Melissa McCarthy reteams with director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) in Spy, which opens today. As usual, McCarthy’s character is considered wholly unappealing by almost everyone she encounters. This is entirely related to her character’s appearance, which is to say Melissa McCarthy’s appearance. This is her brand. Below are some of the ways in which McCarthy’s character, Susan, is humiliated throughout the movie.
- At dinner, Susan (Melissa McCarthy) receives a jewelry box from the movie-star handsome man that she works and is in love with, Bradley Fine (Jude Law). The box does not contain an engagement ring, as Susan hopes it does, but a plastic pendant in the shape of a cupcake. Bradley insists Susan wear the cupcake pendant immediately.
- In the same scene, Bradley assumes Susan is a cat owner. When she corrects him, he tells her, “You should get some, they’re good company.”
- Susan comes down with a facial irritation that her boss Elaine (Allison Janney) swears is pink eye. Though Susan denies it, she is mocked relentlessly for it.
- Susan shares a story about her mother leaving notes in her lunch box that said things like, “Give up on your dreams, Susan.”
- A bartender ignores Susan and her friend/co-worker Nancy (Miranda Hart) but waits on their more conventionally attractive C.I.A. colleague Karen (Morena Baccarin) immediately.
- Nancy frames a fart on Susan, who is fat.
- When Susan goes undercover, her weaponry is hidden in embarrassing personal items: her pepper spray looks like toe fungus treatment, poison antidote comes in a stool softener bottle, and disposable towels containing chloroform are disguised as hemorrhoid wipes.
- Susan is made to stay in Paris in a rat trap hotel located in a seedy part of town.
- Susan is instructed to tell a crowd that she shit her pants to get people to move out of the way.
- Susan’s first assigned disguise is that of a dumpy mother of four. “I look like someone’s homophobic aunt,” she says. Her second disguise is a similarly dumpy owner of 10 cats.
- While wearing the second disguise, Susan ignored by leering Italian men who catcall people on each side of her.
- Susan is pawed relentlessly by an Italian agent who serves as her guide.
- When she finally wears a dress of her own choosing, which spotlights her cleavage, Susan walks down the street holding her head high. Soon, the foolishness of her pride is exposed when she is mocked by her fellow agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham), who tells her, “You look like a flute player in a wedding band.” Her nemesis, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), calls her dress “hideous” and an “abortion.”
- Susan witnesses a man poisoning Rayna’s drink—a problem, since Rayna must be kept alive. Susan tells Rayna that she saw a guy attempt to roofie Rayna’s drink, and Rayna immediately doubts that Susan could possibly know what it looks like when a man roofies a woman’s drink. “People often try to roofie you?” she asks, incredulous.
- Rayna compares Susan to a clown she saw growing up in Bulgaria who performed her tricks in mud and “would just cry and cry.”
Susan, in contrast to last year’s Tammy—the role McCarthy wrote for herself to play in the movie of that name—isn’t a completely pathetic loser. She is highly skilled at hand-to-hand combat. Additionally, she is no mere victim; she often insults people with the same spite that they do her. It’s a depressing version of equality, but it counts as progress in terms of the way McCarthy is treated onscreen by her director, her co-stars, and herself.