Wall-E: Yeah, its as a bad as I suspected

So, I saw Wall-E last night and it was frustratingly bad. Frustrating, because it was SO unnecessary. The fat baiting was completely unnecessary and I do think it will be taken however the many different shades of fat bigotry choose to see it. Nevertheless, it is betraying one particular shade of fat of bigotry. That which views fat as a consequence.

See, fat people don't cause the problems in the film. They are the RESULT of the problems in the film. I tend to view this as "enlightened" fat bigotry. Enlightened only because those who harbor it feel quite confident that this is a polite, even fat friendly belief. It's not.

These are the people who saw Super Size Me and thought it made a great point. To them, fat people aren't bad, per se. We're just victims. Poor souls who've been subjected to being fat by evil corporations. That's definitely what they are getting at in Wall-E. That fat characters are sympathetic, but only in the sense that we are given to believe that their fatness is the result of the evil machinations of the films true villains.

Yeah, spare me the pity. Its not kind to a fat person to view their bodies as a horrible state for which you must pity and mourn. That's not fat positive. That's just an effort to justify your disgust with fat people without having to blame fat people for it. The core message is STILL that our bodies are disgusting and wrong, and that's just not something I will accept. This kind of "enlightened" fat bigotry is just a sham. A more "progressive" facade placed over the same old, "Ew, fatties". I'm not going to pat these "enlightened" fat bigots on the head just because they want to blame someone else for my fatness instead of blaming me. They still see my fat as something that needs to have blame assigned for it. That is unacceptable.

There are good and valid points to be made about the overconsumption of our natural resources. While not explicitly linked, its hard not to see the fat humanity as still a shorthand for that. There are also valid points to be made about the ways corporations are influencing our everyday lives or how technology can make us lose sight of simple pleasures. The film DOES make those points without using "OMG, FATNESS!" as a crutch. But yet, it still uses the crutch and I find that terribly disappointing. Because its otherwise a good film.

The imagery is striking in the first part of the film. Heart-breaking, even. The robot characters, without much speech at all, are some of the most richly developed characters I've ever seen on film. It is a testament to the skills of the Pixar crew that they can communicate so much about the inner lives of these robots with no substantive dialogue. They are absolutely wonderful characters who will have you on the edge of your seat anticipating their next move.

They just didn't need the fat baiting. Which was used more than symbolism of the fat as consequences but was also used for a series of dumb "ha, ha, fatty" sight gags. Which is what will really infuriate me in the long run. Because while the purpose of the fat characters was the promotion of "enlightened" fat bigotry, those sight gags will appeal just fine to the "unenlightened" fat bigots who will take away from this films that fat people are the cause of or at least symbolic of the world's problems. Even if that was definitely not the point the film was making, they still absolutely delivered for that kind of prejudice and it will just reinforce it. Which is really the whole deal with "enlightened" fat bigotry. They feel just the same horror and disgust at fat people as the rest. They just try to justify it. But its just a lame justification. In the end, they're still pointing and laughing. They just want to pretend that's not what they are doing.

I do have to say one thing in favor of the film, but its a bit spoilerish so stop reading if you're really concerned. During the credits, there is an epilogue of sorts that follows-up the happy ending of the movie. We see the humans through these vignettes and for the most part, they don't magically become thin as a result of the happy ending. THAT, I appreciated but its a small thing in the movie's favor in the context of the previous fat baiting. Still, it was a trick Comcast of all people couldn't keep themselves from doing in a recent PSA, so I'll give them credit for that. If you haven't seen it, Comcast as a cartoon ad touting their community rebuilding efforts where we see a downtrodden stoop transformed into a thriving community center. A black female character is also transformed in this sequence from fat to thin. It was powerful but also subtly fat negative and when the artistically rendered epilogue came on, I expected a reprise of Comcast's magical weight loss, but it didn't really come. The humans were all still fat in the happy ending. I don't think fat haters would notice that, but I did anyway. A spoilerish note against them, though, is the inexplicably, video of humanity in the past using actual live action. Both in scenes of "Hello, Dolly" that Wall-E watches and images of humans at the time when the Earth was become uninhabitable. This is a very odd choice that makes the cartoonish image of the fat humans that much more dehumanizing.

UPDATE: Check out my responses to Wall-E apologists in my follow-up post.


Pixar and the shorthand of Fat

So, the latest Pixar movie comes out today, Wall-E. I've been dreading this for a while as some plot points leaked out which sounded very fat negative. As we've gotten closer to release, those plot points have been increasingly confirmed and very disappointing. Because its not necessary. Its not a movie that needed fat hatred. They are just using fat as shorthand for something bad.

I first mentioned the phenomenon of shorthand fat in one of my first posts back in 2003. There, a movie uses a characters past fat self as a representation of his emotional problems at this time. When we see him in the present, he is thin, which is how we know he's better. I blasted this for being lazy film-making, and I'll blast Pixar for the same thing. It's lazy. Its playing into cultural prejudices to make a point.

Indeed, it seems like Pixar is actually being quite subtle and I suspect their use of fat shorthand will appeal to a variety of different fat prejudices. Essentially, fat is cautionary in the film. A sign of humanity's downfall in the future. But that's all it is. A sign, a symbol to represent something else. That can be useful sometimes, but here the effect is far more crass. Rather than making a complex point about consumerism or over-consumpsion of resources, they just rely on people's fear and disgust of fat. Forget all the valid complaints about those things. They'll make you FAT! That fear can be so base for people, that it doesn't matter if someone thinks of fat as a consequences of personal irresponsibility or corporate neglect. Both will feel the fear of fat and attach their own nuanced prejudices onto that.

The sad thing is, from the reviews, it sounds like the movie DID make its point before scaring us with the fatness. They really didn't need to fall back on using fat as shorthand for the dangers of modern society. But they did anyway, because for people who feel that way, its almost irresistible to draw that connection. Its such an obvious part of their fat prejudice that they feel they must make the point.

The thing to remember though is that there are a LOT of people who feel this way. Indeed, one of my disappoints with Pixar over this is that its so cliché to frightfully warn of the fattening of humanity. Its gotten boring even if you don't find it offensive. But still, its a message a lot of people will eat up because its what they want to hear and what the expect to hear. It really just serves to pat these people on the head for their fat hatred, justifying it to them with a horrifying view of fatness triumphant. It will inspire them to smug satisfaction in the face of the scary fatness. But again, the reality is that this is the culturally dominant position. Its a culturally coddled position. Pixar isn't unique in believing this ore suggesting it or promoting it. So I have trouble singling them out for shame for something that is a social problem. The sad reality is, they shouldn't know better. Not in this society, anyway. Not yet. Fat hatred enjoys such tremendous privilege in our culture that it simply is a non-issue for those who practice it. We need to change this, but if I hated everyone who thought that way, I'd hate darn near everyone and that doesn't feel very constructive to me.

So, I'll probably go see the movie anyway and try to ignore the point they are making. I made this point before, too. Its a frustration, but I feel its unfair to blame the person who says something everyone else is thinking. I have friends I know think the same things it sounds like Pixar is communicating in this movie. Heck, I have friends who consider themselves fat positive who'd probably agree with it. Its a very culturally dominant message and I don't feel like I can single out people for blame for something our society takes for granted. While we can change society one person at a time, its not going to be condemning society's views one individual at a time.

Its frustrating. I want a world where I don't have to deal with this. But we don't have that world yet. So I'll try to ignore the "OMG! Fatness!" side of Wall-E and hope the movie holds up without it. I suspect it will. Which is, again, why I really wish it wasn't there to begin with.


Actual atypical results

I saw this on a diet ad today. "Actual atypical results". We all know of the diet industry's Orwellian word play and their legally mandated "Results not typical" that gets attached to any suggestion that their product will do what they claim it will. Still, somehow this seems like a new low.

Its like they are dressing up a pig in a top hat and tails and hoping know one notices that its a pig. They are trying to get the "Actual results" in there, but decided that rather than just say that with the "Product doesn't work" fine print, they'd just do it all at once. Its a real live example of "Genuine Artificial". Its very slick, really. Trying to hide the "results not typical" in the middle of a boast of your snake oil's supposed effectiveness.

"Results actually atypical" might be a bit more of an honest construction, though. Just another bit of wordplay to add to the fat-hatred industry's repertoire of "Product doesn't work" disclaimers. Someone please show me another product which has to insert a disclaimer insisting it won't work as advertised. Please show me another product whose marketers are allowed to get away with this kind of slimy behavior. In the real world, this would never be allowed. Sadly, when the product being peddled is fat hatred, these are actually typical results.