Hot or Not? Jury’s Out

Hot or Not? Jury’s Out


The fate of a Puerto Rican teenager lies in the hands of twelve white jurors. The boy, charged with murdering his father, faces the possibility of death. This is the basis for 12 Angry Men, a 1957 drama directed by Sidney Lumet, and starring Henry Fonda as the lone enlightened juror who eventually leads the others to unanimously vote for the boy’s acquittal. 

Fifty-eight years later, in 2015, Amy Schumer is the one on trial in an episode of her Comedy Central variety show, Inside Amy Schumer. The episode, “12 Angry Men,” is shot in black-and-white, and meticulously recreates the ominous music, somber close-ups, and establishing shots that characterized many ’50s dramas. Instead of murder, however, the crime in question is that of attractiveness, or a lack thereof. 

The jurors, played by actors including Kumail Nanjiani, Paul Giamatti, and Jeff Goldblum, must deliberate on whether Schumer, who is also the show’s main writer, is “hot enough to be on television.” The law requires a unanimous vote. The men take a preliminary vote to assess their stances: Eleven of the twelve believe Schumer’s looks fall short, but one, Fonda’s counterpart, played by John Hawkes, isn’t convinced. “I think she might be hot enough,” he admits.1

The other men grow annoyed. One juror (Henry Zebrowski) worries he’ll miss the Blake Shelton meet-and-greet he paid for. Another (Adrian Martinez) wonders what he’ll have for lunch.

“Let’s be reasonable,” Giamatti’s character says to the uncertain juror. “You sat in that courtroom and saw the same potato face we did for three months.”2

But Hawkes requests further discussion; he wants to be convinced. He does not want to “end a girl’s life” without thoroughly talking about the matter first. Schumer does not face the possibility of death, as the accused teenager did in the original film, but, as another juror (Vincent Kartheiser) astutely points out, “It’s an undisputed fact that a woman’s value is mostly determined by her looks.” 

“As it should be,” Giamatti asserts.

The men discuss the apparent proliferation of seemingly average or below-average women unjustifiably creating their own shows, but agree they would certainly tune in to anything hosted by Megan Fox or Kate Upton. But alas, such shows do not exist. Instead, these twelve angry men are stuck with the likes of Amy Schumer.

“It’s just another example of an average-looking chick who watched too much Top Model,” one juror (Nick Di Paolo) laments. “Now she believes she belongs on the cover of Fuckable Magazine.

Most of the men in the episode believe “bangability” to be an essential component of a woman’s right to be on television. Does Schumer possess such a quality? They aim to know. For them, Schumer represents the danger of a looming epidemic, that of other “manatees” and “quirky-looking dump trucks” dominating television, taking up valuable real estate that could be occupied by “hotter” women. Talent is irrelevant: “No women are funny,” Giamatti says, “but if you have to hear them blab, they better at least be hot.’” 


After my freshman year at Bishop Manogue Catholic High School in Reno, Nevada, I became obsessed with how I looked. I restricted my food intake, increased exercise, and adopted strange, obsessive behaviors that provided further parameters around when, what, and how I could eat. I ate with my less dominant hand; each bite of food had to be chewed 32 times, one for each tooth. My period disappeared, my skin turned dull and lifeless. Any previous spark of life slowly diminished until it was all but extinguished. My mom remarked how my eyes looked sad. 

I had succumbed to a societal myth claiming that smaller bodies and less nourishment were superior and desirable. Discipline, a value I had always scrupulously applied to grades, now equated restriction, the method by which I resolved to make my body thinner, lighter, perfect. This was what I observed around me. The famous women I admired were all immensely beautiful, fit, and lean. They confidently wore their glamorous form-fitting gowns and graciously received the praise showered upon them by critics and fans alike. They seemed so accomplished, so happy. 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with being beautiful, fit, and lean, but this is not the only “good” way to be. It seemed Hollywood had defined the narrow range within which a woman had to remain to be on screen, and anyone who managed to stay in this range was portrayed as the paragon of beauty and desire—the hallmarks of worthiness. Those of us with differently built bodies were automatically placed within a lesser category, and the women in Hollywood, especially, were rendered invisible, or confined to unsexy, minor roles—a grandma, a quirky best friend. I had learned the ideal, and felt shame knowing I would never be able to live up to it.


Humor is an often underrated antidote to pain, and has the ability to creatively facilitate important conversations surrounding sensitive issues. Eating disorders are gravely serious. Indeed, they are the deadliest mental health disorder in the United States.3 But eating disorders are absurd, and there is always room for humor to help highlight just how ridiculous something may be. About a month and a half into my stay at a residential treatment center, the summer before my junior year, Adam Mansbach’s book You Have to Fucking Eat appeared on the home’s mantelpiece. I chuckled upon seeing it, surprised that the grave, stoic higher-ups allowed such blasphemy to be displayed. (One therapist removed it just before Family Visitation Day.) Flipping through it made me smile and served as a reminder that perhaps I was taking myself too seriously. Perhaps I was placing too much weight on things that, ultimately, did not matter as much as I had believed. 

So when Amy Schumer tackled the absurdity of what is considered attractive, and the expectations of all women to inhabit a very similar body type regardless of age, race, genetics, energy output, metabolism, lifestyle, and numerous other variables that render body comparison a futile and hopeless endeavor, it came as a relief. Her sharp wit and refreshing frankness disarmed the resistance some may feel around such thorny topics. And yet her words were heavy with truth and residual anger. With an impactful self-awareness, “12 Angry Men” further highlights such absurdity, and does so in a hilarious, entertaining manner. Indeed, the cruel comments exiting the men’s mouths were written by Schumer herself, only adding to the episode’s effectiveness.

Most women will never have their looks deliberated by an all-male jury, but this literal reenactment is not all that different from what occurs in reality. “I’ve seen the image of the thin yet ripped body transformed from something desirable and maybe athletic into a powerful signifier of ambition, affluence, and self-respect,” Margaret Talbot writes in a New Yorker book review. “Both images are sellable, but the second is more insidious.”4 The diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits society instructs us to adopt seem to be in service of achieving this “thin yet ripped body,”5 or at least increasing the likelihood of one day achieving it. 

Talbot’s essay reflects numerous sentiments expressed in the “Always Be Optimizing” chapter of Jia Tolentino’s 2019 book Trick Mirror. In it, Tolentino remarks how the “ideal woman” is always striving toward self-improvement, whether through regular barre classes, Sweetgreen salads, or investing in athleisure wear, optimization’s “uniform.” The ideal woman’s body is disciplined enough so that there is “little to conceal or rearrange.” But Tolentino identifies a curious paradox. A woman can enjoy “trying to look good,” she writes, “but it’s hard to say how much you can genuinely, independently like what amounts to a mandate.”6 Talbot, too, explores this dilemma. “For women,” she writes, “good advice about exercise has been particularly hard to separate from the pressure to diet and look hot.”7  

And such “good advice” often morphs into an emblem of morality. Some foods are “good,” others are “bad”; we have cheat days and cleansing to counteract any “naughty” behavior. A larger dress size has come to indicate a sort of transgression. Schumer tackles these mandates in “12 Angry Men,” highlighting a sinister shift toward the idea that smaller always equals better. After all, she is on trial.

“Why can’t we have Marilyn Monroe back, huh?” Giamatti asks.

“Do you know what size Marilyn Monroe was?” George Riddle’s character counters. “She was an eight.”


Hawkes, embodying the keen logic and moral sincerity embodied by Fonda’s character, leans in toward Giamatti. “Amy’s a six,” he says.8  

Just as Fonda aimed to get his fellow men to think clearly and compassionately, so too does Hawkes urge his own counterparts to recognize how ridiculous modern standards of beauty are. While Fonda swayed a room full of jurors convinced a teenager was guilty of murder, Hawkes sways a group of men set on the idea that Amy Schumer is not hot enough for TV. 

External forces have been allowed to determine what beauty looks like, imposing “mandates” on body size, diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors. A literal jury may not be determining a woman’s worth, but she is still subject to the jury of society, a fact “12 Angry Men” playfully elucidates. Schumer has summoned a jury of actors and comedians to judge her, which in turn places judgment on a society where such behavior is considered normal. We are all privy to a story we have collectively agreed to believe. Amy Schumer calls out our acquiescence; we cannot help but listen. 


The night trudges on as the men try to reach a unanimous decision. They bring in Schumer’s dildo as evidence. Some question why she needs such a shameful toy if men do, in fact, “want to fuck her.” Hawkes presents a different view, pulling his wife’s own dildo from his jacket pocket. “She doesn’t use it because she’s alone,” he says of his wife as he waves it at the incredulous men. “Quite the opposite, actually. We use it, and we love it.”

With each additional blind vote, however, more jurors indicate that Amy Schumer is, perhaps, “hot enough to be on television.” After scrutinizing a professional photo of her and debating what provokes a “reasonable chub,” the scale tips in her favor, slowly but surely. Indeed, much to his dismay, Giamatti develops a “full chub” upon learning Schumer’s dress size. He breaks down in tears. Nick Di Paolo is now the last man needing to be convinced of Schumer’s “bangability.” 

“Am I the only one thinking with his dick?” he demands in a fit of rage. “Just look at her! This isn’t someone I’d want to see coming out of a bathroom at Penn Station, let alone on my TV in my home!”

And then he, too, breaks down, ripping apart a photo of Tanya, an average-looking high school love who had refused to attend prom with him. Somber horns sound as the men fall silent. They look around, relieved that they have, at last, reached a decision. Throughout their hours-long deliberation, Hawkes tried to convince the others that attractiveness is subjective, urging each man to consider their own preferences. They discovered that most of them liked qualities that would not necessarily be deemed attractive by the ideal, television standard. Why, then, must they impose such standards on all women?

Amy Schumer anxiously waits on the courthouse steps. The judge (Dennis Quaid) approaches. “The jury agreed that they would bang you,” he says, placing a hand on her shoulder. “You’re hot enough for basic cable television.”

Schumer, relieved, happily thanks the judge before running up the stairs. He wonders where she is going, informing her that everyone else has already left.

She looks down at him with a triumphant smile.

“I’m going to get my dildo,” she says.9  


Intellectually, I always knew the societal expectations of women to look a certain way were unfair and often unhealthy. Friends, parents, and teachers would try to espouse the idea that one’s beauty lies within, or that one is beautiful just as she is. But were such maxims true? Society and the media seemed to say otherwise.

I never dared to look for the humor in all of this, nor was I exposed to women who articulated the current state of affairs so well. Amy Schumer continues to provide a salve. She never seeks pity or ventures into sentimentality. She never portrays herself as a victim. Instead, as with “12 Angry Men,” she rises above cruel societal myths and unspoken beliefs. She exudes confidence and wit, intelligence and poise, traits consistently reflected in her work. 

And she has fun. Being a woman should be enjoyable. It should not be a trap. Watching “12 Angry Men” again reminded me, just as You Have to Fucking Eat did, that taking myself too seriously lets the myths win. Sometimes humor is the best weapon: How can one scrutinize her body when she is busy enjoying life?

  1. “12 Angry Men,” Inside Amy Schumer, season 3, episode 3, aired May 5, 2015 on Comedy Central.
  2. “12 Angry Men,” Inside Amy Schumer, season 3, episode 3.
  3. John Arcelus, Alex Mitchell, Jakie Wales, Soren Nielsen, “Mortality Rates in Patients With Anorexia Nervosa and Other Eating Disorders: A Meta-analysis of 36 Studies,” Arch Gen Psychiatry 68, no. 7 (2011): 724–731.
  4. Margaret Talbot, “Exercise Is Good for You. The Exercise Industry May Not Be,” The New Yorker, March 21, 2022.
  5. Talbot, “Exercise Is Good for You. The Exercise Industry May Not Be.”
  6. Jia Tolentino, Trick Mirror, 63-94  (Random House, 2019).
  7. Talbot, “Exercise Is Good for You. The Exercise Industry May Not Be.”
  8. “12 Angry Men,” Inside Amy Schumer, season 3, episode 3.
  9. “12 Angry Men,” Inside Amy Schumer, season 3, episode 3.
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