There's been quite a debate over on Fat Studies about Glen Gers' new film, Disfigured. It's the story of a friendship between a fat woman and a thin anorexic woman, and explores themes around – obviously – bodies and self-acceptance. Here's the IMDB entry for it, and the official site.
So there's been some discussion about the way the film depicts fat activists. As Rachel Richardson puts it in her review on The F Word, it is not "a valentine to fat people or to the [fat acceptance] movement," but nevertheless she finds it an interesting and thought-provoking piece. I don't know if this film has a planned release in the UK. I haven't seen it yet, but I am interested in doing so, despite other criticisms levied against it.
Meanwhile, I went to see Batman the other night. The film was pretty forgettable, but I was struck by an advert that played before the main feature. It was one of those VW Independent Cinema ads, part of the See Films Differently series, where apparently ordinary members of the public (who are actors working from a script) offer their own idiosyncratic readings of well-known films.
In this one, a fat woman offers her analysis of the last scenes of Titanic. I'm paraphrasing, but she says something about Leo slipping away from Kate meaning that if you're fat you can't count on blokes sticking around for you. The lines are delivered in a world-weary way, almost sarcastically, and it's supposed to be wry and funny. It's not on YouTube yet, I can't find a free version of it online, but you can pay to download it.
It's hard not to be obsessed by the way that fat people and fatness are represented in the media, and it's no wonder that these concerns underpin a huge amount of fat liberation energy. Now it seems that both Disfigured and the VW ad might be the beginnings of a new strand of representation and enquiry, that is: how fat activists are portrayed.
So far it's not looking good! Fat activists are crabby, out of touch, defensive, read too much into things, and are judgmental and laughable. I certainly know some people in the movement who are like this, though it's disconcerting to see them reflected on a screen as the whole of the scene, and I feel as though I'm witnessing the birth of a new kind of fat stereotype. Perhaps in time there will be more generous depictions of fat liberationists, but given the way that fat in general is portrayed in the media I don't hold out any hope for this, though I'm sure that fat lib media analysts will get on the case pretty sharply soon enough.
I'm not going to be depressed about it, it just seems like same-old-same-old to me, though I may roll my eyes from time to time. I'm glad to be in a privileged position where I am able to make my own thoughts about this stuff public without having to do it through someone else's distorting lens. Where the media casts such an unkind gaze over fat people of all kinds, here I am, here we fat activists are, looking straight back at them defiantly.