Pixar and the shorthand of Fat

So, the latest Pixar movie comes out today, Wall-E. I've been dreading this for a while as some plot points leaked out which sounded very fat negative. As we've gotten closer to release, those plot points have been increasingly confirmed and very disappointing. Because its not necessary. Its not a movie that needed fat hatred. They are just using fat as shorthand for something bad.

I first mentioned the phenomenon of shorthand fat in one of my first posts back in 2003. There, a movie uses a characters past fat self as a representation of his emotional problems at this time. When we see him in the present, he is thin, which is how we know he's better. I blasted this for being lazy film-making, and I'll blast Pixar for the same thing. It's lazy. Its playing into cultural prejudices to make a point.

Indeed, it seems like Pixar is actually being quite subtle and I suspect their use of fat shorthand will appeal to a variety of different fat prejudices. Essentially, fat is cautionary in the film. A sign of humanity's downfall in the future. But that's all it is. A sign, a symbol to represent something else. That can be useful sometimes, but here the effect is far more crass. Rather than making a complex point about consumerism or over-consumpsion of resources, they just rely on people's fear and disgust of fat. Forget all the valid complaints about those things. They'll make you FAT! That fear can be so base for people, that it doesn't matter if someone thinks of fat as a consequences of personal irresponsibility or corporate neglect. Both will feel the fear of fat and attach their own nuanced prejudices onto that.

The sad thing is, from the reviews, it sounds like the movie DID make its point before scaring us with the fatness. They really didn't need to fall back on using fat as shorthand for the dangers of modern society. But they did anyway, because for people who feel that way, its almost irresistible to draw that connection. Its such an obvious part of their fat prejudice that they feel they must make the point.

The thing to remember though is that there are a LOT of people who feel this way. Indeed, one of my disappoints with Pixar over this is that its so cliché to frightfully warn of the fattening of humanity. Its gotten boring even if you don't find it offensive. But still, its a message a lot of people will eat up because its what they want to hear and what the expect to hear. It really just serves to pat these people on the head for their fat hatred, justifying it to them with a horrifying view of fatness triumphant. It will inspire them to smug satisfaction in the face of the scary fatness. But again, the reality is that this is the culturally dominant position. Its a culturally coddled position. Pixar isn't unique in believing this ore suggesting it or promoting it. So I have trouble singling them out for shame for something that is a social problem. The sad reality is, they shouldn't know better. Not in this society, anyway. Not yet. Fat hatred enjoys such tremendous privilege in our culture that it simply is a non-issue for those who practice it. We need to change this, but if I hated everyone who thought that way, I'd hate darn near everyone and that doesn't feel very constructive to me.

So, I'll probably go see the movie anyway and try to ignore the point they are making. I made this point before, too. Its a frustration, but I feel its unfair to blame the person who says something everyone else is thinking. I have friends I know think the same things it sounds like Pixar is communicating in this movie. Heck, I have friends who consider themselves fat positive who'd probably agree with it. Its a very culturally dominant message and I don't feel like I can single out people for blame for something our society takes for granted. While we can change society one person at a time, its not going to be condemning society's views one individual at a time.

Its frustrating. I want a world where I don't have to deal with this. But we don't have that world yet. So I'll try to ignore the "OMG! Fatness!" side of Wall-E and hope the movie holds up without it. I suspect it will. Which is, again, why I really wish it wasn't there to begin with.

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