The Last Great American Prejudice

Recently I was watching “Fashion Police” on E! because, well, because it was on.  As you may know, I love fashion, and celebrities, and stupid punny jokes like those often made on Sex and the City (For example: “Lawrence of my labia.” It’s like you want to laugh, and kill yourself, all at once.)  So you would think that I would love Fashion Police, which is a nexus, a sort of Constantinople, if you will, of all these things.  And yet– I hate Fashion Police.  Of course, there’s no accounting for taste when it comes to television.  I judge you if you watch Jersey Shore– yet I have watched Road Rules-Real World Challenges religiously for years.  All the Real Housewives franchises are inane hour-long anti-plastic-surgery PSAs– except for the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, which I adore.  Watching RHOBH is like watching a collagen arms race from behind a two-way mirror.  Dancing with the Stars is criminally boring– but America’s Best Dance Crew is innovative and inspiring.  It is possible I like ABDC mostly because I’ve been a Mario Lopez fan ever since my first Zack and Slater gangbang fantasy occurred back in the 90s.  I mean, who can resist this confection of stonewash and silk:

Nice happy trails, boys.

Anyway, I don’t know why I don’t like Fashion Police, but it’s a stupid show.  Watching Fashion Police is like eavesdropping on a high-school cafeteria table full of bitchy girls.  Joan Rivers’ self-congratulatory horsey laugh, everyone sitting around mocking any outfit that’s in the least bit adventurous or avant-garde and nitpicking the tiniest details (Her eyelashes aren’t long enough!  Her breathing in-and-out is really ruining the line of that dress!), the terrible outfits of the show hosts themselves.  Joan Rivers wears a gold brocade jacket and statement necklace so often she looks like she’s trying to land the next Ann Taylor Loft campaign, if Ann Taylor Loft campaigns were styled by Michael Jackson in his Balmain phase.

But while watching, I realized there is one thing that happens, over and over, on Fashion Police that I really dislike: the mockery of heaviness.  At least 50% of Fashion Police commentary is about a given celebrity’s weight, and the “law” the Fashion Police seem to be enforcing is:

1. No one should be overweight.  Especially not famous people.

2. Famous people should not only not be overweight, they should be underweight.

3. If you are famous AND, somehow, overweight, you might as well be a leper.  Which is to say, Joan Rivers will go to a benefit for Find a Cure for Leprosy, and she’ll tell the InStyle reporter covering the event how courageous and inspiring you are, but she wouldn’t touch you with a ten-foot-motherfuckin-pole.

So right now you are probably saying “Duh.  Everyone knows that famous people aren’t allowed to be overweight.”  What I want to know is– why?  Why?  Why is it bad to be overweight?  No, I’m not asking why it is bad for your health– I’m sorry, did you think this post was going to be about biology?  Fat chance!  Har har!– I’m asking, why is it bad SOCIALLY to be overweight?  I’m sure that the unhealthiness of being overweight is, unconsciously, one of the reasons that we mock and even shun the overweight, just like the fact that incest causes massive birth defects is, unconsciously, one of the reasons we say “eew, gross” when we think about incest.  Anything that decreases out species’ and our own individual ability to survive will become taboo, sooner or later.  Like smoking, or having armpit hair.

But obviously no one who makes fun of a fat person is doing so because they’re concerned about that person’s long-term health prospects.  So why do we do it, then, and so often?  Why is it so bad to be fat in America?  Especially when so many Americans are overweight or obese?  I mean, it’s no longer PC to crack jokes about pretty much any other “minority” group: homosexual people, black people, handicapped people, Asian people, midget people, poor people, women.  That’s not to say that none of us have ever made a joke about one of these groups.  You know we all have.  But there’s not a show on television where four people sit around and make fun of, say, poor Asian women.  Ah!  But what is Fashion Police?  A show where four people sit around and make fun of fat people.  And people love it!  People eat it up!  (Har har!)  Fatness is the last great American prejudice.

Perhaps you are now saying, “Yes, but fat people choose to be fat.  Handicapped people don’t choose to be handicapped.”  I.e., you’re not supposed to make fun of someone if they’re born that way.  (By the way, did I mention I’m writing this post while wearing a dress made entirely of meat?)  This argument is riddled with fallacies:

1. It implies that, if you’re not born a straight, white man, you’re therefore a “victim” or “disadvantaged”, which only perpetuates the very prejudices that don’t-make-fun-of-them rules are attempting to surppress.

2. Do you honestly think fat people choose to be fat?  They probably made lots of choices that led them to fatness, but please find me a person who woke up one day and consciously decided to become fat.  Just like no one woke up one day and decided to become addicted to cigarettes, or an alcoholic, or in love with the same asshole guy for five years.  We all make lots of little everyday choices to gratify our need for pleasure in a given moment and don’t consider the long-term consequences until it’s too late.  Do you want to be mocked for that?

3. On the other hand, in a prejudice-free world, who the fuck would ever choose to be thin?  If being fat were considered hot and sexy, wouldn’t we all be fat?  Do you HONESTLY enjoy eating a salad with fat-free ranch dressing at your desk everyday, and then going to the gym after work and running on the treadmill like a little rat, just so you can fit into those $175 jeans on Friday night, when you will go out to a bar and drink vodka waters?  Fuck no!  If you could be fat, you would!  You would eat penne vodka and salted caramel chocolate bars for breakfast!  You would stir your martini with a french fry! Disclaimer: I do love running, and exercising and eating healthy does give you tons and tons of energy.  But still.  Anyone who tells you they don’t work out for appearance reasons is lyyyyyyy-ing.  If there were no fat prejudice– if there were in fact a skinny prejudice– I would probably not even own sneakers.

On the particular episode of Fashion Police I was viewing, they were critiquing the 2011 Emmys.  An overweight black actress’s outfit was discussed.  I can’t remember her name, but her dress was beautiful.  I just looked for a picture of her for like half an hour but no dice. In any case Joan and co. raved about what she was wearing.  Then this exchange occurred at the end of her little segment:

Giuliana Rancic: “The best part is, she looks happy, she looks like she’s feeling it.”

Joan Rivers: “She’s happy because there’s a buffet inside.” (uproarious studio laughter)

Obviously Joan, after praising this woman’s outfit to the heavens, has to take the cheap shot about her weight.  God knows that on Fashion Police, you can’t like a fat celebrity’s outfit and let them also get away with being fat.  But also: Giuliana, what the fuck?  The best part about her outfit is that she looks “happy”?  As in, “isn’t it great to see a fat person looking, against all the odds, so happy?”

Later in the show, they discuss Melissa McCarthy, i.e. the “big girl” in Bridesmaids (who also recently hosted SNL and participated in this skit, which– although I suppose the humor in it also trades on her weight in some way– I am OBSESSED WITH) and Joan says, about her outfit:

“She covers up what has to be covered up, when you’re large.”  But who said says you have to “cover up” your largeness in the first place?  I mean besides Joan Rivers and all fashion magazines ever?  Like, why?  Isn’t it, like 200 degrees in LA in September?  Why is she wearing a dress that conforms to Tzniut if she’s not an Orthodox Jew?

They then discuss Gwyneth Paltrow, who is probably the skinniest, most muscular mother-of-two ever, and who in interviews frequently cops to literally torturing herself with workouts in order to look that way.  Gwyneth wore this:

and the Fashion Police decided she had a “muffin top”.  ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME.  If that is a fucking muffin top, then my waist is a wedding cake.  And I’d like to see you in that dress, Joan Rivers.  Even Dawn Weiner looks better in a crop top than you would.

Now, I don’t like Gwyneth’s dress, or Melissa’s dress, but not because of either woman’s weight or body shape.  They’re just both kind of ugly dresses. And why can’t they just say that on Fashion Police?  Instead of criticizing the bodies inside the dresses and creating more body dysmorphia that the world doesn’t need?

Meanwhile, have you seen the people who host Fashion Police?  Can you come up with more apparently self-hating group of individuals?  I’m not even talking about Joan Rivers, who, it seems, so couldn’t stand what she saw in the mirror that she had to turn herself into the love-child of Heidi Montag and a balloon animal:

How about Giuliana Rancic?  Have you ever seen anyone look hungrier?  Jesus woman.  You’re so orange and skinny you look like a picked-clean chicken wing wearing a two-tone wig.  Oh!  And Tori Spelling!  Who does not so much seem to hate herself– although she too has had a nose job and a boob job and God knows what else– as she does ADORE herself, considering she spends her waking hours figuring out how she can insert her name into the titles of her various shows, books and products: “noTORIous”, “sTORItelling”, “uncharted terriTORI”.  I mean really. Reading Tori Spelling book titles is like being trapped in a terrible literary purgaTORI.  When did someone who starred in Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?, who pimps out her family and children on some remote branch of cable television, become paragon of style?  NO:

You know what the worst part about that dress is?  Where the hem falls– right above her ankles. Groooooce.

And finally, I give you Jay Manuel:

Guess what Jay!  No matter how many times a week you sleep in a night mask of  Jolene Creme Bleach, you’re never going to be white!

In fact, the only person I like on Fashion Police is Kelly Osbourne.  Now there’s a bitch I can get behind.  Her comments about fashion are actually kind of insightful, and she defends adventurous dressers such as Alan Cumming and Helena Bonham-Carter, whom, on this particular episode, Kelly said she admires for their “bravery” of wearing what they like and not caring what others think.  And when it comes to talk of bodies and fatness and weight, she speaks as someone who once was overweight and was mocked for this, and probably on Fashion Police, for that matter.  She obviously understands she’s not going to change the social stigma against overweightness, because she took the time to lose her own weight, but she still speaks with empathy about those being criticized by her costars, which is both refreshing and necessary.

Except for this one delicious moment, when a picture of Christina Aguilera in a too-tight dress came up for discussion, and Kelly said this:

“Maybe she is just becoming the fat bitch was she was born to be. I don’t know. She was a cunt to me… she called me fat for so many fucking years, so you know what? Fuck you. You’re fat too.”

Because you know what?  At the end of the day, it’s just like Conan said.  Only a ginger can call another ginger a ginger.

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