01 July 2011

A vile encounter with comedy fatphobia

I was at Rotterdam The Hague Airport yesterday. Part of the checking-in area was being used to film a comedy show that's going to be broadcast on RTL Nederland in August. I didn't have my wits about me to catch the name of the show, but I watched the filming for a few minutes before I went through to the departure lounge.

The main character was a guy with unruly ginger hair dressed in a sort of a shell-suit, like a chav stereotype. At first I couldn't work out why his face looked so puffy and weird, and then I saw the plastic belly poking out from under his clothes and I realised he was wearing a fat suit. As I watched him act, his comedy character seemed to be modelled on someone with a learning disability.

I have no idea about the context for this character, whether or not this is a popular programme, what it's about. Maybe someone else reading this knows and can fill me in. What struck me was the casual way in which stereotypes are manufactured, and about who is invested in their creation. There were about 15 people making the programme, including producers, actors, technicians, and no doubt the airport was getting a location fee, all very workaday. And yet here is a character in a fat suit, complete with various other underclass signifiers, being presented as stupid and pathetic, the butt of the joke. Why do this?

I tried to take some pictures of the guy in the fat suit but, strangely enough, he wasn't keen. This is the best I could do, he's the one in the middle, you can just about see his plastic strap-on belly poking out of his clothes.


Q said...

It's for a Dutch version of Little Britain or that airline show they did, Come Fly With Me I think it was called. http://www.nieuwspagina.net/carlo-en-irene-maken-nederlandse-little-britain.html

So you know it's going to be extra classy.

Charlotte Cooper said...

Thanks Q.