Tag Archives: Pixar

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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Boy Scouts, BMI and Managing Risk

Would the BSOA deem Russell “too fat” to go to camp?

Yesterday, I read Ragen Chastain’s amazing post on the new policies implemented by the Boy Scouts of America regarding participation in events and BMI.  In order for any Boy Scout to participate in a “high adventure” activity which includes a duration of over 72 hours and being over 30 minutes drive from emergency medical services, his parents and doctors must fill out a group of forms including Part C which has a whole lot of questions about BMI.  In fact questions about height and weight are the first things listed on the form before listing any pre-existing conditions or other information about disease or wellness.  Any scout with a BMI over 40 will be forbidden from participating in these high adventure activities (including the Jamboree).  And according to the site:

The Jamboree Medical Staff will review all applicants with a BMI of 32.0–39.9 and consider jamboree participation based on  1) health history, 2) submitted health data, and 3) recommendation of the applicant’s personal health care provider. For applicants with a BMI >31.9, a recommendation of “no contraindications for participation” by the applicant’s personal health care provider does not necessarily guarantee full jamboree participation. The jamboree medical staff will have final determination of full jamboree participation.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSOA) site, lists these reasons for the new restrictions:

“Anyone who is obese and has multiple risk factors for cardiovascular/cardiopulmonary disease would be at much greater risk of an acute cardiovascular/cardiopulmonary event imposed on them by the environmental stresses of the Summit. Our goal is to prevent any serious health-related event from occurring, and ensuring that all of our participants and staff are “physically strong.”

And frankly, all of this sent me scrambling for my manuals and training information about exercise in children.  One question I had right away was, “Are they using data for all-cause mortality in adults and extrapolating that information for children?”  Because, the data I’ve reviewed indicate that mortality among exercising children and teens comes from different sources that that of adults.

According to the Youth Sports Safety Alliance, the number one cause of death among exercising young athletes is Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA).  During my fitness certification training, I learned that the number one cause for SCA is a heart defect called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle.  Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and other heart conditions likely to lead to SCA are often virtually undetectable from a standard physical exam.  This is why many schools are starting to recommend and a few are beginning to require a EKG for participation in strenuous school sports.  When SCA occurs, death often follows.  Being close to a hospital only helps so much as mortality risk increases by 10 percent for every minute it takes to get to medical care.  This is why there is a greater focus on CPR and Automatic External Defibrillators for helping to protect student athletes these days.

I am not aware of any research indicating that SCA is more frequent among overweight or obese young athletes.  I am also unaware of any efforts on the part of the BSOA to ask that participants in high adventure activities be screened for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or be given an EKG as part of the Part C form.  Now, I understand that an EKG can be expensive to administer and read, but if the concern is really about the safety of the participants, it would seem that this is a more important test than BMI.

Another important risk for kids and strenuous exercise is heat stroke.  And there is some research that indicates that heat illness is more frequent among overweight and obese football players than “normal weight” players.  But many experts stress that exertional heat illness is 100 percent preventable.  Most experts strongly recommend an acclimation process to help get student athletes ready for physical exertion.  The super punishing, first day of practice workouts in full pads and gear is now frowned upon.  I wonder if the Jamboree and other “high adventure” scouting activities really do enough to help scouts of all sizes acclimate to higher temperatures and altitudes or if they simply assume that as long as the kids are skinny, they will be safe.

Which makes me wonder.  Where is the data?  Show me the data that BMI has a serious impact on safety for children and youth who wish to participate in strenuous physical activity.  Do not simply show me studies from adults and extrapolate down to kids.  And if the health and safety of your scouts is of primary importance, why are you not requiring adequate screening for the leading cause of death among young exercisers?  Are you building adequate acclimation days to make the camp safe for participants?  Or again, are  you assuming skinny = safe and healthy?  And why are you making your most important event so strenuous that you have to worry so much about health and safety in the first place?

To borrow from a famous phrase from the film Jerry Maguire, “Show me the data!”

Love,

TFC

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