The success of obesity movies has always been as befuddling to me as the Republicans’ poor conservative base, which has a tendency to vote against its economic interests. Likewise, 65 percent of America is overweight, and 31 percent are obese, yet it’s many of those same people who turn out to see movies mocking similarly sized people. I don’t really understand it — it’s either self-deprecation by proxy or a nationwide lack of self-awareness. How can an one overweight person, shoveling gobs of popcorn into his maw, laugh at another obese person who just fell through a wooden student desk? I don’t get it; perhaps it’s the same compulsion that makes me want to see movies about pretentious douchebags. But that’s another list for another day.
Today, we give you the five most offensive movies about obese people.
5. Wall-E: I’m actually on the fence about whether Wall-E is offensive to obese people. It does suggest that, in the future, we’ll all look like Wal-Mart Supercenter customers in Tulsa, and that the slothful gluttony of overweight people will ultimately result in the demise of our planet. But the overweight people aren’t really a punchline; they’re a warning of the dangers of overconsumption. You could argue that obese people are larger consumers than average-weight Americans, but that’s actually debatable. And I don’t think the message is that obesity will kill the planet; I think the message is that greedy corporations are killing the planet by cultivating overconsumption. But I included it on this list in either respect, but it’s at least worth discussing.
4. Bridget Jones’ Diary: This could easily top this list, if you have a healthy sense of moral outrage. Because the reason why Bridget Jones’ Diary is so offensive is because Bridget Jones isn’t actually overweight, at least by any reasonable person’s definition. Renee Zellwegger actually had to gain 50 pounds to look like a normal human being, and then spends half the goddamn movie bitching about how overweight she is. Sister, please. In a way, it’s worse than fashion magazines, which offer an unachievable allusion: Bridget Jones gives people of average weight a bad sense of self identity. Except for the part where she ends up with Colin Firth, which suggests only that Jane Austen wasn’t overly concerned with the weight of her heroine.
3. Shallow Hal: This is another movie that’s actually doubly offensive, because it purports to offer some sort of sympathetic insight into a fat person’s psyche, all the while suggesting that beauty is on the inside, and beauty is, of course, exemplified by a rail-thin Gwyneth Paltrow. The audience is comfortable with the notion that obesity is OK, so long as they understand that Paltrow is underneath the fat suit. I wonder how well the conceit would’ve worked if they’d actually cast an honest-to-goodness overweight person — is it not tenable to suggest that an overweight person could actually be beautiful on the outside, too?
2. Paul Blart: Mall Cop: Take out the fat jokes in Paul Blart, and you’ve got a 45-second movie. Worse, there’s nothing really redeeming about his obesity, except for the punchlines. Paul Blart is a pathetic mall cop; Paul Blart is fat. Ergo, fat equals pathetic. And though he manages to save the day in the end, he does so despite his obesity, and not because of it. How empowering. And why is it that Hollywood wants us to believe that overweight people are the only ones who fart? You know what’s really gaseous? Beans, vegetables, and fiber-rich foods, which is to say that flatulence is not related to how much you eat, but what you eat.
1. Norbit: Norbit is a perfect illustration of the double standard Americans have toward obesity. Fat man = funny. Skinny man dressed as a fat woman = funny. Skinny woman disguised as a fat woman = funny. Fat woman playing a fat woman? Abso-fucking-lutely not. Norbit manages to hit every crass fat joke in the book, plus half the African-American jokes (and a few Asian ones), but it’s allegedly funny because Rasputina isn’t actually fat. It’s just a perfectly fit Eddie Murphy in a fat suit. I’d have liked to have seen the audience reaction if Mo’Nique had been cast. Or better yet, if they’d cast Camryn Manheim in the role, and put her through the Kirk Lazerus treatment. The lesson in offensiveness: Fat women are hilarious, as long as they’re not actually fat, because that’s just gross. Oh, and fuck Eddie Murphy.