'American Crime Story' Features Sarah Paulson In An Alleged Fat Suit, And I Have Questions

by Katie Cloyd
Originally Published: 
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If you haven’t seen the news by now, we’ve gotten a glimpse of photos of Sarah Paulson in costume as Linda Tripp for the upcoming season of “American Crime Story.” This season is called Impeachment, and it focuses on Bill Clinton’s 1998 sex scandal. (In case you were just a kid when this happened like I was and your memory is hazy, the former president entered into a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, and Linda Tripp recorded conversations with Lewinsky to prove it.)

In order to play Tripp, someone somewhere thought it was a good idea to put Sarah Paulson in a fat suit.

Executive producer Ryan Murphy insists she gained weight to play the role, so I guess in this case it’s an alleged fat suit. I can’t find any photos of Sarah Paulson as herself in a mid-size body. I’m not saying she didn’t gain the weight, but…

We can still talk about fat suits in light of the way this alleged fat suit has brought them into the forefront this week.

The entire concept of a fat suit needs to die a fiery death. There is absolutely no reason why any thin actor ever needs to play a fat person. Not even if a character changes their weight as part of the plot line. When we see a character in a movie or TV show drastically age and they choose to use different actors to play the character at different points in their life, we don’t get confused. We don’t lose the plot. The same concept can apply to weight changes.

Willing suspension of disbelief is part of ingesting fiction or fictional portrayals of true events, and we are definitely smart enough as a species to understand that a fat and thin actor are playing the same character in different portions of a story. No more fat suits. Ever. They are not necessary.

In the case of this season of American Crime Story, a fat suit wasn’t even necessary to the plot in any way. Linda Tripp wasn’t really fat to begin with. I mean, by Hollywood standards, sure, but she could walk into any store and buy clothes off the rack. Those late nineties pantsuits were not tailor made from a circus tent to accommodate her enormous body. She was a fifty-ish government worker, not a model or actress. Her body was a very average size in the nineties for someone her age in her position. The term I’d use is probably mid-size.

But all of that is moot, because the real reason a fat suit was totally unnecessary is because Linda Tripp’s body size was completely irrelevant to the way she participated in the entire scandal.


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If Sarah Paulson’s acting chops are desperately needed to portray Linda Tripp for this series, she can play her in the body she always has. Put Sarah Paulson in a nineties hair style and clothing, and tell us she’s Linda Tripp. Like I said, we aren’t too stupid to follow along.

If the decision was made that the actor cast as Tripp absolutely needed to be a similar size to Linda Tripp in 1998 in order to make the portrayal believable, that should have disqualified Paulson for the role. No need for her to gain an ounce or pad her body. Plenty of actresses in Linda Tripp’s size range exist, and most of them are pushed aside for being “too fat.” I am beyond certain that a casting call for a mid-size actor in her forties would have produced a wide selection of suitable, talented candidates whose bodies were completely ready for the role.

And look, I realize that dismissing actors who are larger and putting thin actors in fat suits is not the most egregious way Hollywood fucks up on the reg.

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They cast white actors in roles written for people of color. Hollywood loves to cast a non-disabled person as a disabled character. Actors with dwarfism have been badly exploited. They’ve butchered more than a few amazing books by turning them into heinous movies. And we all know that behind the scenes, abuse and exploitation is rampant on about a million fronts. Just in general, the entire film and television world could use an overhaul in a lot of ways. I fully understand that plight of the mid-size or fat actor is not the only place that Hollywood needs to get their act together, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important or worth talking about.

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Whether Sarah Paulson gained weight like Ryan Murphy insists she did, or wore a fat suit like it really, really appears that she did, this was just not necessary. If the people creating television and films were more open to showcasing diverse body types, situations like this would be a no-brainer. They’d look for someone talented whose body fits the bill, then send them to hair and makeup and call it a day.

Why is it okay for Sarah Paulson to portray a woman Linda Tripp’s size (through the use of prosthetics or temporary weight gain), but it’s not okay for another actress to actually be Linda Tripp’s size?

In the real world, bodies come in a lot of sizes, and it’s just really stupid that movies and television don’t feel obligated to reflect that. When was the last time you walked into a coffee shop, a grocery store, an office, a church, a doctor’s waiting room, or literally any other public place and saw zero body diversity? It just doesn’t happen. Like many mammals, fully-grown adult humans come in a range of sizes. It’s so strange that somewhere along the way, we decided that part of reality wasn’t acceptable.

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