In Space, No One Can Hear Your Thighs Rub Together
For actors with high BMIs, space really is the final frontier.
by Yvonne M. Jones for Yvie Rocks
This fall, two eagerly anticipated sci-fi movies will hit the big screen hoping to snag your attention before you settle in to inhale Scandal‘s third season or slip into the cosplay costume you handstitched in anticipation of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Excited yet? Because as Saturday Night Live‘s tweaked out club kid and city correspondent Stefon would say, these movies have everything: Bounty hunters, alien predators, Necromongers, depressed astronauts, casting agents still trying to make Bokeem Woodbine happen.
The one thing they don’t have, that few sci-fi films set in space have? Plump people. Even though in space, no one can hear your thighs rub together.
Yes, a faux fat woman revealed her inner Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original Total Recall. And the late John Candy did–Well, who knows what he was doing in the Mel Brooks comedy Spaceballs. But they’re the (marginal) plus-sized space characters that prove the rule.
Sorry, extraterrestrials don’t quite count. Outsized playa aliens like Jabba the Hut may love it when you call them Big Poppa, but good luck seeing Seth Rogen smile ruefully at his paunch before going on a spacewalk or watching Gabourey Sidibe fight to squeeze into the sleek footie pajamas these futuristic films call clothing.
The makers of films like Ender’s Game, Elysium, Europa Report, Oblivion, Pacific Rim, and Star Trek Into Darkness populated their worlds with slim-hipped characters who’ve never sighed over their muffins top while on drone repair duty or prayed their thunder thighs wouldn’t prevent them from squeezing into a decommissioned space station.
Where did all the fatties go? Do the pounds simply fly off once we exit earth’s atmosphere? You’d think chubby earthlings would be flocking to deep space, eager to live in a world where diminished gravity makes them weightless, able to execute their best Tom Cruise run without placing excess strain on their knees or boobs.
Sci-fi films set on earth have a better track record of featuring bigger folks onscreen. And fantasy, sci-fi’s kissing cousin, has embraced a wider array of body types from The Wizard of Oz days to the more contemporary Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. But when it comes to space, filmmakers still aren’t making room for heftier homo sapiens, even in films like The Matrix and Avatar where so many human characters remain all but immobile as they manipulate their virtual stand-ins. Apparently the filmmakers share a similar body aesthetic with online daters, club bouncers, and Project Runway designers: No fatties, please. We’re intergalactic.
Is it the clothing? Could filmmakers be repelled by the thought of sticking, say, Paul Giamatti or Melissa McCarthy in clingy onesies that bare every curve and jiggle?
If so, that would mean that filmmakers who’ve spent years and billions of dollars to create multilayered, big screen adventures set in other galaxies and space-time continuums are flummoxed at the thought of a main character who might need to wear Space Spanx.
Maybe it’s not just filmmakers but audiences too. Who’s to say that many of us, even us sympathetic chubsters, wouldn’t be nonplussed by watching actors whose bodies weren’t crafted by a Beverly Hills-based personal trainer sprint, jump, fight, and schtup in space?
I get it. I admire washboard abs and chiseled biceps as much as the next gal. And I’d be startled to see the latest iteration of Superman, actor Henry Cavill, battling love handles and kryptonite back on his home planet.
But if generously proportioned actors like Kathy Bates, Jack Black, Vincent D’Onofrio, Laurence Fishburne, Jonah Hill, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spencer, Wendell Pierce, and Rebel Wilson can tear it up in films set on earth, I’m fairly confident they can hold it down in space, even in films that call for lots of action. In fact, there’s ample evidence these actors are capable of a high level of physicality almost unknown to a new wave of waifish thespians who rely primarily upon their hair to evince emotion.
Fat, not orange, may be the new black. For decades it was a running joke among black, Asian, and Latino moviegoers that sci-fi films seemed suspiciously certain the future was a Caucasian one. It’s better today. But often when non-whites pop up in a space flick’s ensemble cast, we’re like the Highlander–There can only be one.
So far, plus-sized actors haven’t even reached token status in these films. When it comes to major roles for actors with high BMIs, space really is the final frontier.
But no tokenism or stunt casting, please. I don’t need to see, say, Retta, Jim Gaffigan, and Rebel Wilson headlining a big screen reboot of Lost in Space. No one does. But when so many of us, even the technically skinny ones, are packing a few extra pounds here on earth these days, filmmakers should remember to think big when crafting those interplanetary tomorrows.