Melissa McCarthy on Social Expectations for Women: 'Are You Pleasant? Do You Not Make Trouble?'


Melissa McCarthy is InStyle’s February cover star and the interview is delightful—she discussed motherhood, her marriage, her actor friends, her love of Scotch and going to bed at 8:30 pm—and when the conversation intensified, it’s her own doing. A question about sensitivity to negative reviews became a dissection of social expectations of women in and outside of Hollywood:

Having two daughters [Vivian, 11, and Georgette, 8], I think there is a weird layer in the world [for women] where it’s not just about looks but it’s also, “Are you pleasant? Do you not make trouble?” I don’t want to be around someone who’s a pain in the ass and confrontational, but I also don’t think that you always have to be Stepford Wife-y and can’t have opinions.

Great news for me, an unpleasant, trouble-makin’ bitch.

She also recalls what sounds like a truly horrifying press junket experience, wherein an unnamed reporter at an unnamed “very big organization” asked McCarthy about her “tremendous size”:

Years ago I was at a press conference for either The Heat or Tammy, and somebody from a very big organization kept asking me, “Why do you always feel the need to be so grotesque?” It was a huge interview with maybe 100 people in the room, and he was sneering. I said, “What are we talking about? I can’t answer your question because I don’t understand it.” He goes, “You look sloppy, you’re not wearing any makeup, your hair is not done, you’re yelling at people.” I was like, “OK, so have you ever asked this of a guy? I’m playing a character. You need to get out more if you don’t think there are real women like that.” He goes, “Oh, fine, I’m aggressive, call it whatever you want. If you don’t want to answer the questions, you shouldn’t come to the panel.” I was like, “I really want to answer your questions. I’m sorry I didn’t wear makeup in a part. I’m sorry I didn’t look pleasant for you. But I also don’t think you should be here writing about movies.”
I thought if I tell him to eff off, he will win on every possible level. I do remember another interview I did for Bridesmaids with somebody who later lost his job for a conversation he had on a bus with someone else. I won’t mention names, but just think about it. He kept asking, “Are you shocked that you actually work in this business at your tremendous size?”

She continued:

He was like, “Oh, your tremendous size, you can actually work?” I just remember all the blood drained out of me. I thought, “With my tremendous size, I could tackle you so quickly.” There were two cameras on him, and one was on me, and he went back to that question three or four times, and I just kept talking about the script or how fun Paul Feig was. He was looking around like, “She’s crazy.” When we left, their producer was horrified and said, “We’ll never play what he said. I’m so sorry.” But it happens all the time, to the point where it’s fascinating because they don’t do it to men. Not to be a jerk or single him out, but when John Goodman was heavier, did anybody ever talk about his girth?

To be fair, I believe they did—but never to the degree of a woman who, god forbid, takes up space. And for what it’s worth, when Goodman did lose weight, headlines all but cheered his heroism. It’s hard to imagine McCarthy, or any other woman, being afforded the same language.

Read the full conversation here.

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