Schumer and Bryant Define “Pretty”
Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein’s I Feel Pretty couldn’t be more timely. Dealing with the issues of body shaming and low self-esteem, both perpetuated by the constant parading of unrealistic examples of physical perfection in the media, their film tackles this issue head on. Amy Schumer stars as Renee Bennett, a young, withdrawn woman who’s been dealing with a skewed misconception of herself all of her life. However, a severe knock to the head changes her perception as she suddenly sees herself as a physically beautiful and finds her confidence growing as a result. Her best friends, Vivian and Jane (Aidy Bryant & Busy Philips), aren’t sure what to make of their companion’s new outlook but they soon realize that the change in Renee’s behavior may not necessarily be all good.
Having been cast in the upcoming Barbie movie last year, Schumer found herself the subject of a backlash campaign that questioned how she could be cast as the quintessential example of American womanhood. She eventually dropped out of the film and I asked her if “Pretty” was in any way a response to the reaction to that backlash or the film itself.
“Right after Barbie was not going to happen,” she said, “I got this script and it had the exact message I wanted to be in the Barbie movie. So, I was really excited to be able to transfer that. Pretty is not a response to that. There was no body shaming in that movie but I’m glad I’m able to get this message out now.”
The actress must have had a sense of déjà vu earlier this year, as when the trailer for Pretty was released, yet another wave of social media backlash ensued.
“There was a backlash to the trailer of this movie and people were saying that it showed this ogre of a woman who doesn’t realize where her self-esteem comes from,” she continued. “That’s not what this movie is about at all. When you see the movie it becomes clear that this is about a woman who struggles with her self-esteem; it’s about how she carries herself and feels invisible and it’s all about how she feels. That’s what this movie shows; it’s all about how you feel and where your worth and value comes from is a reflection of who you are. That’s been a lifelong process for me to really understand. You get confused at different points in your life and wonder, ‘Is other people’s experience of you who you really are or is who you feel like who you are?’”
Fortunately, Schumer had a positive support system as she was growing up, as her parents constantly reinforced that she was beautiful, inside and out.
“Both my parents convinced me that I was a supermodel and I just believed it,” she said. “Then life happens and kids chips away at your confidence and finding the great balance is the answer. It was a shock to me when I realized, I don’t belong on a runway. This is movie is saying we all belong on a runway. I think people are ready to see more people of color, more body types, trans people, people with disabilities. And if not, they can go see a traditional movie star.”
Bryant, the youngest person to be named a permanent member of a Saturday Night Life cast, has had similar experiences in her life, both personal and professional. Like Schumer, she came to her own epiphany regarding her self-image and the importance she placed on other people’s opinion of her.
“I think there’s a major conspiracy towards women that tells them they should spend a lot of time, money and energy to change their bodies, how they look, and their hair,” she said. “We’re constantly told this and I was receiving those messages and I came to a certain point where I realized I had spent most of my life doing these dumb things. And I really had dreams and goals I wanted to achieve. I wanted to be a comedian, I wanted to write, I wanted to get on Second City and I wanted to try to get on SNL. The second I started focusing on those things rather than my arms or thighs or whatever, it was the moment for me when I was able to achieve those things.”
One thing that both women have had to deal with all their lives has been lack of choice where clothing options are concerned. They’ve taken matters into their own hands where this is concerned.
“We really excited about the clothing lines and providing nice clothes for all different sizes,” said Bryant. “For me I’ve gone through the experience of being on sets for photo shoots or whatever and there’d be literally three clothing options for me and like 30 for my co-stars. I didn’t think that was fair. So at a certain point if they’re not going to fix it for you, you just have to fix it yourself.”