Recently Netflix dropped a trailer for their upcoming series “Insatiable,” a “dark comedy” about a girl who gets terribly bullied for not fitting in, who then exacts her revenge against all the people who were mean to her the second she gets the chance to come back a “winner.”
Unfortunately, their trailer was met with a pretty loud clapback because of the way this particular character “didn’t fit in”.
She was fat.
Sigh. Y’all might as well settle in, folks. We have a lot of ground to cover.
Starting with the success of Kate on the popular NBC drama “This is It,” the Powers that Be are starting to get the hint audiences are ready for Fat Stories, giving us Fat Folk an opportunity to be represented in the media as something OTHER than the plucky sidekick.
This can get a little tricky when they rely on thin filmmakers to tell these stories because thin people who have never been fat (or worse, fear becoming fat,) many times don’t understand what I will call The Fat Experience. They have what they perceive as the Fat Experience, but that doesn’t mean they understand – at all – what it’s like to navigate life as a fat person. What they have instead is the universal perception of what it must mean to be fat, which is generally crafted by… dah dah dah DAH – thin folks.
I ran into this a few years ago when I attempted to read Danielle Steel’s “Big Girl.” DS made her career writing about the super thin and super rich, so when romance fiction began to embrace fuller figures she dipped her toe in the rising pool to give it a whirl.
I made it nearly two hundred pages before I had to tap out. I explained why in a very extensive review, but suffice it to say – the story was phoned in, with SO much left unaddressed because in DS’s mind, being Fat was the key conflict in her heroine’s life.
I mean, it must be, right? Because that’s all that we’re ever allowed to see.
If we’re not thin, we’re focused on being thin because being fat is AWFUL, you guys. JUST AWFUL. It is the ONE THING that determines your happiness, because it casts a shadow on your entire life experience. You get made fun of every day, you’re lonely every night. Everything is on pause until that scale finally begins to move in the right direction.
I swear if I see ONE MORE story featuring a fat girl crying into her ice cream because no guy will date her, I’ll fucking scream. THIS IS NOT THE EXPERIENCE FOR ALL OF US. We’re not sad all the time. We’re not lonely all the time. We’re not bullied incessantly, certainly not to the point of constant, daily abuse. Are there shitty people out there who will say shitty things? Yes. USUALLY they’re pretty far removed from us, like strangers on the internet, or people you pass on the street. Usually, people are more civilized in personal one-on-one contact. Our lives are often full of VERY supportive people, and a lot of people who are a helluva lot more forgiving than the media would have you believe.
And we date. And we have sex. Lots of sex. (No, I don’t care that I put that visual in your head. Fat people fuck. Deal with it.)
We fall in love, we get married, we have children – we do EVERY SINGLE FUCKING THING THAT THIN PEOPLE DO.
Fat is way more of a hard stop for you guys than it is for us.
I mean it has to be, considering you all want to put EVERYTHING on the other side of losing weight, like the starting gate to life begins on the other side of After.
See, there’s this idea that if you accept a fat person as is, you’re not doing them any favors. To be “helpful,” you have to employ the tough love, which for most fat people includes microaggressions – like ignoring us and all the stories we might have to tell that don’t fit in the “diet till you get thin, then we’ll talk” narrative.
Basically, we’re all being ghosted till we get the hint and go away. We’re getting photoshopped out of the picture. Seated way in the back so we’re not visible on camera.
Without that “After” picture, far too many of you can’t be bothered to recognize us as equal humans. But it has dick to do with our health. The thing you’re trying to protect is your bias, which you keep shrouded in that phony baloney health concern to make you feel better about it. We fat folk know the dealio. You really don’t even try to hide it. Your distaste more often than not comes down to a matter of simple aesthetics.
There are people who won’t read a romance novel starring a Fat Heroine not because they think a fat person is too unhealthy to find love and happiness, it’s because they don’t want to read about fat bodies getting nakey, because ew.
Yet I’m supposed to read book after book of the Sexy But Doesn’t Know She’s Sexy waif, because, you know, THAT is the escapism I’m supposed to crave, thanks to an inherent shame/dissatisfaction I’m supposed to feel as a woman in this culture.
In order to be happy, I have to pretend I’m someone else entirely.
All of this stems from the social conditioning shaped by the media around us. What did Dietland’s Plum call it? The Dissatisfaction Industrial Complex? How many multi-billion-dollar industries exist right now that have ONE purpose: to make women feel “dissatisfied” about themselves so they will buy one more magazine, one more self-help book, one more piece of makeup or shaping undergarment?
G’head. Go count ’em. I’ll wait.
For Fat People, conformity is a no-brainer. EVERYONE accepts that being fat is a bad thing, right? Lose weight – problem solved.
I’m 48 years old and the thinnest I have EVER been in my adult life was about 190, which is still technically overweight. Despite that critical flaw, I have fallen in love more than once (and been loved more than once in return.) I even had a WEDDING, if you can believe that. My wedding dress was a size 30 you guys. *30*
Is that even a real size, Becky? Oh. My. God.
Despite that anomaly, I’ve raised babies into men – including the emotional kind, converting a couple of confirmed bachelors.
(Yeah. I did that.)
I’ve had jobs, I’ve even crafted a six-figure career – mostly reaching out to other outcasts like me who were done handing the spotlight to other people simply because of a number on a scale. I provided them characters that looked like them, badasses in every size and shape, and they couldn’t get enough. Never, not once, did I put their HEA on the other side of losing weight, even if their journey included weight loss.
*Fun fact: The stories that sold the most? The ones where the fat heroines didn’t give a flying fig about losing weight. They marched straight towards their dreams anyway, scale be damned.
I know a little bit about this. I’ve fallen in love, I’ve had sex, I’ve traveled extensively, made friends with famous people and had countless incredible experiences – all quite before The Great Until.
What is The Great Until? Well, it’s that little piece of Eutopia where everything is perfect and everyone loves you, and you can finally – FINALLY – start your life.
If I was waiting for that, I’d be 48 and still be waiting, and people would call it “an excuse.” Imagine.
Not ALL fat people subscribe to the Great Until, but fat people do commonly make this mistake. I’ve even made it. We’ll do X after we’ve lost X. Christmas, weddings, birthdays, summer… whatever the occasion, whatever the reason. Nothing spruces you up like dropping a few.
This is mostly because the messaging demands it. Imagine how fewer books they would sell, or support undergarments, or diet plans, if we all kind of collectively went, “Nah, we’re good,” and forged ahead to make the life of our dreams.
It would be catastrophic to Dissatisfaction Industrial Complex’s bottom line if we all decided that, yeah. We’re pretty fucking satisfied.
There is no room for this story in our current narrative, which is constructed very carefully to drill into our heads we have to conform to society around us, rather than the other way around. If Fat People figure out there are more of us than there are of Thin Folk, we might actually demand to be treated like – I dunno, human beings or something.
Can you just imagine what THAT world would look like?
Instead we’re all shamed by the existing narrative to stay in the shadows, because fat people. Ew.
But the funny thing about life is that it happens to Fat People anyway.
I’ve never had the luxury of waiting for the Great Until. Life keeps zipping along and demands I keep up. If I were waiting around for my body to look “perfect,” I’d still be waiting. I’d have never done one goddamn thing, and that’d be a fucking shame. I figured since those days were going to pass without THEM waiting for the Great Until, it was silly of me to put my life on pause. Instead, I decided to feel the discomfort required of paving my own path, without waiting for permission or approval, and forge ahead anyway.
MOST OF US DO THIS, in spite of what we’ve been told. You have to. The only people waiting for me to cross some imaginary finish line are the people AROUND me who need such criteria met to give me any kind of credit, as if losing weight will unlock all the other accomplishments.
Newsflash: I’ve been acing obstacle courses my whole fat fucking life. LIVING LIFE AS A FAT PERSON IN THIS CULTURE IS AN OBSTACLE COURSE. Just because THEY don’t want to give me credit for it doesn’t mean I’m not a total badass.
Fortunately there are those pioneers who are paving their way through this confusing thicket. Ashley Graham is a personal favorite warrior of mine. I found her during my Groupie research days, and she was a prototype for my character, Andy. Ashley has gone on to be the first “plus” size model on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue. She even starred in a sexy rock video, years AFTER I wrote a scene similar in one of my (30) size inclusive novels. She slays on runways, even has her own swimsuit line, which includes sexy bikinis for bigger bodies.
This does a real number on the Summer Marketing Strategy from the Dissatisfaction Industrial Complex. How DARE we dismiss the “Is your body beach/bikini ready?” marketing plan?
Odd how many of their marketing plans depend on our shame, isn’t it?
Years ago, a journalist from back east got fat-shamed by one of the viewers for “promoting unhealthy lifestyles” to the young women who might be watching the news. She addressed this on a broadcast, which of course, led to more fat-shaming by those who agreed with the ever so helpful asshole who wrote the initial letter. I wrote a blog addressing said fat-shaming, and was FAT-SHAMED for doing so.
How DARE we say anything at all until we crossed over to the Great Until? Only then will we be allowed into the arena, to share our stories, and forgiven for losing all that horrible fat.
Here’s the thing about The Great Until – it’s a lie the weak tell themselves as a Get Out of Courage Card. There’s no such thing as The Great Until – there’s only the GREAT RIGHT NOW. Only a fool would squander it, chasing after some pipe dream that was crafted by someone else entirely JUST TO KEEP US UNHAPPY WITH OURSELVES.
It requires a lot more strength and bravery to deal with the Great Right Now in The Great Right Now.
Fortunately, the gates are opening. Things don’t look like they did 30 years ago, and that’s a good thing. I pride myself in being part of that change, because that’s what artists do. We change how people think via the stories we tell and how we tell them.
It’s a huge responsibility, especially in these troubling, chaotic times.
In 2018, we’re going to have three stories that include the Fat Experience. I’ve watched two of the three, because as I’ve said before, I support representation. They do have to earn it, though, so I watch very carefully to ensure the overall message of inclusivity doesn’t do more damage by consciously or unconsciously supporting the more restrictive narrative.
I need to see them break through those walls like the Kool-Aid guy, basically.
There’s This is Us, which DOES hit that hammer of shame pretty hard sometimes, but also gives Kate some necessary wins along the way. In fact, the storytelling is often very brave, showing that the only one forcing Kate to wait until The Great Until is Kate herself. She doesn’t want to date, she doesn’t want to pursue a singing career, she feels utterly disposable next to her picture perfect mom and her picture perfect siblings. These are real things. She sees bullies often where there are none, which shows the insidiousness of how that lifelong heaping of shame for being different colors every single experience she has. Ultimately SHE herself is her biggest fat-shamer.
Lazy storytelling would have people calling her a fat cow at every ten paces. This is Us doesn’t show that, they show the microaggressions, which is so much harder. I can’t tell you the last time someone called me a name in public, but I have YET to get on a plane without seeing at least five people stare at me in terror that I might sit next to them. This is Us captures that. They highlight uncomfortable glances by the people around her, who watch her carefully to see if she falls out of step with the narrative. It’s odd, you see, for a big woman to go out onto a dance floor full of Thin Folk. That’s what we’ve been told. That’s what we tell ourselves. That’s what Kate has decided was true.
What This is Us captured was the echo of all those insults past, making it hard to dip one’s foot in the pool of new experiences, which hurts SO much more than someone calling her a name.
These are the painful realities no one really understands.
Kate’s foil is often her boyfriend, Toby. She didn’t want a relationship with Toby at first, since she was SOOO focused on losing the weight. Everything else had to wait. Until when? The Great Until. Toby is not a Great Until kinda guy. He’s ALL about RIGHT NOW. He was persistent and burst through those Great Until walls. He also saw no reason for her to wait on singing, and set up gigs for her to build some confidence. Finally, thanks to this supportive relationship, she decided to audition for a legit singing job and she wasn’t selected. She let her Chatterbox fill her brain with all kinds of sizeist crap until she finally stalked back to the studio to read them the riot act for not accepting her because of her size.
What the writers did with that was SO FUCKING BRAVE, and SO FUCKING REAL.They didn’t buy into the narrative that Kate had to lose weight to make her dream come true. She simply had to focus on the right thing, i.e., the work, and not use her weight as an excuse.
I can ONLY imagine what a slap in the face that was to ANY of us waiting for the Great Until to be taken seriously.
In This is Us, Kate has fallen in love, sung in public, gotten engaged, gotten married – even gotten pregnant, all without the benefit of losing weight. They kinda had to. They hired a fat actress, so they actually had to write stuff for her to do NOW, rather than depend on some magical moment when she’s lost enough weight to “fit into” the narrative.
Funny how that works.
This proves once and for all there IS no Great Until, there is only the moment, which forces filmmakers and storytellers to break new ground on inclusive, diverse stories.
In AMC’s Dietland, protagonist Plum tells us from Episode One that all the events that we were about to witness happened Whilst Fat. Again, they had no choice but to do so, because the actress herself was undeniably fat.
What would the story be, IF the story did not depend on the After Photo?
Plum began her journey like so many of us fat girls – on a mission to lose weight. But life around us doesn’t wait for The Great Until, so we all kind of have to muddle our way through day by day. Thanks to actresses like Joy Nash and Chrissy Metz, we now have a physical representation of what that looks like on screen. We get to see things from another POV.
For instance, Plum starts her Dietland journey hoping to get her stomach stapled so she can finally become Alicia, the person she has always felt like she was inside. THEN she can go out on dates, or start her writing career… be seen.
Meanwhile, the audience can see all the opportunities she’s missing with her preoccupation of being thin. This stands out particularly in the area of romance. Several characters find her interesting as is, and we are screaming at our TV that she just needs to GO FOR IT and not wait.
(Ok, maybe that was just me. I so would have nailed Ben the first episode. But I also gave up waiting for The Great Until a long time ago. I’m not even a little bit sorry for either.)
Unlike This is Us, Dietland wasn’t written to give Plum a HEA. Dietland was written as satire, to exact revenge on our misogynistic media, cultural fatphobia and the Dissatisfaction Industrial Complex. Dietland is more than a Fat Revenge Fantasy – it’s a FEMINIST Revenge Fantasy. It slaughters ALL the sacred cows with unnerving boldness and a complete lack of apology.
So, you have This is Us:
And now, adding to the Fat Conversation, is Insatiable:
I’m putting these trailers together so you can see why one drew ire over the others. A thumbnail is worth a thousand words. Compare them honestly and YOU tell ME, which one of these things is not like the other?
In all fairness, I have yet to watch Insatiable. It comes out in August, so the only things we can base anything on, even whether or not we will watch it, are the trailers. These have been met with very loud, very robust criticism. When I started to watch, my first thought was “What’s the big deal?” After it was over, I shared their disgust in how this story is presented as well as my distrust they can add ANYTHING useful to the Fat Narrative.
Eyes were rolled, people. Eyes were rolled.
There’s a lot here to criticize, even without judging the entire series as a whole. Advertising is the cornerstone of the Dissatisfaction Industrial Complex, after all. Sometimes ya just gotta count the red flags.
Still, like my husband tried to do in 1999, when we were off to spend NYE with someone I knew was an abusive asshole even though we hadn’t yet met, people have been urging me to reserve judgment until I can see how it plays out. One of Insatiable’s stars, Alyssa Milano, whom I normally love, even spoke out against the controversy following the trailer.
“We are not shaming Patty,” Milano said. “We are addressing (through comedy) the damage that occurs from fat shaming. I hope that clears it up.”
Actually, no, Alyssa. That does NOT clear it up. But I suppose that’s probably my fault. I’m not far enough removed from fat shaming to find the comedy in it.
Red Flag Number One: Telling the Fat Experience without Fat Representation.
No, folks. A thin, conventionally attractive actress in a fat suit is NOT fat representation, any more than a white woman in blackface could sell the black experience. Just… no. If at any point you can take off the trappings of what makes you oppressed, you don’t know – you can’t know – what it’s like to have to navigate life with little choice of waiting till The Great Until to be seen, to be heard – to earn your humanity. And let me tell ya, folks, I’m sick and damned tired of a Thin Person trying to tell ME what they think MY experience is. Because it all comes back to the same, tired narrative before: if I’m fat, I get made fun of constantly, I’m super duper sad, and I wash all my lonely tears away in a tub of ice cream every night. If ONLY I could lose weight, then my life would be perfect.
Fuck. The. Fuck. OFF if you think this is my reality.
For a Thin Person who thinks that Fat is catastrophic, they are too eager to sell the Great Until as a narrative. That’s what they understand. If THEY were fat, they wouldn’t have the courage to date, to pursue their passions, to stand up to oppressors… it just makes sense.
Yet, I’m the one who is supposed to be defined by their limitations?
I don’t think so.
Ain’t it funny how they understand how ALL of those things are harder for a fat person to do, but they give us no credit whatsoever for actually DOING them while fat? You’d think THAT would be the story to tell. “Wow! Dude! You did all that WHILE fat?? Impressive!”
Instead, they pretend we don’t exist, except for one tired stereotype, because aesthetics.
The problem with the Great Until is that it doesn’t work in practical application. Until they invent a pill that helps me shed this weight like a fat suit, I have to navigate the day to day as a fat person – even if I’m a Good Fatty trying to lose the weight. And guess what? This fat person likes to do stuff, hang around people and enjoy life, so I ain’t waitin’ around to be happy. When I was a freshman, I had friends, I had dates, I even managed to kick ass in Speech/Drama. I still wanted to lose weight, sure. I believed the Great Until for the big stuff, like say, marrying Steve Perry or being an author, but at the time? I was just along for the ride of life, and I didn’t let being fat stop me from doing what I wanted to do.
This included pursuing every single guy I wanted to pursue, to varying degrees of success or failure. (Sometimes that failure included GETTING the guy.)
I also wrote. Like, a LOT. First story and first poem featured when I was 12. I wrote my first novella at 14, my first play at 16 and hundreds upon hundreds of poems. In ninth grade, I lost my notebook full of poems, which came back to me with “Fat Bitch” written all over it.
You might only see the bullying in that story, since that reinforces the trope. Personally, I see a jealous twat that saw a book filled with my creative accomplishments and the best they could come up with was write “Fat Bitch” as some sort of retort.
If you’re going to insult me, at least be creative.
FTR, this Fat Bitch has been paid quite a bit of coin for what she writes, and she didn’t have to wait for The Great Until to do it. THAT is the ultimate revenge to that bully, who was too scared to even sign their name.
Like Imagine Dragons sang…
Kids were laughing in my classes
While I was scheming for the masses
Who do you think you are?
Dreaming ’bout being a big star
They say you’re basic, they say you’re easy
You’re always riding in the back seat
Now I’m smiling from the stage while
You were clapping in the nose bleeds
The thunder is only gonna get louder, y’all. It has to. That’s the only way they’ll hear me.
Living the life of my dreams on my own terms is the only “revenge” I need, which brings us to…
Red Flag Number Two: The Fat Fantasy. (TM)
Here’s the problem when Thin People tell your story, their goals then become your goals, even when they’re not your goals. I’m not saying I have never wondered what it would be like if I could lose the weight and how certain folks would have to eat their hearts out, but I was also a kid. It was easier for me to lose weight to gain their acceptance than change the world at large to make it accept me.
Like Plum would say, this would take a revolution.
Needless to say, from my wanting to be an author to marrying Steve Perry, ALL my fantasies are grand. I can’t be bothered to amend my fantasy to fit into your fantasy, which in itself is a steaming load of crap. You wanna know why?
In order for me to support the Get Hot & Make Them Eat Their Hearts Out trope, I’d have to ACCEPT that being fat is a fatal flaw.
That was easier to do when I was 15 and didn’t know anything about the world and how it works. Now that I’ve navigated it for thirty plus years, to varying degrees of success and failure, I know that … wait for it… being fat isn’t a failure.
Nope. It really isn’t. It was how I coped with life when I had no clue what I was doing, and I’m allowed to get it wrong every bit as much as I’m allowed to get it right. And I’m grateful for it. It is my experience, it has been my path, and I’ve learned a lot about the world that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.
I’m grateful for this path, because it makes me a better, kinder person. It’s opened me up to see beauty in everything, not just what is socially acceptable.
That’s one of things I love most about myself.
Let’s face it, if I TRULY were the kind of person who would want to extract revenge on bullies to feel better about myself, this would make ME a bully, no?
You’re asking me to agree with my dehumanization, just because in YOUR mind, being thin is a measure of perfection – SIMPLY because that’s what our media reflects back to us. How would that look if you applied that “logic” to other marginalized folks?
Imagine this story being told by a bullied disabled kid, who suddenly came back for revenge when he miraculously became whole? Or a black kid, when he woke up white, or a gay teen, who happened to wake up straight. Or a girl… who happened to wake up one day as a boy.
A bias is a bias is a bias, even if the bullied target could “change” what makes them “imperfect” in your view, which is too narrow to allow me to exist outside your boxes.
Yet *I* am the one who is required to change?
How THE FUCK is that supposed to be my fantasy?
Red Flag Number Three: Abuse is a good thing!
The reason the Fat Girl isn’t Fat anymore? She got PUNCHED IN THE FACE, which resulted in her jaw being wired shut, so Miss Fatty McFatterson could no longer stuff her fat fucking face. Drastic intervention that took away her will, had DICK TO DO WITH HEALTH, but who cares because now she’s SO hot and SO beautiful, ZOMG we should ALL get punched in the face*!
(*Strongly do not recommend you take this course of “helpful” action with me. I punch back. And I likely outweigh you.)
And you fuckers wonder why people CARVE THEIR BODIES OPEN just to make you happy.
The only reason this outrageous scenario even exists? They had to hire a thin actress to tell a fat story, because a thin person simply CAN’T tell a fat story without the thin perspective, and they needed something drastic to explain her miraculous transformation.
Oh! I know! Let’s have someone beat up Fatty – I mean…. Patty.
That’s a punch you feel twice, my friends.
I. Can’t. Fucking. EVEN.
Red Flag Number Four: Your comedy trailer isn’t funny.
One of the unspoken rules of comedy is that you can’t punch down. If you’re poking fun at something, you can’t belittle those more oppressed than you to do it without coming off as a bully. If your story depends on fat jokes to be funny, EVEN if you’re poking fun at fat bias, IT ISN’T FUCKING FUNNY TO FAT FOLKS.
Case in point: Shallow Hal.
If a thin person tells me a “fat joke,” even if they want to preface it and tell me how horrible it is that people would laugh at it, Ima think you find it a lil bit funny and are looking for my permission to laugh.
Permission denied, motherfucker.
In my experience, this mindset underscores an underlying, if unspoken, prejudice against me AS a fat person, whether they mean it that way or not. Per what I’ve read, the Insatiable crew took great pains not to make fat the joke, but that’s not what I see in the trailer. I see that a fat person’s life was awful because she was fat, then when she got thin and “hot,” she was empowered to make her revenge.
What does that make me think of myself as a fat person… hum….
There’s a school of thought that divorced parents should never talk badly about the other parent to the child because that child, who comes from that person, would learn to be self-loathing.
If you’re saying, “Fat, ew!” how the heck am I NOT supposed to take that as, “You’re fat, EW!”? I run into this all the time with thinner friends, who bemoan how “fat” their thighs are, or how ugly their “love handles.” As someone with fat thighs and love handles, I now know the prism through which you view me… and it’s not favorable.
You can try to frame this story as a comedy, but right now I’m hard-pressed to agree with you because I felt every “punch” from that trailer. I prefer NOT making my fat and my struggle your joke, thank you VERY much. Like Hannah Gadsby said, “I built a career out of self-deprecation, and I don’t want to do that anymore. Because you do understand what self -deprecation means from somebody who already exists in the margins? It’s not humility. It’s humiliation.”
There’s a VERY thin line between fat-shaming fat-shaming, and fat-shaming fat. From the trailer at least, their fat-shaming looks to be within their own protected acceptance of what that looks like from a fat-bias point-of-view. If you think I’m wrong about that, by all means test it. Put fat right in front of it and see what happens.
Oh, right. The fat people are pissed. That should tell you something. Something along the lines of HIRE FAT PEOPLE TO TELL FAT STORIES, FFS.
Dietland is constantly pushing the boundaries, usually using Joy Nash’s fat body to do it. It is in our face with unflinching audacity. The actress has literally been filmed completely nude for scenes that they broadcast ON TV.
It’s as shocking to me as Queer as Folk was to the LGBT community back in the day. I see myself realistically being reflected back to me, DESPITE THE UNSPOKEN RULE THAT IT IS FORBIDDEN. EVERYTHING from the Dissatisfaction Industrial Complex tells me to HIDE the fat, and there it was – ALL of it – on TV – in full color.
That’s why representation is so fucking important, y’all. Not just for us, but for the Thin People around us who don’t see the world the same way, because their own experiences are validated every time they’re reflected back in the thin-obsessed media. My family is all thin/average weight. They are constantly surprised by the subtle nuances that This is Us and Dietland address. They learn what it is like to be inside my head and my body for a moment, and it’s so fucking rewarding to hear them go, “I get it.”
They’ve lived with me forever, but they don’t see my side of the story. They see me press on in The Great Right Now as if it’s no big deal, because that’s what I’m used to doing. I’m used to hoisting the heavy baggage a little higher and soldiering on, bearing my struggle silently because the Narrative depends on MY SHAME. It depends on me knowing my place, which is back at the starting line, waiting to earn my moment. If I trudge forward, I must do it quietly, secretly… covertly. Just one incremental step allowed at a time, and more than not, a few steps back and forth over the same worn path, because everything around me is built both to enable me to stay fat as much as it is to shame me for not being thinner.
When I go out to eat with folks, I am encouraged to try all the foods and the drinks. “One bite won’t kill you,” they say. Meanwhile I’m doing fucking SAT level algebra to figure out how to balance enjoying life like a normal person and not setting myself back for my health goals. Landmines are everywhere. They don’t want us to be fat, but they sure as hell enjoy fattening us up. Ironically, feeding fat people is considered just as nice as denying them attention till they get their fat butts in shape. Donuts at the office, going out to a restaurant that doesn’t offer a whole lot of items in my calorie range, the occasional happy hour, making every fucking holiday food-centric… before you know it a week has passed and I’m no closer to my goals than I was the week before.
If I was waiting for my life to start, I’d be totally screwed. Instead, I just had fun, enjoyed life (and food,) and hung out with lovely people who truly do love me as is, no merit badge of thinness required.
Just yesterday my beautiful, wonderful, thoughtful son brought me a soft-serve ice cream cone. I didn’t have the heart to tell him it was a No Sugar day, as I’m doing my best to take down THAT nasty addiction. No, it’s summer, it was a hot day, and my lovely son wanted to do something to make me happy. Ice cream always hits THAT spot, right?
Steven wanted to go to Red Robin the other day, and I relented because it’s a drag being That Person, who always has to keep everyone in line with food. *I* know which restaurants I favor, because they offer easy healthy choices I enjoy, but I live with regular folk who don’t have those eating goals. Sometimes that means going to mainstream restaurants everyone else gets to enjoy, and I have to make due around some of my biggest temptations, kind of like taking an alcoholic to a wine tasting.
Everyone else can comb through those glossy menus, salivating over the over-portioned, unhealthy food we get advertised to us through that same media that shames us for being fat. Me? I need numbers. I want calorie counts. I’m looking for pitfalls to avoid. No appetizer. No booze. (It was also a non-sugar day.) Burger after burger, sandwich after sandwich, I realized I could go cheap and eat unhealthy, or customize for a healthier – and more expensive – option. I was scouring through that menu basing my lunch on the calorie content, rather than the price or – more importantly – what I might have wanted to eat.
How can I be healthy and still make everyone around me happy? I compromise. A LOT. Everything is strategy. Everything is work. Yet, I smile and pretend it’s all good, I got it covered. I’m in control.
The lie of most people with an ED, I reckon.
People around me are often so unaware of the things I push through every single day, which have nothing to do with the Sad Fat Wallflower meme that has been rerun and rehashed ad nauseam.
Which brings us to…
Red Flag Number Five: The low hanging fruit of stereotypes.
Stereotypes reinforce biases, even when you’re using them to make fun of themselves. In order to make fun of it, you have to validate its existence in the first place. Some stereotypes in action in the Insatiable trailer:
Fat people are hot people who simply don’t try hard enough.
Fat people are unhappy by virtue of being fat.
Fat people are lonely by virtue of being fat.
Fat people are bullied hard, but could save themselves from all that if they simply conformed to society and lost the weight.
Because fat people are hot people who simply don’t try hard enough.
That’s what the Fat Fantasy they’re pushing underscores, even to a ludicrous degree.
I mean, why WOULDN’T you want to want to get skinny if that meant you could make all the haters eat their hearts out? Do you know anyone who’d be willing to HIT ME IN THE FUCKING FACE* so my jaw would be wired shut and I’d shed these pesky pounds once and for all?
Because geez. Why didn’t I think of that?
Do you have ANY. FUCKING. IDEA. how destructive a message like this, reinforced in ANY sort of way, can be? First of all, weight loss is not a merely matter of willpower. Nope, it really isn’t. There are a LOT of reasons people overeat and self-destruct, and if you don’t deal with that at the core, the symptoms will never fully go away. There’s a reason that the majority of people who do lose weight gain it back again.
Do you know how many young girls are out there, without the benefit of life experience showing them they can be whatever they want to be and forge their own path without conforming, who will look at this and have this same sad trope REINFORCED that they have to lose weight to avoid being bullied, alone, unhappy, and feel like UTTER FAILURES whenever it doesn’t work that way for them?
Here are some stats for you:
Approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape. Unfortunately, only 5% of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media.
Studies show that the more reality television a young girl watches, the more likely she is to find appearance important.
95% of people with eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.
Only 10% of people suffering from an eating disorder will seek professional help.
Kids start dieting as young as age 10, which is when we hit preadolescence and start to look for outward validation to build our self-esteem and establish our unique identity apart from our parents.
A big part of where we get our cues to do this is through the media. For women and girls, this isn’t good news, per the stat above. The average American woman is size 14 or better. Here are some Real People for ya.
Meanwhile, THIS is what they’re selling. The average model now weighs 23% less than the average American woman. In our media, representation of ANY woman presents a challenge, much less one that doesn’t fit into a very narrow box.
Hence why women of size are so damn passionate about how we’re represented. We’re not “coloring outside the lines” of beauty – we’re proof THERE IS NO LINE.
BUT, it doesn’t fit the narrative OR the aesthetic so…
Yesterday, I took Brit to her first wedding dress salon. The wedding isn’t for another year but, after a week of binging Say Yes to the Dress, we kind of wanted to see what styles would actually work for her. Despite being “Model Thin,” Brit has her own “problem areas.” In particular, she hates her wrists and her collarbone. She thinks that the pronounced appearance of her bones makes her look unhealthy skinny. We thought maybe changing the neckline from a strapless to a halter might work to “conceal” her problem area for her, but EVERY woman we talked to yesterday could not compute the problem. They were ALL staring at how beautiful she looked in a strapless ball gown saying, “Um, so WHAT is the problem?”
One even told her that this was the “model look” that every other bride was going for.
Isn’t it funny how in our culture, we simply couldn’t understand the concept of “too skinny” because that’s what is always reflected back to us, whereas even THIN women can tell you at least two tips to look less fat.
I maintain that Fat issues are Feminist issues because they slant horribly to affect women. If a woman is fat, she loses cultural value. If she’s thin, she gains it. It is literally that basic.
Per the trailer, this seems to be the ENTIRE PREMISE of Insatiable, which is pretty much the biggest red flag at all. It makes me shy away from a full viewing of it, despite the fact I LIKE Alyssa Milano, I LIKE Netflix and I LIKE Teen Vogue. But I’m just not sure I can trust any of them with my Fat Experience. Not when it looks like that. Not after the bar has been raised through other stories, dating all the way back to Hairspray.
The problem with the Great Until is that it’s THEIR problem. THEY are the ones who keep moving my starting gates, demanding our perfection before they dare recognize our humanity, which is – by definition – imperfect.
If you need me to be thin to tell my fat story, that’s the only confirmation of fat bias I really need. You need to ask why YOU needed a thin person to tell a fat story, and then deal with the fact *it makes you more comfortable to do so.* Figure out why THAT is, and maybe – just maybe – you’ll figure out a way to tell a story that will CHANGE the narrative, rather than add to it.
I tell you what, though. I’m a pretty good storyteller. Netflix, you are free to call me if you ever get brave enough to tell the story of a fat person from a fat person’s POV. I’m not afraid of representation. I represent like a MF. Like a reviewer recently said, “Why is everyone really scared to write about a big girl other than Ginger Voight!!”
I don’t know, girl. I really don’t know.
Netflix might have to pull up their big boy pants and hire fat actresses, though. Might be a deal breaker for them. Certainly seems to be.
Just know that I’ve got dozens upon dozens of stories now. My Muse didn’t wait for the Great Until to give them to me, and I didn’t wait for the Great Until to bring them to life, even though I’m pretty sure far too many are going to wait for the Great Until to listen to them.
By then, however, I fear you may not be able to afford me. That’s the acceptable narrative, is it not? That’s my “revenge,” correct? Ima make you pay when you suddenly become attracted to something I have to offer and come panting at my door. That IS the Fat Fantasy, no?
Imagine me having the audacity to say that if you’re waiting for The Great Until to give me the credit I deserve now, then you’re going to have to work just as hard to get into my favor as you expected me to work to get into yours.
Shoe, meet other foot.
Netflix: your move.