“Dear Fat People” A.K.A. Gastronome Shaming
Another video went viral last week. I hope scientists find a vaccine soon before the next contagion. Anyhow, this latest video is titled Dear Fat People by comedian Nicole Arbour. You won’t find a link here because of Arbour’s prolific utilization of F-bombs, which I personally find tiresome, especially when used gratuitously. In other words, the prolific F-bombs do not lend any creativity to her act. But it wasn’t the F-bombs that caused the brouhaha and hate directed at Arbour. Nope, it was her derisive (mocking) tone plus her encouragement of shaming directed at fat people that landed her in hot water. In her defense, Arbour makes it clear (halfway through her act) that she is not referring to people with a medical condition beyond their control. She is talking about the millions of Americans who are overweight because they do not control their eating while living a sedentary life. She says the shaming she uses should come from friends and family of the obese to prevent their overweight loved ones from an early demise where everyone stands around the grave and cries about them being taken too soon.
As a Christian and compassionate person I am conflicted about Arbour’s fat shaming. I found much of her content to be funny, but it also felt cruel. Weight is a sensitive, even raw, subject these days, especially among females of our species. Almost everyone with a fully functioning brain knows we have what experts call an epidemic of obesity in America. Yet the billions we’ve spent on education, laws, medicine, and weight loss programs seems to have done little to abate the epidemic. Is our society too soft on the overweight? Too hard? Do we help or make the problem worse when we use euphemisms such as “body image issues?” Arbour cleverly points out that hashtags won’t fix this problem. Does Arbour deserve the hate? In my humble opinion, maybe a little. But I also remember great comedians like Don Rickles, Dean Martin (yes, he was also a comedian), Foster Brooks, Sammy Davis Junior, and Carroll O’ Connor. Those guys used racial, behavioral, and sexual stereotypes to makes us laugh at ourselves, and by doing so they quietly made us aware that many of our stereotypes were an immoral lie. They chipped away at our collective conscience. Naturally, this angered many people with strong beliefs that the stereotypes were real (they were called bigots). Perhaps Arbour is on to something similar with her Dear Fat People video. Lord knows nothing else seems to be working at tackling the extremely expensive problem of obesity in America. The thing about the older generation of comedians was that they also knew how to make fun of themselves. Arbour does this a little in her video, but she should probably do it more often.
The Bible doesn’t say much about overeating and obesity, but what is does say is strict. For instance, Proverbs 23:2 says “Place a knife at your throat to control your appetite.” This does not mean we should kill ourselves if we can’t control our eating, though I occasionally feel suicidal after a break in character that leads me to dine at McDonald’s. This particular Scripture tells us via symbolism to undertake extreme measures, if need be, to get our appetites under control. In other words, the control of our appetite has serious physical and spiritual ramifications. It’s like God is saying “Pay attention to this, it is not a minor problem you can ignore and expect to have a fulfilling relationship with me!”
In conclusion, Arbour’s video comes off as overly harsh, but we’ve also become too soft as a society. In the golden age of comedy, comedians offended a lot of people, and in doing so they participated in bringing about positive social change. If nothing else, perhaps Arbour’s video has made us aware that there is such a thing as being too accommodating of poor choices.