Of course, that’s not how Shallow Hal sees itself. Shallow Hal is supposed to be a break with the Farrelly brothers’ previous work like Dumb and Dumber. It’s supposed to be an indictment of Hal’s shallowness and a tribute to inner beauty. Here’s what Farrelly told the Chicago Tribune when fat activists complained:

The uproar has forced the Farrellys (whose previous films include “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary”) to defend their film even as they promoted it. “Our whole point has been misconstrued,” said Peter Farrelly in a telephone interview from his Cape Cod home. “We intended to show there’s a lot of humanity out there, and if you don’t judge people on what you or the world considers to be a classic American look, you may be in for a big surprise on who you fall in love with.”

He blamed the trailer for the uproar: “You may go in expecting an hour and 45 minutes of fat jokes, and you find out there’s 20 minutes of that. That’s when Hal’s shallow. After that, it’s really the slow growth of Hal into becoming a whole person.” Oh well, if it’s only 20 minutes of fat jokes! (It’s not only 20 minutes of fat jokes.)

There’s a common flaw between Shallow Hal and Green Book: condescension. Both movies condescend to learn that characters who aren’t white men are actually people; they congratulate themselves for bothering, but that’s as far as they go. Shallow Hal presents a constant stream of fat jokes—it’s absolutely not just 20 minutes, in fact the final moment of the movie is a fat joke about how much Rosemary weighs down the car—as some meditation on the value of inner beauty. Fat women aren’t total garbage, if you just look beyond the fact that they are objectively disgusting! Green Book steals the name of a book created by an African American man literally as a survival technique and uses it to tell a story about a white man generously coming to see a black man as his equal and thereby magicking away the problem of centuries of institutional racism.


The difference is that nowadays, nobody involved in the making of Shallow Hal particularly seems interested in bragging about it. It’s been quietly consigned to the early 2000s and the less enlightened era of Maxim. Green Book won an Oscar.

Originally this post misidentified Bobby Farrelly as Billy. It has been corrected.