suffering” should not be synonymous with “success”. Young people are brought up seeing more emphasis placed on entertainment value and authenticity than health and therein lies the problem.

If ensuring the onscreen Linda Tripp looked the part was so critical to the show, then an actress who more closely resembled her physically should have been cast. Not only would this have saved Paulson having to change her body for a temporary part, but practically speaking, it would have saved the costume department a whole lot of time and money too.

Hollywood is an industry obsessed with authenticity but not with equality though and hiring a fat actor, despite being the most authentic option, probably was never really a valid option at all. 

Also Read

blank
PROPERTY
This Victorian home in Killiney with sea views is on the market for €2.5 million

With seven bedrooms, a garden spanning around an acre and period features, there’s plenty to admire about this home.

By Megan Burns

Rathgar home for sale
PROPERTY
This Rathgar home with stone coach house is on the market for €1.75 million

As well as the spacious main house, the coach house provides an additional space for an office, workshop, or potentially additional accommodation.

By Megan Burns

Spice Girls
CULTURE
The Spice Girls are releasing a previously unheard track for their 25th anniversary

The limited-edition vinyl will include three versions of the song “Wannabe” along with a previously unreleased Spice Girls track. The...

By Sarah Finnan

blank
FOOD & DRINK
Recipe: aubergine & onion dip with pitta crisps

This rich and earthy dip is very similar to the popular Middle Eastern dish baba ganoush. Roasted Aubergine and Red...

By Meg Walker

Japanese Garden outdoor weddign venue
TRAVEL
Looking for an outdoor wedding venue? This Japanese Garden in Co Waterford might be it

Located down in Tramore, Co Waterford, this Japanese garden is one of the most breathtaking outdoor wedding venue the country...

By Sarah Finnan

Paralympics
CULTURE
When the Irish Paralympic team are competing and how to watch them

The Paralympics kicked off over in Tokyo yesterday, with competition set to run until September 5. Originally scheduled to take...

By Sarah Finnan

caesar salad
FOOD & DRINK
What to eat tonight: Grilled Caesar salad with chickpea croutons

So simple and so utterly delicious, this grilled salad is the perfect summer supper.As your friend, I am telling you...

By Meg Walker