“Revenge Body” Fever

A TV show called “Insatiable” has gotten into trouble, according to Rebecca Jennings, a reporter covering pop and internet culture at Vox. Jennings examines one of the customary uses of the fat suit; namely, in flashbacks to illustrate how ridiculous a character was before losing weight.

What is the appeal of such scenes? Apparently, the humor is intended to lie in “the ability to crack jokes at a past character’s fatness with the knowledge that the present character is laughing now too.” “Insatiable” seems to be in the doghouse for hiring a thin actor to wear a fat suit, rather than employing a larger performer for the role.

Many media productions, even those considered progressive in various ways, are criticized for the frequent and casual inclusion of fat jokes. Characters obsessed with thinness are also considered part of the general fat-hating landscape. Characters who carry extra pounds are “defined entirely by their fatness, and only get to become multidimensional once they lose the weight.”

A few months ago, someone tweeted a question and received many answers from people who had observed particularly nasty examples of fat-hating in media. Apparently there is an offensive scene in a Harry Potter movie. In regard to another genre of film, someone did not like fictional character Bridget Jones being described as fat.

Another paragraph suggests that anyone seeking a fat-shaming movie to truly hate would be well advised to see Shallow Hal. People also objected, says Jennings, to…

[…] pretty much the entire premise of Pixar’s Wall-E, which depicts a futuristic dystopia in which everyone isn’t just overweight but shares the negative characteristics associated with being overweight: that they are lazy and stupid, and that all they care about is passively consuming whatever’s in front of them.

It almost seems as if the main indictment against “Insatiable” is based on its failure to meet certain expectations, because it “does not provide a better understanding of what it’s like to be a victim of fat-shaming.” One of the battles fought by artists throughout the centuries has to do with their right to self-expression, rather than being constrained and shackled by the necessity to follow a “party line.” In other words, it is nobody’s job but the artist’s to decide what the artist’s job is.

Whether “Insatiable” qualifies as art is a separate question. Jennings describes another pattern that the series slavishly imitates: “the idea that weight loss is the road to happiness.” She warns,

The entire wellness industry is based around this false promise — that losing weight is the key to getting whatever you’ve always wanted, whether that’s love, money, or revenge.

Which brings up Khloe Kardashian’s series, “Revenge Body.” Creating one of these means “turning your body into a super-sexy shiv and knifing an ex-boyfriend or mean girl from high school in the back.” First, let’s acknowledge that previous to the show, over the past few decades, several novels and movies have been based on the idea of a wronged woman who changes her physical appearance by drastic means, including extensive plastic surgery and having sections of her leg bones excised, and goes on to use her un-recognizability to track down and harm a villain.

Kardashian, says Vanity Fair, has expanded the motive to include revenge upon “any stylist that wouldn’t work with you or any designer who wouldn’t send you dresses to wear on the red carpet” — life challenges to which we can surely all relate.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Netflix’s ‘Insatiable’ trailer caused a huge backlash. Critics say the show’s even worse,” Vox.com. 08/09/18
Source: “How Did the ‘Revenge Body’ Become a Real Thing?,” VanityFair.com, 01/13/17
Photo credit: Yusuf C on Visualhunt/CC BY

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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