In a rant about Rex Reed‘s mean-spirited remarks about Melissa McCarthy‘s weight in his review of Identity Thief, Deadline‘s Michael Fleming sounds wise and perceptive for the most part, but also in basic denial by failing to acknowledge a difference between garden-variety corpulence and morbid, health-threatening obesity, which is a national pestilence as well as a dark metaphor.

Wise and perceptive: “I don’t care who the girl is, it hurts to be insulted about your weight, or to be defined by it. If I was McCarthy’s husband, brother, father or even her agent and I saw Reed, I’d have to fight off the temptation to open a can of whup-ass on him. I’d hope that I would be smart enough to swallow that urge and instead see Reed for what he is: a tired, cranky old critic who in this case lost his basic sense of compassion. He really ought to try rising above superficial cruelty and recognize what it takes for a woman like Melissa McCarthy to overcome to become a singular talent. If the movie sucks, fine, go to town, but c’mon Rex.”

Basic denial: “I don’t know if [Reed] has kids, but I have two daughters. It sensitizes you to many things, including the temptation to obsess about being rail thin. All you want for your girls is that they feel comfortable in their own skin, and McCarthy is a shining example of that. Reed obviously doesn’t even consider that McCarthy is breaking boundaries and making it okay for girls all over to feel good about themselves even if, when they look in the mirror, they don’t see a waif-like Victoria’s Secret model staring back.”

Fleming presumably understands that no fair-minded person would ever slam McCarthy for being simply overweight or corpulent or rotund or whatever term you want to use for someone who has girth. I know I have a reputation for being a fat-person antagonist but I’ve never had the slightest issue with acceptable, no-big-deal fat in the vein of Charles Laughton or Peter Ustinov or John Candy in Only The Lonely or Lou Costello or Oliver Hardy in the 1920s and ’30s. I agree that the mindset among God knows how many tens of millions of women that you have to be skinny thin is neurotic and oppressive, but Fleming knows perfectly well that, Reed’s cruelty aside, McCarthy’s issue is not her failure to be thin as a reed but her being much more than just fat. Some people are simply bulky — it’s just the way they’re built — but McCarthy’s size is way over the top. She’s clearly indulging in a way that’s not going to be good for her in the long run.

Is Fleming saying that all the people who have voiced fears or suspicions that Gov. Chris Christie will probably face serious health issues down the road unless he loses some weight…is he saying such talk is cruel and heartless and without merit? I doubt that. It’s obvious that McCarthy is in the same boat as Christie, and her proclaiming that she’s comfortable with being dangerously overweight is nothing to applaud or be proud of. On one level she’s saying that she accepts herself and that, I suppose, is temporarily fine as far as her present-tense attitude is concerned, but on another level she’s saying to millions of morbidly obese women out there that everything’s fine, that they should embrace their neuroses and keep eating crap and make themselves as super-sized as they want because they’re beautiful people inside and that’s what matters. Which is true on one level — who a person is spiritually and emotionally and creatively is the key thing. In this sense I worship Guillermo del Toro. And I’ve always admired Orson Welles.

But obesity is a national disease that has gotten worse and worse over the last two or three decades. Corporate crap food + kids spending all their time online and playing video games and watching the tube and not exercising + the situation as conveyed in Food, Inc is not a rumor. These are facts. Except for upscale urban healthies (i.e., people with a semblance of discipline who care about their bodies and exercise now and then) we’ve become a nation of sea lions. And Fleming knows this. And he should know that applauding McCarthy as a “shining example” of positive self-acceptance is not the right way to put it.