Tag Archives: Fat and sad

Sorry, RogerEbert.com, It’s Not Okay that Sadness is Fat

Guess which one is Sadness. Go on. Guess.

Recently I saw a piece by columnist Olivia Collette Roger Ebert. com called “Why Can’t Sad Be Fat?”  The piece was written in response to the recent backlash regarding Pixar’s recent release “Inside Out”.  In the film, which takes place primarily inside the head of an 11 year old girl, there are characters embodying various emotions including anger, disgust, joy, fear and sadness.  In particular, the article skewers Joni Edelman, editor-in-chief at Ravishly.com, feminist and body-positive activist, about a piece she recently wrote for The Huffington Post.

Let’s first address the fact that Joni admits she wrote the article without having seen the movie first.  In retrospect, this was probably a bad idea.  I don’t believe it invalidates Joni’s argument.  It just makes it awfully easy for the opposing side to take cheap pot shots at her.  And they did.  Yes indeedy.

I did see the movie.  And in many ways, I liked it.  But immediately afterwards, I asked my hubby, why did they have to make Sadness fat?  You see, the character called Sadness is blue, wears a frumpy sweater and glasses and is, well, fat.  This is in contrast to the character called “Joy” who is thin, yellow, tall, twirly and wears a gorgeous green Doris Day dress.

I was frustrated.  Because I liked the movie quite a lot.  The movie featured a female lead who loved to play hockey, came from the Midwest, also loved unicorns, and was all around cool.  I loved the fact that sadness was recognized as an important human emotion, and that when the main character Riley is told to put on a brave face regarding a cross-country move to San Francisco, and tries to squash her feelings of sadness, all heck breaks loose.  It’s important to acknowledge that we need to feel sad sometimes.

In many ways the movie is great.

But why did they have to make “Sadness” short, frumpy, bespectacled and fat?  Why did they feel the need to pair fat with lazy?  In the movie, Joy actually picks up Sadness’ leg and drags her around because she’s “too sad to walk”.  Check it out (if you want) in the clip below:

And I can’t help but shake my head at Olivette’s critique of Joni.  In the article on RogerEbert.com, she suggests that Joni is the one equating fat with bad.  Olivette suggests that since Joni hasn’t seen the film, SHE’S the one projecting negative stereotypes onto the fat character and therefore missed the nuances of the film.

Firstly, if she’s a body-positive activist, I wonder what led her to assume that the fat character is a bad one. Not in an evil way, of course, but at least in a way that’s not as uplifting as Joy.

To which I reply:

right animated GIF

Look.  I love the fact that Sadness is important and that Joy misjudges her.  But (and this is a big but) you are still portraying sadness as a character who is fat, and lazy and frumpy.  There is a very, VERY strong notion in our country that being fat is an outward manifestation of being emotionally unbalanced.  That we are fat because we are sad and then we are sad because we are fat.  If I had a dollar for every time I came across an ad or a program or a person in my life who insisted that once I learned how to be happy, once I learned to be emotionally fulfilled, I would stop eating and the pounds would just melt away.  “Fat people shouldn’t be hated.  They should be pitied.  Because they are sad which makes them eat, which makes them more fat, which makes them more sad, bless their hearts.”  Grrrrr.

I understand fully that the Joy character initially misunderstands the Sadness character in the movie.  And I am really clear about the transformation that happens as Joy understands the importance of Sadness to Riley.  But it still doesn’t do anything to take away from the Fat=Sadness=Fat trope in the movie and in the world.

And I don’t buy the argument that if we made Joy fat, the movie would be criticized for furthering the Fat=Jolly stereotype either.  (I.E. you just can’t make those fat people happy no matter what you do, so why try?)  I am glad that this film gets so many things so right.  But it doesn’t take a away a little feeling of Sadness that they had to do it by showing very young girls that the fat girl and the thin girl can be friends, but the fat girl can’t ever really be happy.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want to hear me speak about body positivity at YOUR school?  Check out my speaking page HERE.

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Study Proves “Not all Fat People are Unhappy”–Follow up to indicate Papal Affiliation With Catholicism

PopeCatholicSo I got a notice in my inbox this week that a study has been announced that indicates “Not All Fat People are Unhappy.”  And honestly, my first thought was, “Duh.”  I mean it seems quite obvious to me that not all Fat people are miserable, much as it seems obvious that the Pope is Catholic.  But apparently the notion that not all fat people are sick, miserable, about to die and ready to throw in the towel is something we need to prove again and again.

But you know, before I cast to many aspersions on the study, I think maybe we really just need to look at the headline drawn from the study results.  Because there are actually quite a few interesting things indicated by this piece of research.  Let’s look at a few:

1.  Your happiness seems to have a lot more to do with homogeneity than body size.  If you are a fat person who lives in a town with lots of other fat people, you tend to be more happy than if you live somewhere with no other fatties.

2.  The study creators speculate that being fat does not in itself make people unhappy.  In the accompanying press release, study co-author Philip M. Pendergast states:

“In that light, obesity in and of itself, does not appear to be the main reason obese individuals tend to be less satisfied with their lives than their non-obese peers. Instead, it appears to be society’s response to or stigmatization of those that are different from what is seen as ‘normal’ that drives this relationship.”

3.  Women tend to pay a higher emotional price for being fat than men do.  The study creators speculate that this is because women face more social stigma based on body size then men do.  In the press release Pendergast also says,

“Think about the advertising we see on television or in magazines—we are bombarded by images of thin women, and we are told that is the ideal,”

So here is yet another study that seems to indicate that how we feel about our size may have a lot more to do with our actual health and wellness outcomes than what we weigh.  It follows on the heels of many other studies we’ve talked about on this blog regarding stigma and health outcomes like this one or this one.  And all of these studies lead me to ask one very important question.

Even if we knew how to make people permanently thin (which we do not) should we ask them to change their body size to fit in?  If being different leads to social stigma, and social stigma leads to poor health outcomes, should we encourage everybody to be the same for the sake of their health?

Even if we knew how to make people all be the same size (which we categorically do not) it seems to me that the answer is to deal with stigma rather than to make a completely homogeneous society to reduce stress on everyone involved.  What if we actively worked to fight stigma based on body size?  What if we actively worked to help people accept their own differences?  What if we could feel better about our bodies?  Might we be singing a song like this magnificent lady right here?

I mean just check these fabulous lyrics:

I looked in the mirror
What did I see a brand new image
Of the same old me ohhhh
But now I wonder why should I be surprised
I like the things about me that I once despised

There was a time
When I wished my hair was fine
And I can remember when
I wished my lips were thin

Makes no difference now y’all
How you may feel
I’ve done reached the point
Where I wanna be real
I’m tired of living living in disguise
I like the things about me that I once despised

Let’s face it, Mavis Staples has got it going ON!  But she leads me back to my original question.  Why can’t we take some of this time, money and energy that we are currently spending on stigma-inducing ineffective advertising that convinces people that they not only must be thin, but may easily obtain this state of grace by eating yogurt, and spend it on something that might actually help people feel better?  It will help them feel better emotionally, and it will help them feel better physically.  Why can’t we take some of the time, energy and money we are spending driving wedges into our society, by creating classes of otherness which we can blame for all our problems from the high cost of airplane tickets to soaring healthcare prices and spend it on something that teaches us to celebrate our differences.  It will bring us together.  It will help us live and breathe as a community rather than a simple pile of competitors in a winner-take-all, Victoria’s Secret model competition.  When will we reach the obvious conclusions?  Bears poo in the woods, stigma doesn’t help people, and yes, the Pope is indeed Catholic.

Call me captain obvious if you like.  I’ve stopped spending on diets and weight loss schemes and self hatred because I like the things about me that I once despised.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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