That's entertainment

I figure its worth making something clear about my feelings about Huge. My frustration with the show being leveraged to sell fat stigmatization (and an exceptionally class-ist form of fat stigmatization at that) doesn't mean I'm telling you not to enjoy the show. I don't watch the program, so I can't judge its quality, but my understanding is that on a purely textual level it hasn't made the sorts of easy conclusions its handlers have. Getting in bed with an onerous promoter of fat hatred is disappointing, but it doesn't mean you can't like the show still.

It'd be nice to think that we can have purely fat positive, body affirming entertainment, but we can't. And we don't. I don't, anyway. If you are trying to, believe me, all power to you. But I can't even begin to try policing for this because I'm always reminded that I'm just punishing the people who open their mouths. Because we live in a society where fat hatred has been enshrined as common sense. One entertainer may have said something, but the overwhelming majority will find nothing wrong about that. Fat hatred is systematic in our culture. Most people, even most fat people, accept most of it without every really considering it. For myself, I don't think its fair to have high standards on this issue when making my entertainment choices. Its a luxury I don't think I can enjoy.

If an entertainer DOES find something wrong with fat hatred, awesome. If they are committed to oppose that, awesome. I'm by no means discouraging seeking out the entertainment venues that do try to offer something consciously free of fat stigmatization. Do not mistake me here, we need that and we should applaud it. But when someone fails, its okay to make a personal decision to keep being a fan. Just remember, its okay to be a fan AND feel disappointed and frustrated.

It pisses me off to know end when a show I love hauls out a fat suit for an episode. But I can still like the show in spite of the miscue. I really enjoy Ben Folds' music but there is one song I will not listen to because of the way it demonizes fat people through a hostile metaphor. I still listen to the rest of his ouvre because I still like him as a performer/songwriter. I kept enjoying Al Franken as a humorist after I stopped rationalizing his fat hatred as a parody and recognized that he meant it, too. I still watch Pixar movies even if I found Wall-E very troubling. Heck, I still watch Wall-E. I rewatched it a couple months ago and felt my concerns with it stand, even as I find other elements of the movie profoundly beautiful. You can enjoy an artist and still be frustrated with elements of their work or the manner in which their work is marketed.

Again, this is not to say that its not valid to make the choice to opt-out, too. Believe me, there are a lot of things I would not be forgiving about, even though they are not as personal an issue to me as fat acceptance. On this issue, though, I personally feel that banishment isn't a viable option in all cases, or frankly even most cases. Its a valid choice, too. Just know that you can balance your appreciation and disappointment. You don't need to reject your disappointment in order to appreciate them.


Amy said...

Thanks for this post. I find it frustrating that one can't call out something problematic in a piece of entertainment without being accused of hating and demonizing it in its entirety.

O.C. said...

I'm also a Ben Folds fan. One of the most uncomfortable concert-going experiences I've ever had was listening to him sing that song, with the audience singing along, at a venue where everyone is standing, so I felt much more visible than I would have in a seat. He followed that with a new, "humorous" song about people in trailer parks using meth. The combination of fatism and classism has really hurt my affection for him as a performer.

Sleepydumpling said...

Great post Brian. I've been asking myself the same questions of late. Between hearing one of my favourite comedians go down the fat joke road (only once, but it was a bit like a slap in the face), and then someone blogging about the fat gags in one of my favourite shows, I was kind of mulling it about in my head over the past few weeks.

Fat stigmatisation is everywhere. To think that we can cut it out of our lives completely is a bit like imposing a bit of a boy/girl in the bubble status for ourselves. I guess it all boils down to deciding which bits are worth challenging directly, which you can challenge overall in the belief that it will help the evolution of fat hatred out of our culture (and it is an evolution, we will get there!) and which bits you just walk away from.

And yes, while Wall-E has so much magic about it, the whole humankind side of things really bothered me too!

Brian said...

The bizarre thing to me is that people outside FA always think we are living in some bubble so when the swoop in to toss grenades they fashion it as speaking truth to power or some such nonsense that inflates their ego and demonstrates no awareness of reality. They act like its a crusade to puncture our bubble, but they don't get that we couldn't do it if wanted to. All of us make these compromises. Not just in entertainment, but in our personal lives as well. All of us make peace with out disenfranchised we are as fat accepting people. I'm not saying we tolerate the disenfranchisement, but we recognize it and make the accommodations we must for the here and now. That people are so enamored with the supposed righteousness of beating us down is deeply perverse.

Sleepydumpling said...

I think you're right Brian. It's almost as if there is this mindset that we will just crumble in our convictions the first time we're challenged. Sometimes I think there is a perception that we haven't made an informed choice, that perhaps we're not able to make an informed choice about our own bodies, our own health and our own life path.

Brian said...

Its hard to know where some attacks even come from. A lot of people seem enamored with the notion that we just haven't been told to hate our bodies yet so if they tell us, then we'll get it. They treat us like our position is implausible sight unseen and then proceed to not look at what we're saying at all.

Sleepydumpling said...

I would hazard a guess that they usually come from fear.

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