Look. It’s about time we have this conversation, for the sake of myself and my fellow fat babes everywhere.
I have been praising the addition of several fabulously talented, funny plus-size ladies like Melissa McCarthy, Yvette Nicole Brown, Rebel Wilson, and Aidy Bryant in mainstream entertainment in the last decade. It’s been wonderful seeing a glimpse of fat representation on TV and in movies. What hasn’t been wonderful is the played-out trope of “the sassy and/or weird fat girl.” She is merely a token – comic relief – and rarely does her character offer any kind of depth. Such iterations of the tropes include:
- Melissa McCarthy as “Megan” & Rebel Wilson as “Brynn” in Bridesmaids
- Rebel Wilson as “Robin” in “How to Be Single”
- Rebel Wilson (yes, again…) as “Fat Amy” in Pitch Perfect 1 & 2
- Yvette Nicole Brown as “Helen” in Drake & Josh
- Aidy Bryant in a plethora of sketches on “Saturday Night Live”
…and then there are those women who are put into “the fat girl” box that aren’t even remotely fat – think people like Mindy Kaling, Amy Schumer, & even Mae Whitman in DUFF (acronym for Designated Ugly Fat Friend). Uh, what the hell? …But no, I’m stopping myself here. I can’t & won’t get into this piece of the puzzle right now; I promise I’ll bank it for another day.
Little Representation in Hollywood
Anywho! This trope is clearly present in Hollywood, and I’m not saying I completely hate the idea of a funny, sassy fat woman. In fact, I embrace that. I love that. I embody that. However, though I may be a total sass basket and am an absolute pro at providing comic relief in group settings, that is not all I am – that’s not all WE are.
Honestly, if Hollywood would bother providing a little more depth to these “tokenized” characters, maybe I wouldn’t be bitching up a storm about feeling like a token comic. Give me Rebel Wilson as “Becky” in “Bachelorette.” Pile on seasons of Dascha Polanco as “Daya” in “Orange is the New Black.” Offer me more Kathy Bates in her multiple seasons of “American Horror Story.” Present to me more Gabourey Sidibe as “Precious” in the self-titled film, and definitely as “Becky” in “Empire!” YES! Give me more representation of plus size women with substance because I will gladly feast upon the idea that someone not only looks like me, but they have layers and plights like me, too.
Little Expectation in Real Life
But you’re probably like, “Gia, where is this even going?” Well hold your horses because I’m not done yet. Believe it or not, Hollywood isn’t the only place putting fat people in a box, and I can say this from personal experience. I have been friends with (and been in relationships with) an array of people over the last few years knowing damn well that all I am to them is two things:
- A fat body
- Comic relief
Ouch. You know, to be classified into just two categories by people who I considered friends? It really bums me out. I am so much more than those two things. I am ten things – twenty things, even! I am:
- A fat woman
- A significant other
- A daughter
- A sister
- A best friend
- A cousin, niece & granddaughter
- A mother to two cats & a dog
- A gardener
- A damn good baker
- A Seattleite
- An avid reader
- An Intersectional Feminist
- A total, unapologetic foodie
- A marketing professional
- A blogger
- A girl who’s kind of stuck in the 90s & early 2000s
- A broody Introvert
- An avid collector of ColourPop lip products
- A Julia Child fan girl
- AND the funniest bitch you’ll ever meet / Comic relief
I am all these things – and more. If you know me – if you really know me – you’d know that, and you’d embrace it. I’ve actively started separating myself from the people who compartmentalize me – especially those in particular that put me in a box marked “Fat” & bring me out only to talk about their own placement on the body image scale. I am happy to support you in your body love journey, but don’t just talk to me because I’m one of the few fat people you know. That’s pretty objectifying, and it makes me feel gross, if I’m being honest.
Tokenizing & Compartmentalizing Friends is Creepy, so Stop Doing It.
For what it’s worth, tokenization & compartmentalization of anyone is pretty backwards; so, though it’s great to have a diverse friends circle, try not to go out of your way to collect your friends like we’re part of some kind of freakish scavenger hunt. Having a fat friend, a Black friend, a Muslim friend, and a Deaf friend in one friendship circle doesn’t mean you’ve won some kind of humanist BINGO. In fact, it’s creepy and dehumanizing.
Furthermore, (and Jesus, this shouldn’t even have to be said, but I’m going to say it anyway) having a friend in a marginalized or oppressed group does not give you the exclusive rights to freely comment on issues or things that come up revolving around said group. Oh, you have “a fat friend?” Okay. Don’t use “your fat friend” as some kind of token or ticket of entry when commenting or speaking in a primarily fat space – especially don’t speak over fat voices with the age-old “but my fat friend says–” …Uh, no. Do not use me as your hall pass (or speak on behalf of me!), like our friendship is some kind of weird exchange, instead of, you know, a functional friendship.
I mean, no marginalized, oppressed person or group should have to say any of this to you. Evaluate why you have these friendships, and if you’re spending your time more concerned about your BINGO card than the actual human that is standing in front of you, reevaluate your life choices or just back the hell up. It’s honestly as simple as that.
A Message to Those Being Tokenized or Compartmentalized
And if you are a fat reader, marginalized reader, and/or oppressed reader, I want you to know that you are so much more. We are ALL so much more. Avoid the people who will compartmentalize you or tokenize you for your size, your gender, your sexual orientation, your race, your disability, your religion – your oppression; either that, or call them out to the carpet on their piss poor behavior (by sending them this blog post perhaps?!), because you don’t deserve to be tokenized or put in a box – by your friend, by Hollywood, by the media, by anyone.
YOU are fucking amazing. Not solely because of your differences, not solely in spite of your differences, but because you simply exist as you – right here, right now.
* this post’s header’s unedited image is not our own. It is from ew.com