Kumail Nanjiani is at the center of a body-shaming conversation.
On Christmas Day, The Lovebirds star shared photos of himself and his wife of 14 years, Emily V. Gordon, making the best of their holiday together without family as a result of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
While the photos of their comfort foods and Christmas movies were quite cute, Twitter had a different conversation going on about Kumail's physical appearance.
As many fans may recall, the comedian transformed his body for his upcoming role in the Marvel film Eternals and fans sparked a renewed conversation over his physique.
"The Kumail Nanjiani thing makes me very sad," Twitter user Chelsea Fagan wrote on Jan. 2. "Our culture has created a system where people attempt to conform to impossible beauty standards to a point where it starts to render them unrecognizable, and then we mock and shame them. Men are not exempt from this."
The user continued, "We make it so that performance enhancing drugs or plastic surgery are all but mandatory for certain professions or beauty standards, but admitting to them is taboo. Too little of these things and you're ugly, just a hair too much of them and you're grotesque. It's a nightmare."
The initial tweet spurred many more to share their own opinions about the actor's transformation.
A Twitter user created a side-by-side post with the star and Pierce Brosnnan, captioned, "Image 1: Kumail Nanjiani bulked up to play some Marvel hero. Grotesque; unnatural. Image 2: Pierce Brosnan with a sorta-sh--ty body portraying a man who has allegedly just spent 14 months in a North Korean prison camp in Die Another Day (2002). What a man should look like."
Amid false claims from some that Nanjiani took steroids, fans and body positivity allies continued to come to the star's defense, including by comparing The Big Sick star's treatment to other Marvel actors who bulked up for superhero roles. "Chris Pratt had a bigger body transformation and I didn't hear you all shaming him back when," one tweet noted. "All of the MCU actors go through training for their roles. Kumail looks healthy and happy."
"Hey Twitter friends! Here's an ex of what we're going to try NOT to do in 2021: Kumail Nanjiani has been minding his business, openly sharing how he & his wife have been isolating because of her medical condition & that he's been working out a lot at home to prep for a film...1/," actress Erin Cummings explained, "...and then along comes a stranger who has no connection to him, his family, his doctor or his life in any way. For some reason, this stranger thinks it's okay to publicly comment on his body & his mental state, covertly accusing him of steroids & plastic surgery. "
She continued, "How about we try not commenting on people's bodies good or bad if they aren't asking? If someone posts a thirty shot & asks, 'do I look hot,' hey - go for it. But it's grotesque to comment on someone's body when they simply post a picture of themselves EXISTING."
The original poster, Chelsea Fargan, responded to the Dollhouse star, writing, "Hi, Erin. In this tweet you're quoting, I'm saying that it's cruel and unfair for people to mock and shame him for conforming his body to an aesthetic that his career (and, likely, fame more generally) demanded of him." She also noted, "I'm not seeing how you got here from what I said," prompting further responses from Cummings.
This isn't the first time Kumail's physique has been topic of conversation. The actor himself has opened about feeling body dysmorphia from his drastic change and lifestyle shift.
"I don't want to discount people who genuinely have debilitating body issues," he told Men's Health in March 2020. "I don't have that. But I did start getting some body dysmorphia. I'd look in the mirror and I'd see my abs—and when I looked again, they would fade. I would just see the flaws."
He later revealed "when I saw that reaction [to the photos] was when I was like, 'Okay, I clearly don't see what's actually there." And admitted, "It's something that I'm trying to be aware of and be better at, because that's not a good way to be. You want to be easy on yourself."