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Rebel Wilson seems to be in the papers ever time I open it. Just in the past few weeks, she’s hosted the MTV Awards (and won a couple of them too), attended an official function at the White House, a Vanity Fair party, and a Hollywood première, been chosen to appear in Kung Fu Panda 3, had a glamorous makeover, is tipped to have a sex scene in upcoming Pain & Gain, performed on Late Night, and been interviewed on The View and BET.
Browsing through the headlines, I read that she is funny and wonderful, wows on the red carpet, has captivated audiences everywhere, loves being a gay icon, is now a certified international star, a great dancer and the toast of Hollywood, and it’s a proven scientific fact that she is the greatest living thing on the planet and reviewers wish she could star in every film. I am also reliably informed by some pundit that if you don’t love Rebel Wilson, you’re stupid.
It seems that Rebel has “arrived” in Hollywood, and in the uncertain world of acting, comedy and entertainment, she has gained enough success to be counted as a famous person.
It’s all a long way from her beginnings on Australian television, playing the controlling wife Toula on the SBS comedy Pizza. I could appear very clever by claiming that I always knew that Rebel would make it in Hollywood, but I can’t, because I didn’t. It never crossed my mind, even as I noted that she was a scene-stealer on the show, and by far the funniest thing about the TV special Pizza World.
To be fair, I don’t think anyone else from her early days predicted it either. A maths whiz who went on to study law, she spent a year in South Africa as a Rotary Youth Ambassador. She claims that while suffering hallucinations during a bout of malaria, she saw herself winning an Oscar. After that, she pursued acting, and when she got laughs during a serious performance, realised she had a gift for comedy.
So far, there’s been no Oscar, but she has received an acting scholarship funded by Nicole Kidman, got her big break in Bridesmaids after she wrote and starred in her own TV show, Bogan Pride, and won the MTV Movie Award for Best Breakthrough Performance in Pitch Perfect – past alumni of this award include George Clooney, Jennifer Garner, Isla Fisher and Zac Efron.
Rebel’s parents named her after a girl who sang at their wedding, and Ms Wilson’s siblings are named Ryot, Liberty and Annachi (her brother Ryot and sister Liberty have been contestants on The Amazing Race).
Professional dog showers with a surprisingly conservative streak, the Wilsons gave all their children middle names from English royalty – Rebel’s is after the present queen, and at school she was known as Elizabeth. I recently saw a birth notice for a little Rebel Elizabeth, so maybe this is a name combination which works well.
A rebel is someone who resists or defies authority, often with connotations of doing so violently. The word comes from Old French, and is ultimately from the Latin for “I fight back”.
The name Rebel became much more common in the American southern states after the American Civil War. The soldiers in the Confederate army were known as the Rebels, and personified as Johnny Rebel or Johnny Reb. It could thus be seen as a patriotic name for some Americans, and was given to both sexes, but mostly boys.
In Australia, it appears rarely in the records, mostly in the middle, and is much more common as a girl’s name. There is a female Australian film producer named Rebel Russell-Penfold, and mum Rebel Wylie writes for Kidspot.
Tough baby names like Bandit, Rocket, Blade and Maverick are fashionable, and the classic teen movie Rebel Without a Cause, western TV show The Rebel, and pop song He’s a Rebel give this name a certain retro rockabilly vibe (rebels were clearly a real fad of the 1950s and early ’60s).
Although unisex, it tends to read female in Australia, and the current success of Rebel Wilson only strengthens that. I think it can still work as a boy’s name though – it certainly doesn’t have an ultra-feminine meaning, and The Rebels is a popular name for sports teams, and also a biker club.
If you fancy the idea of having your own little Rebel, it’s a name which is on trend, and a little different without being too strange. The recent success of Rebel Wilson means that most people have heard of it, although some parents may fear that the larger-than-life comedienne could overshadow the name.
POLL RESULT: Rebel received an approval rating of 32%. People saw the name Rebel as unprofessional (19%), ridiculous (17%), and over the top (16%). However, 13% thought it was different and cool. 12% thought Rebel Wilson made the name seem more usable, while 3% were put off the name by the actress.