rebel wilson, rom com, plus size, black, twitter

Rebel Wilson Spent Her Weekend Blocking Black People on Twitter

This is not how you handle criticism.

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Last week, Rebel Wilson saw a heap of backlash when she erroneously said her role in the upcoming Isn’t It Romantic, which she’s also co-producing, makes her “the first-ever plus-sized girl to be the star of a romantic comedy.”

While it’s true that female romantic leads are overwhelmingly thin, Wilson is wrong to say she’s the first to break that barrier. There have been other plus-size women to play romantic leads, most notably Queen Latifah and Mo’Nique. (Though many also pointed out Ricki Lake’s role in Baby Cakes.) But all too often, when people think about the romcom genre, Black-led movies get left out. So it’s disappointing but not exactly surprising for Wilson to make the same mistake when talking about the genre.

But over the weekend, Wilson responded to criticism over her statement in the exact wrong way: By blocking a whole bunch of Black people and other POC on Twitter.

What makes this so extra upsetting is that many, if not most, of the people Wilson blocked were not attacking her. She may have felt attacked but that doesn’t make it truth. Largely, they were just trying to inform her of her mistake, and the impact of black erasure. And even worse than that, while she was blocking numerous women of color, she chose to engage with a handful of white women who were saying the exact same thing. (And also Mo’Nique herself.)

Meanwhile:

The erasure of women of color in the romantic comedy genre is an enormous problem, as it is in the body positivity movement in general. Obviously, we only know what the trailer has shown us about Wilson’s movie, but it looks to be similar to Amy Schumer’s I Feel Pretty, where the lead’s status as a romantic lead is some sort of delusion or fantasy. (In Isn’t It Romantic, Wilson’s character wakes up after sustaining a head injury to find herself trapped in a rom-com.)

This makes the erasure of Black women even more egregious because especially when it comes to Queen Latifah’s many roles over her career as a romantic lead, she’s never had to make excuses for why men are attracted to her. As Princess Weekes wrote last week, “She has never taken roles that over-highlight her weight or treat it as a negative, and whether it is comedy or drama, Queen Latifah has no problem getting a man and she doesn’t have to change to get them.”

Rebel Wilson didn’t recognize her own racial and cultural blindspots and she got called out for it. That’s embarrassing and it sucks. (I can speak from personal experience on that one.) But for one, it doesn’t suck more than, say, having your cultural contributions systematically devalued. And two, that kind of statement could, potentially, be seen as merely a disappointing mistake. What she did next, though, was an active choice.

She could have chosen to own up to her mistake and learn from it. Instead, she made a choice to block Black voices and engage graciously and politely only with non-Black criticism. That’s not a simple act of ignorance, it’s a direct insult and a clear message that she doesn’t care about or want to hear Black voices.

I’m sure those Black voices will have even more to say in response in the form of box office receipts when Isn’t It Romantic hits theaters.

(image: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images)

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Author
Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.