The film centres on Renee (Amy Schumer), who struggles with feeling unattractive, because, um, she’s a woman who also happens to exist in… life. “I have a crazy idea,” she says. “Let’s be honest for a minute. No matter how many times we hear ‘it’s what’s on the inside that matters,’ women know deep down it’s what’s on the outside that the whole world judges.”
Renee listens to her friend, played by Emily Ratajkowski, complain about dealing with “some low self esteem” and tells her she wants to punch her in her face.
THEN she falls off her bike at Soul Cycle, hits her head, and wakes up thinking she's undeniably beautiful.
She therefore changes how she dresses, how she behaves at work, and tries to painstakingly convince her friends it's really her, even though... they know. She... she looks exactly the same.
Without seeing it, I think we can all predict the moral of the story: Even though Renee's appearance didn't change, her life changed because confidence. And also believing you're beautiful. And also head injury.
Will this movie be an enduring masterpiece of our time? Probably not.
Did it a 'lil bit rip off the entire plot line of Shallow Hal? Yep.
Will it be the type of movie I drag my sister to on a Friday night when I'm craving an overpriced frozen Coke and a frankly absurd serving of popcorn? Most definitely.
But there's a problem.
The internet is angry. Very, very angry.
Just after the trailer was released, comedian Sofie Hagen shared a series of tweets responding to the trailer.
"So the new Amy Schumer movie is about a woman who is half an inch from being conventionally Hollywood attractive (but rest-of-the-world attractive) who thinks she's rest-of-the-world-attractive?" she wrote. "I have never been more confused in my life."
Amy Schumer is blonde, white, able-bodied, femme and yes, thin. She IS society's beauty ideal. So they give her a ponytail and remove her make-up and suddenly she's ugly? Why not just give her glasses or a fatsuit? What is wrong with this world?
— Sofie Hagen (@SofieHagen) February 9, 2018
Hagen went on to argue that in order to enjoy the premise of the film, we have to buy into the fact that Schumer isn't attractive. "How many of us are bigger than her?" she asked. "Are we supposed to accept that THIS is ugly when it's all we've been taught that we should aim for?"
"Also how about instead of her 'hitting her head and damaging her brain' in order to become so deluded that she'd think she was ACTUALLY pretty, she read about capitalism and realised that women's low self-esteem is a patriarchal ploy and that she is worthy of self-love?"
Oh... um. That.... that story line doesn't sound that funny.
In the week or so since, a number of others have echoed Hagen's argument, including Your Tango's Liza Walter, who wrote 'Amy Schumer’s New Movie “I Feel Pretty” Is Offensive To Actual Fat Women Like Me'. In her piece, Walter calculates Schumer's BMI, which apparently falls in the normal range, and asks "how - as a truly obese woman who feels ugly 99% of the time - am I supposed to accept a reality in which Schumer is like me?"
A great deal of the criticism levelled at the trailer says that the 'joke' is that Schumer thinks she's beautiful and thin when she's actually unattractive and fat. So, of course, people who consider themselves as less attractive or larger than her feel ridiculed.
But that's not the joke.
The joke is that she's seeing herself as an Amazonian, Victoria's Secret model, when in reality, she's somewhat normal (at least by Hollywood standards).
The Mamamia Outloud team review Amy Schumer's latest comedy special on Netflix. Post continues after audio.
Almost all the women I know would feel ridiculous competing in a bikini contest, like Schumer does in the film. But seeing a normal-looking woman dance on stage in a bikini puts a spotlight on the very problematic way we've decided that only certain types of (tiny) bodies deserve to be seen in a swimsuit.
But for many women, Schumer doesn't challenge the stereotype enough. She doesn't represent women enough. She's not clever and nuanced and sensitive enough.
Which brings us to an important question.
Why do we hold women in popular culture up to such absurdly high standards? Why does Amy Schumer need to be reflective of every type of woman? It's a standard we don't seem to impose on men, especially when it comes to comedy.
When Paul Rudd plays a socially inept, uncomfortable guy who can't make friends, no one argues that he doesn't reflect what the typical 'awkward' person looks like.
When Will Ferrell stars in Step Brothers as a grown man who can't get a job/live successfully, no one cries out that actually, as a white, heterosexual man, it's far easier for him than most.
No one points this out for two reasons.
First, because comedy isn't meant to be an accurate portrayal of real life. It's meant to be absurd. It's necessarily unrealistic. Then, among the ridiculousness, we see tiny parts of ourselves in these characters and story lines - ones that reflect a fundamental truth about who we are.
It might be that we feel as incompetent as Will Ferrell sometimes, or that just like Amy Schumer, we operate in the world seeing ourselves as far less attractive than we actually are.
Second, IT'S. A. MOVIE.
It's fiction. These films aren't works of art. They're not The Colour Purple or Spotlight.
And here's the thing: Why are men allowed to make stupid comedy? And women just aren't?
We live among a sea of mediocre men's work. Books that are okay. Movies that are average. TV shows that are semi-watchable but have a frustrating number of plot holes.
So can we grant women the same right? To produce some less than stellar work without being called out for letting down the sisterhood?
Without it being profoundly offensive to other women?
Without us deciding that whatever topic that work tackles is far too trivial and frivolous because there are far more serious issues?
Not everything a woman does will resonate with every woman, and we shouldn't expect it to.
As long as we do, we're doing a disservice to women's work.
I Feel Pretty is a film directed, written by, and starring women. It's about an extremely common female experience that is rarely represented honestly in popular culture, and it's the type of movie that only comes out every few years (like Mean Girls or Bridesmaids) that women can watch together and laugh at a reality only they understand.
An attempt to dismantle that ultimately suggests that the only work worth sharing is that which tells the story of every woman - one which is perfect.
And that prospect is paralysing.