Actress Melanie Lynskey Claps Back at Body-Shaming Critics

Like 'The Last of Us' star, I'm a mom with a soft body. I've always been underestimated by others who see me only for my fatness. They never see me coming. They never expect my strength and what I can do.

Photo of actress Melanie Lynskey

Dia Dipasupil / Staff / Getty Images

Social media shaming isn't just a thing among teenagers and strangers on the internet. This inappropriate and intolerable behavior is even seen among celebrities. Take the recent exchange between Season 1 America's Next Top Model winner Adrianne Curry and The Last of Us actor Melanie Lynskey.

In case you missed it, Curry posted a body-shaming tweet aimed at Lynskey: "Her body says life of luxury...not post apocolyptic [sic] warlord. Where is Linda Hamilton when you need her?"

The sexist comment questions the believability of Lynskey's portrayal of Kathleen, a complicated character who is a ruthless leader of the resistance on HBO's hit series about a zombie apocalypse. And it's all because of her appearance. The negativity was collectively and swiftly quashed by Lynskey and social media users alike. (No spoilers here!)

Though Curry has since deactivated her Twitter account—presumably due to the backlash—Lynskey's screen capture of the tweet, as well as her clap back, lives on. Curry has since taken to Facebook to respond, standing by her earlier statement, doubling down, and expanding on her belief that women cannot be leaders during an apocalypse.

Like Lynskey, I'm a woman with a soft body and a sweet smile—if I may say so myself. My entire life, I've been underestimated by people like Curry, who see me only as a woman who dotes on her kid, dresses her little dog in puffy jackets, and brings cookies to the neighbors. They never see me coming. They never expect that I can be all those things and a fierce fighter for justice, social change, and whatever I put my mind to.

They see my plus-sized physique and assume I'm sloppy and lazy. They never expect my organization, work ethic, and dedication. They hear my warm voice, feel my kindness, and mistake me for a pushover, someone who would never stand up for herself. They are gravely mistaken. Over the years, I've used these misconceptions to my advantage. In my former corporate marketing career, people regularly underestimated my abilities and attempted to take advantage of my presumed meekness. But then, I would show them.

Every day, I'm inspired by the countless women and moms (and gender non-binary justice activists) around the world who are fighters, rebellion leaders, and hell-raisers in the face of injustice—who cares what they look like? Though these real-life changemakers are not living through a zombie apocalypse, they did battle through a global pandemic and make strides in their work through very unlikely odds.

  • #BlackLivesMatter founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi immediately come to mind. The trio lit the flame of the modern civil rights movement in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's murderer and the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many more.
  • Shannon Watts, a mother of 5, who established Moms Demand Action the day after the Sandy Hook school shooting to fight for gun violence prevention.
  • Senator Tammy Duckworth, a badass retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel, whom I'm sure has been underestimated at every stage of her decorated career, even while she was flying a Blackhawk helicopter.
  • Dolores Huerta is a revolutionary labor activist and Chicano civil rights leader with 11 children, who among many other achievements co-founded the United Farm Workers union with Cesar Chavez.
  • Disability activists like Alice Wong, founder of the Disability Visibility Project, who fight to dismantle systemic ableism demonstrate that leaders do not need to come in the form of "muscular henchmen" bodies.
  • The thousands of awe-inspiring women of Iran who continue to demand reform under brutal oppression in their country.

What any of these women revolutionaries look like does not in the least bit affect their ability to lead and affect change. And that list is just a fraction of those taking a stand and affecting change.

I don't blame Curry, though. She's emblematic of a world where appearance is valued over other skills, where women are incapable of leading men because no man would ever take orders from a woman, where women always need a man's protection.

Curry and I live in different worlds. She cannot imagine even a fictionalized version of hers where a "normal" looking woman without superpowers can lead an army and take down a government—even as she has no trouble accepting fungi-powered zombies taking over civilization. (And another thing, if "Kathleen" had been "Kurt" with a soft dad bod and a crew of henchmen better built than him for battle, would Curry have had the same critique? I doubt it.)

In the not-too-distant past though, public opinion would have likely sided with Curry. Worse, a superb actor like Lynskey may never have been cast for a complex role like Kathleen. Societal progress is happening, and I'm grateful for the body positivity movement. I'm thankful that today, a dominant section of society will not publicly stand for toxic body talk and body-shaming, so we can do better for our kids, and we can build for them a future where one's "believability" as a leader has nothing to do with their body type.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles