Kumail Nanjiani became a trending topic on Twitter after fans and detractors of the comedian debated whether his physical transformation for Marvel’s The Eternals had gone too far.
The social media controversy seems to have been sparked by photos the 42-year-old comedian shared to Instagram on Christmas and again on New Year’s Eve.
While some poked fun at his appearance and theorized that it was due to steroid use, others labeled the discourse racist and complained that other white actors playing superheroes had avoided scrutiny in the past.
Mixed response: Kumail Nanjiani became a topic of discussion on Twitter in recent days after fans and detractors debated his extreme fitness transformation to play a role in Marvel’s The Eternals
Nanjiani most recently shared a photo of himself eating a slice of cake and beaming on New Year’s Eve, which seems to have set off the latest wave of controversy.
‘Happy new year! I celebrated with a pandan tres leches cake from @marysmakeshop that made me rethink everything. I only eat Pandan tres leches cakes from here on out,’ he joked before wish his fans a ‘safe NYE.’
But by January 2, the future superhero star’s appearance was being fiercely debated on Twitter, with many users sharing an earlier photo Nanjiani posted to Instagram on December 25.
In addition to a sweet photo of himself and his wife, writer and producer Emily V. Gordon, Nanjiani shared a photo of himself eating while posing with a gingerbread house.
He wore a T-shirt this time that accentuated his bulging, veiny biceps, and multiple social media users also commented on his newly chiseled jaw.
Innocuous: The discourse erupted after Nanjiani posted a photo of himself eating cake on New Year’s Eve, following a Christmas post
Update: His holiday Instagram post featured a sweet photo of himself and his writer wife Emily V. Gordon, while another snap showed him looking absolutely ripped next to a gingerbread house
‘When you’re having a normal dinner and not on the verge of exploding,’ joked one Twitter user while posting the photo of Nanjiani at the table.
Another person shared a photo of someone who appeared to have had cosmetic work done to compare them to the comedian’s new appearance.
‘”Yes I am comedian and co-star of the HBO comedy Silicon Valley Kumail Nanjiani, how could you tell?”‘ they wrote.
Another popular user shared a still from 1991’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, comparing Nanjiani’s new appearance to the cartoonishly muscular mutated animal henchmen.
Having a laugh: ‘When you’re having a normal dinner and not on the verge of exploding,’ joked one Twitter user while posting the photo of Nanjiani at the table
What a difference: Another person shared a photo of someone who appeared to have had cosmetic work done to compare them to the comedian’s new appearance
Extreme: Another popular user shared a still from 1991’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, comparing Nanjiani’s new appearance to the cartoonishly muscular mutated animal henchmen
All for nought? Others joked that Nanjiani had gone to such extremes for a film that isn’t widely anticipated by fans, unlike other Marvel movies
‘Kumail used his multimillion dollar net worth to add bones to his skull and we’re not supposed to laugh at him doing all this for the third lead in a marvel movie that very well could be the box office bomb that permanently derails the structures of modern cinema,’ wrote another user.
Multiple people wondered if Nanjiani had used anabolic steroids to bulk up for the role, though it would be unethical for a doctor to prescribe steroids merely to put on muscle for a movie role, and illegal to have acquired them without a prescription.
Some fans of Nanjiani and Marvel defended the comedian-turned-actor and suggested that the criticism about his appearance or Marvel’s requirement for its lead actors was racist.
Standing up for him: Some fans of Nanjiani and Marvel defended the comedian-turned-actor and suggested that the criticism about his appearance or Marvel’s requirement for its lead actors was racist, like filmmaker and Bill & Ted actor Alex Winter
Nothing to see here: Others defending his extreme transformation as just the result of him ‘exercising’
Making connections: One person compared Nanjiani’s bulking up to Chadwick Boseman’s extremely thin appearance as he battled cancer
Filmmaker and Bill & Ted star Alex Winter said the criticism was an example of ‘racism, straight up.’
Another person wrote: ‘Kumail Nanjiani is trending because people are mad he’s… exercising? Alrighty then.’
One user made a connection between the criticism of Nanjiani and jokes made about Chadwick Boseman’s thin appearance in the final months of his life, before it was revealed that he had been battling cancer.
‘After Chadwick Boseman’s death there was a lot of talk about “never make fun of people’s bodies, you don’t know what anyone’s going through” but Kumail Nanjiani posts like. an average picture of himself eating dinner and that’s our window I guess,’ they complained.
He’ll be playing the immortal alien Kingo in The Eternals, which also stars Angelina Jolie, Richard Madden and Brian Tyree Henry.
Major transformation: Nanjiani previously displayed a more average physique for his comic roles on Silicon Valley and in the autobiographical comedy The Big Sick; seen in 2015
Although other superhero stars have been made fun of for their bulked-up appearances, others like Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans are known for their action hero roles, where as Nanjiani has primarily played comic roles before that didn’t require an extremely muscular physique.
The actor has been open about the extremes he had to go to to achieve his look for The Eternals, which he said required ‘the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world.’
At the time, his fans were shocked by his newly chiseled features.
Hard to look like that: Nanjiani previously shocked his fans with photos of his chiseled look, which he attributed to a year with ‘the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world’