In the hall of mirrors that is the internet these days it’s hard to tell what anybody really believes. So while you’d think this column in today’s Sydney Morning Herald would be music to our ears…
The following is not going to make me very popular, but given the hype surrounding the subject matter, I feel compelled to admit it: I don’t find Australia’s hit comedic export Rebel Wilson funny.
I just don’t see what all the fuss is about. Nor do I understand why Hollywood has apparently fallen head over heels for her, or why New York magazine put her on the cover and devoted more than 3000 words to her last week.
I have not laughed out loud during any of her performances. I barely smiled watching her play a Greek girl named Toula in Pizza. I watched her starring role in Bogan Pride, as an overweight teenager living in the outer suburbs, with a blank, expressionless face. And I couldn’t sit through her performance as Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect, while I found her portrayal of the weirdo flat mate in Bridesmaids totally redundant.
… two things set alarm bells a-ringing at Tumbleweeds HQ: “The following is not going to make me very popular”, which is internet-speak for “I’m going to stir up some serious shit here in the hopes that I get thousands of hate-reads”, and “New York magazine put her on the cover and devoted more than 3000 words to her last week”, which is internet-speak for “I’m going to try and ride the coat-tails of a more popular article in the hope of scooping up a few extra hits.”
That’s the big problem with criticism on the internet: once someone hits a certain level of popularity, it becomes increasingly difficult to say a bad word about them without being dismissed as “a hater”. It’s not a problem equally mindless praise seems to have, but why? Shoddy praise can be just as harmful to a career as mindless criticism.
Take that New York magazine article on Wilson. Sure, it’s 3000 words praising her to the rooftops, even if this bit:
“I watched Bogan Pride,” Conan O’Brien told me, “and I was impressed by her courage. She was like the Orson Welles of television in Australia—no one questioned her authority. Bogan Pride is not a show that would ever be on American television.”
Did make us laugh for (presumably) the wrong reason. But this portrait of a fearless funny lady whose honesty is taking her to the top falls apart once you get to this part:
Perhaps because she did not grow up in Australia with the dream of being a performer, Wilson, who is around 30 (her actual age is hard to determine), is appealingly untheatrical.
Hard to determine, you say? While most internet sources today (including wikipedia) say Wilson was born Feb 3rd 1986, that would mean she started appearing on Pizza at age 17. Which could be possible, but then why did this 2008 article on Bogan Pride start off with:
JUST AS Rebel Wilson was enjoying the creative freedom afforded by SBS on the set of her comedy series Bogan Pride, a school principal walked in and cramped her style.
Apparently bucket bongs and simulated oral sex are not kosher on school property, even if they are concealed from students in a blacked-out classroom and are all part of a deliberately daggy musical about a frumpy fat girl trying to save her even fatter mother (Sally Upton) from eating herself to death.
But them’s the breaks, says Wilson, 28, who wrote Bogan Pride, in which she plays the lead role of Jennie Cragg. (Her lawyers have already received a fierce letter from US weight loss company Jenny Craig, but Wilson is confident that, while she may have broken a few rules at Sunshine College West Campus where the show was filmed, she’s not in breach of copyright law.)
Hmm. Either she was actually born in 1980 and she’s shaved around six years off her age, or she made Bogan Pride aged 22 and Fairfax totally stuffed it up. Who profits from having Rebel Wilson lose six years in age between 2008 and 2013? We’re going to go with “Rebel Wilson”.
So hang on a second here: isn’t around two thirds of this article about how “authentic” she is? Heck, the article even has her saying this:
“I’m an actress. And if something gets a laugh, I have no problem embarrassing myself. The character is the point. Not my ego.”
This article spends most of its time hailing Wilson for being brave and authentic and in-your-face regarding her size – because there’s never been a funny fat person before, right everybody? – while blatantly tip-toeing around another area where that assessment of her character doesn’t really seem to apply.
It’s not even like it’s hard to figure out: the article says “As a girl, Wilson was studious and, at 17, she was voted an Australian Youth Ambassador and sent to South Africa to represent her country”… but if her publicised birthday is correct she would have been 17 in 2003, the year Wikipedia says “she moved to New York after winning the ATYP International scholarship”. Busy girl.
None of this matters as far as her actual career goes: she’s not exactly Chris Lilley still trying to play teenagers at 40-something. If the article had just stuck to saying Wilson was funny then… okay sure, we’d still have had a problem with it because we don’t think she is. But as we said at the start of this post, these days everyone has an agenda and the New York magazine article didn’t even bother to hide theirs: they’re giving Rebel Wilson 3000 words of praise because they want you to believe that in a sea of phonies there’s something real about her.
It just doesn’t seem to be her age.