29 June 2012

Headless fatty: why do the same ones keep popping up?

Very briefly, I've noticed how the same headless fatties turn up again and again in fat panic news stories.

I see these two pictures all the time: golddigga and big-arse-small-chair. Today golddigga accompanied a story about The Food and Drug Administration's approval of a new diet drug, Belviq, in the US. I've seen that picture illustrate other obesity epidemicTM stories too.

I'm interested in what makes them so alluring to picture editors. My gut reaction is that big-arse-small-chair freaks the normals out because, faced with a big bum, all they can do is identify with the chair. Golddigga isn't particularly fat, in my opinion, but it’s the intersection of implied unrepentant chavviness and single motherdom that makes the use of the image so full of hate. I appreciate it's also about how pictures get sold and used in news media, for example there is probably a pool of images available to editors, and this is based on the deals that news providers have with picture agencies.

Thoughts? Share 'em!


lilacsigil said...

The second one pops up in Australian newspapers, too! I think it's popular because the chair pressing into their flesh gives the impression of Four! Whole! Buttocks! hence they are literally as big as two "normal people".

Dr Charlotte Cooper said...

Yeah, it's treated as a magical arse, the biggest arse in the world, an arse that is literally unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

Makes me wonder if that's a child's chair.

Dr Charlotte Cooper said...


Tanz33 said...

The 'Golddigga' one gets chosen (I'll bet) because it hits a lot of prejudices at once; she's pushing a pram, is fat, and 'obviously' thinks that she's so much All That that a man will bankroll her future. In other words she's a deluded fat slut in their eyes. And of course the other's there because it looks extreme.

because they couldn't treat us fat people as - gee - people! The world and all right-thinking people would just explode with indignation!

Debra said...

The big arse small chair thing makes me think of provision of inadequate furniture. I'm currently engaged in a campaign to change the layout of work toilet cubicles where the sanitary bins are squeezed into the narrow gap between loo and cubicle wall, making it difficult and unpleasant I think for anyone over about a size 12 to use the loos without moving bins around.

Alexie said...

The explanation is probably more mundane. The pictures will come from a photo library. A harassed sub editor with little time will put 'obesity' into a picture library search engine, and the most popular photos will be shown first. Those are the ones that get used, so they automatically become more popular. The Daily Mail uses the same photos over and over again, but they're different from these, which suggests to me that they have their own in-house picture library they rely on.

dee.calarco said...

They're clearly meant to elicit a combination of disgust and amusement. They're dehumanizing and look like they were taken without the subjects' permission, and they have no business being used to illustrate stories in serious publications, IMHO.

corinna said...

the second one is really old (in terms of the current-ness of media) - I used in the first first paper I ever gave on fat way back in 2007. I seem to remember someone identifying it from a story about strikes affecting air travel..? I've always assumed that there is a set of images called 'obesity' or something that the obesimedia go to to pick from when they print yet another fat fear story and that's why the same ones come up again and again. I doubt many, if any, have heads. It would be interesting to have a peek at it, but I'd imagine they charge just for that. Someone is making a fortune out of these fat arses.

I also used another for the paper where the woman was a lot less fat than the Golddigga one. I think any bulge makes the cut for the obesimedia.

Becky commented on the large amount of fat programmes on at the moment. She said last night 'It's prime time and I have the pick of four to choose from. What's going on?' I said there's always something on, but that did seem like a lot. I wonder if it's tied to the youknowwhats? Or just the constancy of the fear of fat?

Fattiboomballatti said...

I love the class bias in the goldigga one... the stroller, the gold digging sign along with fat. So subtly boosting the signal about fat as lazy, fat as underclass, fat as amoral.

kataphatic said...

In the second one, we start with a chair that is already pretty much universally known as an uncomfortable style chair to sit in, no matter what size your body is. Then you add in the way it appears to be digging into the person's flesh and it appears to be even more uncomfortable for that person. For me it triggers the fear I sometimes have when going to new public spaces where I don't know what the accommodations will be like, and the possibility that the furniture will be deeply or even painfully uncomfortable.

And then, as if that weren't enough, another layer is that those old-fashioned metal chairs are often kind of unstable/rickety, and we all know about the "fat people breaking furniture" trope. There's a sub-conscious expectation that at any moment, that chair could collapse.

And of course, we're all supposed to understand that if the person is in pain or if the chair breaks, it's their own fault for being so fat.

I think that it has so much popularity because it has these other layers that are part of our collective unconscious, that aren't present with the boring headless fatty photos of people walking. This is also true of the first one (multiple layers), but I think other commenters have pointed out all of those layers already.

Twistie said...

In addition to the classist/sexist/media popularity aspects, there's another one that comes to my mind. I recently watched a documentary about the lies of the obesity panic... which in the end turned into an anti-carbs diatribe that 'proved' humans would all become thin again if only we stopped eating bad, bad carbs. Sigh.


In the earlier, good part of the film the gentleman showed the requisite footage of Very Fat Asses Sans Heads. He had maybe four or five images, much like the standard ZOMGOBEESITYEPIDEMICK!!! footage one might see on a news broadcast about how fat people are sucking up all the resources and food and health care and if only they would diet story.

Then he said it took him nearly seven hours to find that many asses that fat to film.

So in addition to the way the golddigga pic hits the deluded poor fatty bingo card all by her lonesome and the way people identify with the chair in the second photo, fearing they will be crushed, CRUSHED, I TELL YOU! under her mountainous hams o' death... there's probably also the fact that there just aren't that many subjects to photograph in this dehumanizing way.

After all, you not only have to find someone who is (in most cases) not just fat but superfat (which is the superhero name I want most), but they also have to be either obviously poor, badly groomed by the standards of the photographer, or doing something fat people shouldn't ever do... like sit down or have a baby.

I'm betting it takes a lot of hours to find just that perfect storm of fat and in some other way socially unacceptable.

Or maybe they're just lazy bastards.

Dr Charlotte Cooper said...

Kataphetic, I have broken a chair like that.

PJ Geek said...

I had to look at that last photo because that might have been my arse in that chair. ....at a weight watchers meeting, probably.

Kerri said...

I like the link you make between fat hatred and single motherhood. It gives the reader/viewer a double dollop hit of distate and moral outrage, no doubt very satisfying for them.

Does it all come full circle to consolidate the ownership and control of women's bodies thing? I don't know.

Thank you for your thought-provoking posts.