tl;dr Version: Fat people are beautiful, too. If you agree with me, prove it in your next creative piece.
‘Splain, Lucy Version: I’m issuing a challenge to any creative people who read this, to create a beautiful piece of work, be it art or prose or comics or games, that favourably portrays a woman or man who is overweight. Details below.
Boring Version: My wife came across a website news article proclaiming some guy as a nutritionist who is starting a new health trend; something to do with blood type. He’s not a medical professional. He’s just some huckster with some bogus letters after his name, and he’s using them to bilk poor people (obviously and especially women) who are barraged daily by messages from the media and everyone they know that there is something WRONG with them for not being thin.
We’re all guilty of feeling this way. We’ve been doing it for decades. It’s the last non-criminal taboo that stand-up comedians feel safe poking fun at. Fat people are funny shit, right?
Trick question. The answer is ‘No’.
Maybe you don’t agree with the arguments about glandular conditions or genetics or the BMI being a crock of shit. Maybe you’re happily thin and have never had a problem with looking the way we all know we’re supposed to look. Or maybe you were once overweight or clinically obese, and after years of being made to feel like shit, you fought your way down to a reasonable weight, and now count yourself among those who have the right to tell everyone what ‘ideal’ is.
This is the world we live in, and we all have our own vision of what the ideal human form should look like… and we all have an inkling, right or wrong, of whether we fit that mold or not.
The thing is, it’s all bullshit. Oh, sure, there are morbidly obese people whose health is severely threatened by their size and lack of mobility. Perhaps these people need help. Perhaps these people would change if they could. One thing they don’t need is self-righteous people making them feel like shit. That’s not tought love; that’s prejudice, plain and simple.
Anyway, I don’t mean this to sound like an accusation. We all do this, to one extent or another, either to other people, or just to ourselves. We all fear being told that we are substandard because we don’t have the physique of Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie.
It extends to other things, too, and most of us spend most of our lives trying to cover up the sordid details of our imperfect lives, so people who are just as flawed and scared as us don’t turn against us to give themselves an artificially-inflated sense of self-importance.
My thinking is, it’s time for a change, and we can’t expect Hollywood to make the change for us, so we have to start doing it ourselves. Starting now.
MY PLAN: My next creative project is going to be an interactive comic book using illustrated logos to tell a story. It’s going to have branching paths. It may have some unhappy events, but I’m going to do my best to make every outcome a relatively positive one. But the main point is, it’s going to be a story about one of my favourite characters from the Gas Mask Chronicles: The Moustress, a very intelligent, charming, and sexy woman who happens to be what some folks mock-kindly refer to as BBW (Big Beautiful Women). And it’s going to be as positive a portrayal, both visually and narratively, of this character as I can manage.
I’ve been meaning to tell such a story for a long time, and I’ve been trying to decide which story to tell with my Art of Words interactive comic concept for days now. And I think The Moustress is our winner.
THE CHALLENGE: While I’m working on this project, which will take me months to complete, I want to see my creative friends and acquaintances do something in a similar vein. It can be about a man or woman, or both, or more than one of either or both. No limit on the amount of fat you portray. Aesthetics are a personal thing, so I won’t dictate that, except to say it would be helpful if you didn’t deliberately make your characters repulsive. It can be any medium, in any style, with any theme you wish, so long as it achieves the main objective, which is to portray an ‘overweight’ person in a positive manner.
Strictly speaking, I’m not objecting to people deliberately telling a story about someone who is badly underweight, either, but I think such an approach would miss the point of where I’m going with this. Underweight people look unhealthy and need help too, but they’re still basically acceptable to the majority of our society, where overweight people simply are not. I’ve dated and lived with people of both categories, and I can tell you that even the skinniest girls I have ever dated were frightened of being overweight. That pretty much says it all right there.
Now, I’m not ignoring the fact that this is not a new idea. There have been plenty of artists and writers over the years who have worked to portray overweight people in something other than ugly, lazy and useless. However, something I haven’t seen is a proper social movement to get other people involved in the discussion.
And it is a discussion. Every time you hear yourself comment about a picture or appearance of a person who is overweight, you are contributing to the overall statement about what this society find acceptable or unacceptable.
Isn’t it time we started addressing the topic openly, with an honest effort to diffuse some of the negativity and prejudice that comes out whenever a thoughtless person says something derogatory about overweight people? I mean, seriously, what century are we living in, anyway? This isn’t the statistically perfect 1950s, here. We’re all human beings, and we come in all shapes and sizes. Isn’t it time we learned to live with each other without sneering because most of us would look out of place on the cover of Maxim (as if that’s some kind of virtue)?
My one request is that, if and when you create this piece of work, that you come back and give me a link so I can show it off. I’ll create some sort of Wall of Fame for any pieces that succeed in presenting overweight people positively.