Brendan Fraser Responds To Backlash Over Wearing Fat Suit In ‘The Whale’

Fraser’s fans have been torn over rooting for his comeback and being concerned about the fatphobic messaging in his upcoming film.
Brendan Fraser attends "The Whale" U.K. premiere during the 66th BFI London Film Festival on Tuesday.
Brendan Fraser attends "The Whale" U.K. premiere during the 66th BFI London Film Festival on Tuesday.
John Phillips via Getty Images

Brendan Fraser says he hopes that his controversial comeback role will “change” the way society perceives and treats fat people amid mounting criticism.

Fraser will star in Darren Aronofsky’s upcoming film “The Whale,” which will hit theaters in December. Fraser plays Charlie, a 600-pound gay man who is trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter while grieving the loss of a lover.

Fraser also wears a fat suit in the movie — a practice that Hollywood has historically used to stigmatize people with larger bodies.

The act — along with its connotations that being fat is a joke, disgusting or a personal failing — has also made it more difficult for plus-sized actors to get roles.

“I’m not a small man,” Fraser told Newsweek when he was asked about criticism surrounding his fat suit at the BFI London Film Festival this week. “And I don’t know what the metric is to qualify to play the role. I only know that I had to give as honest a performance as I can.”

Fraser also expressed to Newsweek that he hopes his turn as Charlie will help shatter stereotypes.

“I’m hopeful that we can change some hearts and minds at least in terms of how we think and feel about those who live with obesity,” he said.

“So often, those people are dismissed in our society, or the object of scorn and derision, and it’s unfair to them. I believe that shaming people for that reason is almost the last domain of prejudice that we overlook, and I think we can do better to change that. So I hope that this film might change some hearts and minds.”

Although critics who have seen the film agree that Fraser’s performance in “The Whale” is the highlight of the movie, others have expressed concern over how director Aronofsky portrays fat people.

This has resulted in many expressing conflicting feelings about “The Whale” being billed as Fraser’s big comeback role.

Sarah Marrs of Lainey Gossip said in her review of “The Whale” that although “Fraser makes his performance not about Charlie’s body but about Charlie’s regrets,” Aronofsky seems to view the character differently.

Marrs wrote that Aronofsky is “cinematically occupied with the limits and grotesqueries of the human body, [and] DOES make the film about Charlie’s body.” Marrs noted that the movie’s score “swells” whenever it’s focused on Charlie’s physicality, and that the sounds of the character eating are amplified “rendering a biological necessity disgusting in context of a fat person doing it.”

Marrs wrote that Aronofsky makes “a spectacle of the big man binging, which in turn degrades Charlie and gives the audience permission to, say, laugh at a scene in which Charlie cannot bend enough to reach something he’s dropped.”

“The audience’s laughter and often audible revulsion are results of Aronofsky’s choices, which do not extend compassion to a man caught in an emotional maelstrom but turns obesity into a sideshow,” she continued.

Katie Rife, a film critic who reviewed “The Whale” for Polygon, slammed the films’ fatphobic messaging on Twitter after watching it at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Rife also warned in her spoiler-heavy Twitter thread that people who have experienced disordered eating may find “it incredibly triggering.”

Meanwhile, Aronofsky told Newsweek that a lot of the negative chatter around the film are from those that “have not seen the film.”

“So I welcome everyone to see the film because the film is about bringing empathy to characters that you don’t expect to feel for,” he said.

In regards to Fraser wearing a fat suit, Aronofsky told the outlet that it was a necessity.

“There’s no way you can cast someone to play this job, so we had to use makeup to get there,” he said.

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