Wednesday, April 18, 2018

"Fatitude: The Movie" Review

"What's wrong with being a sex pig?" -- My friend

I am too old to really get behind the concept of trigger warnings, but if there was ever a movie where I would have appreciated one, this would be it. "Warning: If you are a fat person, "Fatitude: The Movie," will trigger you. Do not resort to food restriction or diet mentality," would have been nice. The majority of the movie is a catalog of how much the world hates fat people and is disgusted by fat bodies, interspersed with interviews with fat activists and health care professionals who practice in a manner consistent with the principles of Health At Every Size. The interviewees were funny, smart, and pointed. The catalog of "the world hates fat people" was just ... depressing.

The movie demonstrated the general dislike of fat bodies by showing many, many fictional and non-fictional media clips of people displaying this hatred, as well as quoting depressing AF studies that present evidence that most women would rather go blind or lose a limb than be fat. The movie included these things to show the omnipresence of fat phobia in our culture (please note that I am using that term as a shorthand for "fat hatred") and to illustrate why fat people face discrimination in the workplace and at the doctor's office.

Although I understand the intent of including all this horrific, hateful content, the barrage left me feeling drained and terrible, so much so that I, uncharacteristically, had severe anxiety after the movie (God bless my friend who gave me one of her Ativan). As a fat person, I feel like I keep all of this stuff in the back of my head, but I have to maintain some cognitive dissonance to go out in the world, keep my chin up, and do my thing. I'm sure this isn't true for most people, but I have only found two ways to be fat in this world: fat and apologetic for it, like when I was dieting, or in warrior mode. The latter is more authentic for me, even though it's exhausting. Interestingly, after the movie, I talked with quite a few friends who are farther along in their HAES journey than I am, and they were not bothered with the content of the movie to the extent I was. 

"Fatitude" spent a lot of time demonstrating the negative portrayal of larger bodies in children's media; you can see a great clip of Lindy West talking about this in the movie trailer. This part actually was helpful to me as a parent because it made me aware of this aspect of the media my kids consume, as if I didn't have enough to be worried about in this regard. My husband and I work hard to push the "all bodies are good bodies" agenda, and I'll be damned if a Scooby Doo reboot is going to detract from that. One of the things West says in the film is that the two biggest fat archetypes in cartoons are the Ursula from the Little Mermaid -- a sea witch who literally steals merfolk's voices -- and Miss Piggy, the consummate sex-starved and food-starved pig. So in a great moment of comic relief after the movie, I went to my friend and said in a panic, "OMG, now I'm so anxious, because people will only see me as the sea witch or the sex pig, and I am certainly more of a sex pig, and ARGH!" Bless her heart, my awesome, very religious friend said, "Now, what exactly is wrong with being a sex pig?" Me: "Absolutely nothing." Glad we cleared that up. Sex pig it is, cuz I'm sure as hell not stealing your voice or helping those "wanting to be thinner" (yes, that is in the song, FFS).

The last 20 minutes of the film offered suggestions about creating a new narrative around bodies and body image, most of which I summarized in my blog post about ditching diet culture. That information is not new to me, because I learned it all in treatment, but I can understand it might be eye-opening if you haven't been exposed to it.

Overall, the film is highly recommended, but be prepared that if you're in a larger body, the film might make you sad. Hopefully, it will also fuel your anger and motivate you to torch the toxic narratives that dominate pop culture.

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