Amy Schumer Feels Pretty Because She Is*.

amy schumer i feel pretty

*The following contains mild spoilers for the film I Feel Pretty.

Amy Schumer is known for her scathing comedy sketches about campus rape, gendered violence in video games and ageing in Hollywood. Two sketches from her comedy show Inside Amy Schumer, one about the sexism of the One Direction anthem “You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful”, the other castigating women who put themselves down, are particularly inextricable from Schumer’s public persona and the scathing cultural criticism that made her famous.

Amy Schumer is also known in Hollywood for two major movies that fly in the face of the expectations of women she skewered as a sketch comedian. Her big screen breakout, 2015’s Trainwreck, followed the natural rom-com story arc of the love of an honest man putting an end to the hard-partying, commitment-phobic ways of Schumer’s protagonist. Her most recent feature film, I Feel Pretty, premiering this week, focuses on the apparent ugliness of Schumer’s character, Renee, and the brain injury that results in self-confidence. In the stereotypical grand gesture scene, Renee goes to her boyfriend Ethan’s apartment for the first time since awaking from her confidence coma and dumping him, because how could a schlubby guy love someone as conventionally attractive as Schumer. When Renee realises Ethan can see her picking her nose through the video intercom at his apartment building, he reassures her, saying “I’ve always seen you.” And voila, she’s cured of of her bad body image and low self-worth, just as One Direction prophecised!

Women who look like Amy Schumer suffer from low self-esteem and body dysmorphia in droves, and those are completely valid concerns that are worth exploring. What I would have liked to see even more is someone with physical attributes that society doesn’t deem attractive navigating the world.

Where’s the heavily marketed blockbuster about fatness, or colourism, or disability, or transness by people who experience these things? I would love to see an adaptation of Roxane Gay’s memoir Hunger, about her struggles with her body stemming from sexual assault, on the big screen, as I would Gabourey Sidebe’s memoir This is Just My Face. Why has Lupita Nyong’o seldom been in anything other than Black Panther since her Oscar-winning role in 12 Years a Slave? I’m sure she and other dark skinned actresses would have a wealth of knowledge to bring to roles about “normal” women, but apparently only slightly chubby white women who can still rock a miniskirt like Schumer fit into that rigid category. Why not a movie starring Liz Carr, a disability rights activist and wheelchair user who acts on the British crime series Silent Witness? Or a big screen adaptation of the SBS On Demand series Homecoming Queens, created by Michelle Law and Chloe Reeson, about their alopecia and cancer diagnoses, respectively. How about a movie by and about Lizzie Velasquez, whose congenital disease preventing her from gaining weight would be quite the spin on Schumer’s schtick.

Transgender author and media personality Janet Mock wrote last year about the pretty privilege that comes with “passing” as a cisgender woman. “People who are considered pretty are more likely to be hired, have higher salaries, and are less likely to be found guilty and are sentenced less harshly.” As Renee takes a demotion from the web team for makeup company Lily LeClaire to work in a lower-paying role as an administration assistant because she suddenly feels presentable enough to work in a front-of-house position, it would seem, as a white, blonde, able-bodied, cisgender woman, she’s already benefiting from the pretty privilege Mock writes about. “Pretty privilege is also conditional and is not often extended to women who are trans, black and brown, disabled, older, and/or fat,” she continues. Transparent actress Trace Lysette also spoke about her previous preoccupation with heteronormative beauty standards on a recent podcast, and how not being “clocked” as trans protected her from becoming one of the disproportionate trans women murdered in her country. Now those are stories far more valuable than watching Amy Schumer realise she was pretty all along.

Given Schumer’s history of cultural appropriation and racism, it’s not surprising that she thinks her experience is paramount to all of the people whose experiences she’s used as a joke and to further her agenda. Schumer has come under fire multiple times for her racist stand up jokes and tweets. Even when she doesn’t explicitly intend to “play with race”, as she called it in her defence, she still manages to chafe, as with her interpretation of Beyonce’s black women empowerment anthem “Formation” with Goldie Hawn for their movie Mother/Daughter. Schumer’s retort to that came in the form of a near-nude Instagram photo, further evidence that I Feel Pretty is disingenuous.

“It’s unbecoming to acknowledge your attractiveness, so it creates a silence around pretty privilege that only elevates the competitiveness and divisiveness between women who are told we must compare, compete, and measure up in a lookist culture,” writes Mock, in a far more eloquent and considered examination of this phenomenon than I Feel Pretty is and, indeed, hearkens back to Schumer’s earlier work, the Inside Amy Schumer sketch “Compliments”.

The creative license Schumer was given in a Hollywood blockbuster such as I Feel Pretty obviously differs drastically from her cable sketch show with far lower stakes, allowing her to explore body image with more nuance. Unfortunately, this results in a short-sighted message of empowerment for women who look like Schumer: she can “feel pretty” because she is pretty by traditional metrics.

Related: Thanks for Telling Me What Makes Me Beautiful, ‘Cause I Just Wasn’t Sure.

Elsewhere: [Facebook] Inside Amy Schumer: Football Town Nights.

[Critical Commons] Inside Amy Schumer: Military Video Game & Victim Blaming.

[YouTube] Comedy Central UK: Last Fuckable Day.

[Comedy Central] Girl, You Don’t Need Makeup.

[Vimeo] Compliments.

[Allure] Being Pretty is a Privilege, But We Refuse to Acknowledge It.

[The Cut] Transparent Actress Trace Lysette on Her Online Presence.

[WaPo] Don’t Believe Her Defenders. Amy Schumer’s Jokes Are Racist.

[Digital Spy] Amy Schumer Slammed After Offensive & Racist Joke Tweet About Asians From Years Ago Resurfaces.

[The Washington Times] Amy Schumer Called Racist, Accused of Cultural Appropriation in Parody of Beyonce’s “Formation”.

[Instagram] Amy Schumer.

Image via Cinefilos Anonimos.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Madame Tussauds re-appoints tissue attendant to deal with teary One Direction fans, London, Britain - 31 Mar 2015

The strange world of One Direction conspiracy theories. [Slate]

Clementine Ford on the lax parole conditions that saw Adrian Bayley free to rape and murder Jill Meagher two and a half years ago:

“The gut-wrenching irony is that Bayley was able to rape and murder the kind of woman our community values most because justice wasn’t pursued for the crimes he committed against the women that same community values least.” [The Age]

Periods aren’t a divine gift from the reproductive gods but a bodily function that we shouldn’t be ashamed of. I love this. As someone who’s been on birth control for over ten years primarily because it controls the intensity and frequency of my periods (I don’t have unprotected sex often enough to use it for that purpose) and who doesn’t want biological children, I thank Clem Bastow for giving me what feels like permission to view my period as a inconvenience that comes around every few months, costing me money. Sometimes this ideology can make me feel alienated from a feminism that celebrates periods. The recent Instagram furor that inspired this story doesn’t so much celebrate periods as position them as a fact of life that sometimes stains your sheets and underwear. More on this to come. [Daily Life]

Why Rachel Hills writes about sex. [Musings of an Inappropriate Woman]

Can you be a feminist and want to be beautiful? I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately, too. [Spook Magazine]

ICYMI: Why are women (and men) who haven’t had romantic success presumed gay?

Image via Yahoo!

On the (Rest of the) Net.

One Direction and performing straight-queer masculinity. [Daily Life]

Why India is the worst country in which to be a woman. [Daily Life] 

FOMO (fear of missing out) on YOLO (you only live once). I can totally relate to Mia’s predicament: at the moment I’m kind of experiencing a guilt or anxiety about not getting out and being social enough and doing things, but at the same time, as Mia writes, no matter how much you want to want to do something, you can’t force yourself to want to do it. So I’m taking solace in that fact. [MamaMia] 

I’ve been in two minds about the show in recent episodes, but looking back, I’m sad to see Don’t Trust the Bitch in Apartment 23 go. [Jezebel] 

We need to talk to our partners about porn. [Jezebel] 

Gala Darling has some fab tips for getting inspired and your time organised as a blogger. For those of you who visit this site regularly, you’ll have noticed that I’ve been pretty slack with content over the past couple of months, and that’s because I’ve been so uninspired. Now, as I start to get back into the swing of things and I’ve made a concerted effort to get inspired and start thinking of blog and freelance ideas, I think The Scarlett Woman will start looking more like the blog you know and (hopefully!) love. Thanks, Gala!

One Direction: Thanks for Telling Me What Makes Me Beautiful, ’Cause I Just Wasn’t Sure.

“What Makes You Beautiful” is probably one of the catchier songs of the year, but for one that’s geared almost primarily to tweens and teens, it sends a troubling message.

Sure, “What Makes You Beautiful” is all about self-acceptance and loving the way you look despite not being a supermodel on the outside, but it’s pure men-policing-women’s-bodies on the inside.

I like to light up someone’s world like nobody else, but I like to do it because I know I’m awesome, not because you think me staring at the ground means I don’t know I’m beautiful and you must inform me immediately. I’m probably looking at the ground because assholes like you insist on making comments about just how beautiful or non-beautiful you find me.

What happened to the notion that men find confident women sexy? And yes, One Direction are far from being men and their audience is teens and tweens, not confident, sexy women (although this would attest otherwise), so they’re playing into their insecure girls in need of a saviour fanbase well.

Modesty is all well and good, but remember that saying, “no one will love you til you love yourself”? One Direction fans need not apply.

Call me crazy, but I would imagine people who don’t find themselves attractive and don’t want to draw attention to themselves won’t flip their hair, certainly not to get you overwhelmed. But the nature of the self-entitled “nice guy” who needs to let you know you’re beautiful despite yourself is that they think women are there for them to consume, regardless of whether they want to be.

No one likes an insecure droll in need of validation regardless of their gender, but the fact that One Direction (okay, they’re robots; the music masterminds behind One Direction) needs to tell you you’re beautiful without any regard for what you think and feel about this and, furthermore, that a song all about what men think of women has permeated so far into the zeitgeist that everyone thinks it’s about empowerment and the beauty of all women is telling: apparently, women still need the patriarchy to tell them what their worth is. And guess what? It’s based on how you look.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Ultimate “Nice Guy” Suspended from School for Giving Letter on Inner Beauty to Female Classmates.

[MamaMia] Confessions of an Immature Adult.

Image via Feed Limmy.

TV: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “Prom-asaurus” Episode.

 

Three episodes before the end of the season, the issue of Brittany’s class presidency is finally addressed, because she the show seems to have forgotten she was elected earlier in the season. Brittany addresses this herself, when she says she’s been a bit out of the loop this year, and “even stopped speaking” for a period.

In her first prom committee meeting, for which the board has sent Brittany ten prior memos, she fires the team and monopolises the choosing of the theme (she did like the unicorns featured in the diorama for the original Castle in the Sky theme): dinosaurs.

When explaining her choices to New Directions, she compares her presidency to the corrupt nature of the U.S. government, and is determined hers won’t turn out that way. She also imposes a ban on hair gel, sending Blaine into meltdown!

Last year, Kurt was humiliatingly crowned prom queen, a memory he still struggles with in this episode. It seems Glee has learned nothing from the tokenisation of gay people as somehow not being of the gender they identify as, as Brittany is nominated as prom king. Maybe it’s that undercut that had people confused…

Also troublingly, the show pitted the two “disabled” girls, Becky and Quinn, against each other. Becky was sure she’d get a nomination as prom queen, but when Quinn gets one in place of her, Coach Sylvester tells her there’s only room for one “sympathy vote”. Helen Mirren’s voice (shoutout to The Queen) makes another cameo as Becky’s inner monologue, adding to the “difference” between her and the other characters on the show. (That Quinn manages to walk at the prom after months of intense physical therapy widens this gap.)

Becky wonders why no one realises that not all prom queens “have to look the same; they can be different.”

And Glee tries to tie Becky’s concerns up nicely in a bow of equality with Puck crowning her “the anti-prom queen” and the boys of New Directions crooning One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful”.

Related: The Underlying Message in Glee’s “I Am Unicorn” Episode.

Glee Gets Down on Friday at the Prom.

Image via Gleerific News Stop.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

 

How Hillary Clinton got cool. [Think Progress]

The Hunger Games and blonde, innocent girls. [New Yorker]

What Lady Gaga’s #PopStarsDon’tEat tweet says about body-policing. [Jezebel]

All you men out there who don’t like risking pregnancy every time you have sex: take the male birth control pledge. Go on, I dare ya. [How About We]

To borrow a line from this post’s author, Lindy West, “… I was just saying the other day that my misogyny didn’t have enough racism in it”, now yours can, too, with Clean & Dry Intimate Wash, an Indian douching and vaginal bleaching product. [Jezebel]

The hen or the egg? Sweden introduces a new, gender-neutral word in place of “she” and “he”. [The Age]

Who needs feminism? I do, because that’s my choice. [ShoutOut! JMU]

Are breast reductions as “superficial” as breast enhancements? [MamaMia]

Do pedophiles deserve privacy? Um, no! [MamaMia]

Will all the pearl clutchers please stop getting so worked up about the response One Direction elicits in teenage girls. [Daily Life]

Image via Texts from Hillary.