Firstly, typecasting is casting a particular actor in the same role based on their appearance as well as the success they’ve experienced in that particular role. Melissa McCarthy definitely doesn’t find typecasting to be a complete negative. McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcon collaborated and created “Tammy,” after all. “Spy” differs in comparison to previous roles played by McCarthy, typically showcasing her as the “funny fat lady,” and says, “We can definitely go that way, but McCarthy can also be just as funny-looking fly as fuck.”
You may be wondering what “Spy” is. It’s Paul Feig’s new movie, the director who brought us “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat,” and it hits theaters on June 5. “Spy” follows Susan Cooper (McCarthy), a CIA analyst who is the eyes and ears of her partner Bradley (Jude Law) who works out in the field. One thing leads to another, I don’t want to spoil too much, and Susan trades the comfort of her office for the role of an undercover spy. Although Susan appears to be out of shape, her CIA spy training video is found and played, revealing her ability to physically kick ass.
The idea that looks are deceiving is an overall theme throughout the film. The audience sees it when it’s revealed that Susan is a total badass able to flip, kick, shoot, and punch better than the rest of her peers and with more elegance than Bradley. Beyond her physical capabilities, the theme is also displayed each time Susan attains a new undercover identity, and her reaction towards them.
Previously, Susan was stuck behind the computer. Now she’s in the action, a job more fitting to her talents. Susan expects the same kind of sleek personas given to her peers such as Bradley, Karen (Morena Baccarin), and Rick (Jason Statham). However, each time Susan opens the box to reveal her undercover identity, her new roles are either the crazy cat lady or a divorced housewife from Iowa. Each one forcing her to wear a bright pink tracksuit, an oversized T-shirt with washed out jeans, large glasses, and a hairstyle that died in the ’80s. Roles that take Susan from her original, attractive appearance and turn her into something people may perceive her to be but don’t represent her at all. As if to say attractive undercover roles are meant for a person with a different physique.
For a brief period of time Susan plays along—it’s her job after all, and she has to remain undetected. However each time Susan becomes the crazy cat lady, or the divorced housewife from Iowa, she breaks down and goes a little rogue. Meaning, she flips her middle finger and creates a new identity more suitable to the confidence she has and the role she feels more badass in. Susan believes she can blend in with the crowd more by playing a role more suitable to what she finds attractive and confidence-boosting.
What is so entertaining, unique, and empowering about a movie constructed this way is that it’s not trying to make a huge transformation: The CIA saved Susan from looking like a dud. Susan looked attractive before, it’s just the roles she’s given that make her feel like a frump. As if the CIA is forcefully trying to typecast her under the assumption that she’ll perform her job better by taking on a role that society would deem appropriate for a woman of her size. As if size equates to frump, health, and activity level. But Susan comes out swinging, her behavior claiming, “That’s fine, I’ll play along, but I can do the job without the typecast just as well, if not better.” Susan is the entire package: brains and beauty, and she proves it time and again by kicking total ass.
Susan’s badass persona is exemplified by her confidence. The movie isn’t claiming that there is one particular way to look or dress at a particular size. It’s claiming that one doesn’t always have to resort to typecast in order to be successful. Success comes through with confidence, and McCarthy as well as her character Susan have an immense amount of confidence. The movie shakes up more ground beyond McCarthy, Rose Bryn’s character, Raina, tackles the role of a terrorist but doesn’t attempt to be the sexy, thin villain that we see so often in films and television. Raina looks like a Cruela DeVille with her big hair, tiny frame, and caked on make-up. We all know Bryn is absolutely beautiful, but she proves that she doesn’t always have to rely on her beauty to be successful in a movie. If anything, “Spy” proves that Bryn has an ability to act because she doesn’t have to rely on looks to be successful. People will watch this movie for the story, the humor, and its step forward for women in film and comedy.
Feig, as we can see through his filmography, is known for his support of women in comedy. Feig is able to take on actors and characters seemingly unfit and create something unbelievably hilarious. Feig continues to break the molds and standards constructed by typecasting and Hollywood cinema through his new film “Spy.”
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