Recently, the comedian Melissa McCarthy has found herself in a little bit of controversy. She has made it to the cover of the popular fashion magazine Elle, but with one caveat. The comedian graces the cover with stunning makeup, beautiful hair, and a trench coat that covers up most of her body.
The trench coat has become the focus of people’s disdain for the McCarthy cover photo. They see it as a failed opportunity for Elle to show their appreciation for all types of women. The plus sized McCarthy is the only women whose body is shown covered up. To some, it looks as if the magazine is trying to purposely hide her full figure body. Here are some comments taken from an Yahoo article on the issue:
@Roundraglanroad tweeted, “Oh look, it’s Melissa Mccarthy on the cover of @ELLEmagazine, let’s cover her up in the LARGEST COAT POSSIBLE”; @Runawaycow wrote, “Melissa’s cover shot is just lazy, it shows that stylists don’t want to work with a plus size body or designers”; and @OhhSuzannah wrote, “That is just terrible and lazy. Ugh.”
Now here’s the thing. These comments assume Elle had malicious intent, but how does the situation change if the coat was chose by the comedian herself? In fact, this article says just that:
“What I found so bizarre is I picked the coat,” McCarthy told E! News. “I grabbed the coat. I covered up. I had a great black dress on, but I thought, it comes out in November. I was so sick of summer. I live in Southern California. I was like, ‘Give me a big coat to wear. Give the girl some cashmere!'”
McCarthy added: “I picked the coat. They were like, ‘The dress is really great,’ but I was like, ‘Yeah, but look at this.’ I was just shocked I didn’t steal it. Now I think I really should have the coat. I’m petitioning for that coat. Give me that coat. I earned it, damn it!”
There comes the agency question coming right back at us. Is it wrong for McCarthy to decide to wear the coat? Is it wrong for people to get mad at what they believe to be a missed of opportunity? If so, where does the anger go, McCarthy or Elle? Do actresses, models, and pop stars have more agency than we think? If they do, how are they supposed to balance it with the ideals their fans put on them? Then of course we have the million dollar question: Is McCarthy’s choice a true display of her agency or the unconscious result of dominant societal ideology of beauty that we are all subjected to?