The Whale is being made into a film (Picture: Ustinov Studio)
The upcoming film The Whale has been accused of being fatphobic, after Brendan Fraser was cast as a 600lb man.
It was confirmed this week that A24, the production company behind Uncut Gems and Midsommar, is producing The Whale, Darren Aronofksy’s first film since 2017’s psychological horror mother!
The dramedy, based on the play by Samuel D Hunter, is about a morbidly obese man ‘eating himself to death’ following the death of his lover, and who is intent on reconnecting with his teenage daughter.
While there has been some excitement online about the project, particularly in regards to the return of Brendan Fraser, who has been largely absent from Hollywood for the past decade, other reactions have not been so positive.
There are concerns that Fraser, 52, will be wearing a fat suit for the role, much like the actors who played the character Charlie on stage, and that his weight will be mocked or made a spectacle of.
Sharing the announcement of the film on Twitter, writer and podcaster Aubrey Gordon tweeted: ‘It is so disheartening, exhausting and profoundly isolating to see this concept created over & over & over again, and reliably created by people who aren’t fat.
‘Fellow fats (people who currently wear plus sizes): how are you feeling?’
DJ Louise McSharry replied: ‘Weary. So Weary’, while Kristin Chirico wrote: ‘I’m so bored with punchable face havers thinking this s*** is fine.’
Stranger Things actress Shannon Purser tweeted: ‘I understand that my experience is very different to the experience of infinifats, but the voyeuristic element of this is just gross. Skinny people love the “shock value” of fat people.’
‘Infinifats’ is in reference to people who wear extended sizes, including those in the weight range of the main character in The Whale.
Another response read: ‘I’m so tired of this fatphobic society making a spectacle of people that look like me.’
One reply noted: ‘I’m so tired of the “but it’s humanizing fat people!” response because: 1. Being fat shouldn’t negate our humanity in the first place, and 2. I just know Aranofski is going to present this character in the most grotesque way possible and I do not need that in my life.’
Brendan Fraser will take the lead in The Whale (Picture: Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage)
While The Whale has yet to go into production, Hunter’s play received positive reviews when it debuted off-Broadway in 2012, and later had a revival in Bath in 2018.
The New York Times’ review from 2012 described the main character as ‘an image of the human body at its most grotesque, at least according to conventional notions of good looks, to say nothing of good health’.
However, they said the character, played by Shuler Hensley, was ‘portrayed with easygoing humanity and grace’.
Vulture’s review read: ‘The Whale is more than the story of one man’s gothic, grotesque attempt at redemption, more than a story of the search for human community in the postconsumerist wastes, and certainly more than (ack, the gorge rises) a story of acceptance.’
The play received positive reviews (Picture: Ustinov Studios)
Reviewing the 2018 revival in the UK, What’s On Stage said: ‘Samuel D Hunter’s The Whale has a weight to it much beyond the gargantuan proportions its protagonist Charlie carries. If it’s the premise that draws you in, it’s the depths of passion in the text and masterclass in performance that holds you spellbound. It’s the kind of night where an audience as one holds its collective breath.’
The review added: ‘The Whale lets us see the man beneath the padding.’
The Whale won a Drama Desk Award, a GLAAD Media Award and the Lucille Lortel Award for outstanding play.
Hunter will write the screenplay for Aronofksy’s film.
He told Deadline: ‘Adapting my play into a screenplay has been a real labor of love for me. This story is deeply personal and I’m very thankful it will have the chance to reach a wider audience.
‘I’ve been a fan of Darren’s ever since I saw Requiem for a Dream when I was a college freshman writing my first plays, and I’m so grateful that he’s bringing his singular talent and vision to this film.’
There has been criticism of fatsuits offensively being used in film and television, including those worn for by Courteney Cox for ‘Fat Monica’ in Friends, the character of Fat Bastard in Austin Powers, and the suit worn by Gwyneth Paltrow in Shallow Hal, to make fun of the characters’ weight.
Metro.co.uk has contacted Aronofsky, Fraser and Hunter for comment.