Off the clock with The Checkout Girl: Fatties need love, too

Are fat people the last safe group to hate? It seems it’s become uncool for all but the edgiest of comedians to pick on every other group of people, but, for some reason, the overweight are fair game for just about everyone.

Are fat people the last safe group to hate? Turn on Comedy Central, sign on to twitter, listen to people at the next table in a restaurant (it’s called eavesdropping and it’s perfectly legal, thank you), and you’d think so. It seems it’s become uncool for all but the edgiest of comedians to pick on every other group of people, but, for some reason, the overweight are fair game for just about everyone.

At first I thought I might be imagining it, or maybe just oversensitive because, you know, I’m fat. But it’s real. And it’s not just fellow fat people who are making fun, in that oh-so-endearing, self-deprecating manner we’ve all come to expect and appreciate from those who know they are the world’s punchline and demonstrate bitter good humor about it. No, un-big people are throwing around “fat” and “fatty” like nobody’s business. I guess their mamas never taught them to talk behind people’s backs, like polite folk do.

Last week, the rumblings of fat hate stuck their head above ground like a lookout at Meerkat Manor when Maura Kelly, a regular blogger for (the online version of the print magazine), posted a piece called Should ‘Fatties’ Get A Room? (Even On TV?) Ms. Kelly claims the post grew out of a conversation with her editor, where she was asked “Do you really think people feel uncomfortable when they see overweight people making out on television?” after reading a article that centered around the CBS sitcom “Mike & Molly”. For those of you who don’t know, “Mike & Molly” is about a couple who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous group and fall in love. It’s rife with fat jokes in a way that says “There’s no other way for us to make this romance palatable except with a big, fat, jolly wink.” Anyway, Maura Kelly (very thin judging by her picture, by the way), being “not much of a TV person”, decided to check out the show and make own mind up about the whole issue.

“My initial response was: Hmm, being overweight is one thing — those people are downright obese!”

The exclamation point indicates surprise, whereas I suspect that quite a few attendees of Overeaters Anonymous meetings are obese and would expect such a thing. She goes on to say she doesn’t advocate obsession with physical perfection, but the show is “implicitly promoting obesity.” In what way? In that it’s hilarious?

“So anyway, yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine [sic] addict slumping in a chair.”

“Aesthetically displeasing”? “Distressing?” I can’t figure out why in the world either of these phrases would apply to that situation. Don’t people turn away, anymore? Why would you feel distressed about something you could just as easily not see?

Blahblahblah “I have a few friends who could be called plump” (cue collective “pinch an inch” moments among her besties) blahblahblah “I know how tough it can be” (cue big question mark over my head) blahblahblah “obesity is something that most people have a ton of control over. It’s something they can change, if only they put their minds to it.” Oh, THAT’S the problem, fatties, YOUR MIND ISN’T TO IT! She goes on to give nutrition and fitness suggestions for anyone who is willing to try to change. But it’s the last line that really gets me.

“Then again, I guess these characters are in Overeaters Anonymous. So … points for trying?”

Actually, NOT the last line. Just the last piece of punctuation. It’s like saying “points for trying… I guess.” Look, you want those fatties to slim down and be more aesthetically pleasing, or what?

It’s important to note that, after a considerable uproar in all corners of the media, Maura Kelly has posted an apology? (see what I did there?) She said she is sorry for being insensitive and that, for what it’s worth, she feels just as uncomfortable seeing anorexic people as she does the obese. She also says that she has history as an anorexic and a life-long obsession with being thin and thinks that might have contributed to her “extreme reaction”.

I just wonder how acceptable the post would have been about another group of people. How much more would we have heard about it if she were talking about an ethnic group? Or a handicap? Or a sexual identity? Would the post still be standing, with just an apology tacked on to the end? Of course not. We should probably ask ourselves why, it’s okay to make the overweight the big, fat butts of jokes. After all, fatties need love, too.

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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