'The Whale' Discourse Is Going to Be Terrible

Congratulations to everyone in advance

Act Normal, Please

If you paid attention to Off-Broadway goings on in 2012, you know about The Whale. Samuel D. Hunter’s play about a 600-pound English teacher slowly eating himself to death made quite the splash (no pun intended) that season, receiving four different write-ups in the New York Times, a Drama Desk Award, and a Lucille Lortel Award. Now, Hunter has adapted his play for the screen, with Darren Aronofsky directing and Brendan Fraser starring in what is sure to be a movie that is received in a really chill manner by everyone.

Just kidding, it’s going to be a shitshow. I’m not a betting woman, but I would put a lot of money on this film — whether it’s good or not — sparking at least a month of nearly unreadable Twitter discourse about fatness, queerness, and religion. If things go really poorly, the state of Idaho and Herman Melville might even catch some strays. As we prepare, I will now take your questions — please form an orderly line and note that there will be minor spoilers based on the plot of the play.

What Are People Going to Be Mad About?

Primarily, this specific representation of a fat person on screen. Charlie (Fraser) has gained weight following the death of his partner, a process that Hunter described to the Times as a “a long-form suicide.” On stage, the role is usually performed by a thin man in a fat suit, which is its own bag of worms. In this adaptation, Aronofsky has cast a relatively big guy in Fraser, but also put him in a fat suit. People are already mad about that.

What I don’t think people realize yet is that Fraser is also playing a queer man, which will probably spark another round of “Who gets to play queer characters?” discussion. I’m sure that will be awesome.

Lastly, there are the women. In the Times review from 2012, Charles Isherwood described Hunter’s writing as growing “​​more shrill when it comes to the women in [Charlie’s] orbit.” The women in this case are Charlie’s estranged daughter (Sadie Sink), his ex-wife (Samantha Morton), and his best friend/the sister of his dead partner (Hong Chau). Fingers crossed Hunter has taken this critique to heart and revised the characters in his adaptation, because we don’t need another thing.

Is There Anything to Look Forward To?

Brendan Fraser comeback! The No Sudden Move actor is set to receive the TIFF Tribute Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, previous winners of which have been fast-tracked to Oscar nominations. On the TIFF website, they describe his performance “career-defining” and the movie as “arrestingly intimate.” It sounds like it could be really good, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be Twitter threads.

The Whale team also seems to know that they are wading into a tricky space, and are treading with some semblance of compassion.

“Unfortunately, so many characters portrayed in the media who are living with obesity are treated awfully—either they’re humiliated, made fun of, or just living in squalor,” Aronofsky said in Vanity Fair, “That was never Charlie. Obesity is just part of what Charlie is. After 10 minutes of spending time with Charlie, that’s the breakthrough that we hope the film has [for viewers].”

When Are People Going to Start Talking About This?

The film premieres next weekend at TIFF, so probably then.

What Do You Think of All of This?

I don’t know, man. I’m just excited for Oscar season to start again. We can only talk about how much money Top Gun: Maverick has made for so long.

Okay, Thank You For Explaining