Friday, July 11, 2008

Wall-E Sends The Right Message. Don't Be A Fat Head About It

Harkening back to my previous post about comedic targets and comedian identities, I'm going to slightly relate this post about the predictable fat-pride backlash to the GIANT humans in Pixar's Wall-E.

Slate burns the film's reliance on tire stereotypes that fat people are fat because they got fat, rather than because they were doomed to fat at birth by genetic fiat:

So what is this powerful and profound message? Wall-E tells us that if we don't change the way we live, we'll all get really fat and destroy the world.

. . . .Let me raise a voice of dissent. Wall-E is an innovative and visually stunning film, but the "satire" it draws is simple-minded. It plays off the easy analogy between obesity and ecological catastrophe, pushing the notion that Western culture has sickened both our bodies and our planet with the same disease of affluence. According to this lazy logic, a fat body stands in for a distended culture: We gain weight and the Earth suffers. If only society could get off its big, fat ass and go on a diet!

But the metaphor only works if you believe familiar myths about the overweight: They're weak-willed, indolent, and stupid. Sure enough, that's how Pixar depicts the future of humanity. The people in Wall-E drink "cupcakes-in-a-cup," they never exercise, and if they happen to fall off their hovering chairs, they thrash around like babies until a robot helps them up. They watch TV all day long and can barely read.
Well, yes, in the MOVIE, the fat people are fat because they did all those things. In real life, people can become fat because they do all those thing. People are fat because they are doing all those things.

Some fat people work out compulsively and still can't shake the weight. So I've heard.

I don't buy that there's a huge number of those people though. Many people are not naturally twigs. Hello, meet me, your blogger.

But I used to be fat. (And because I was, the inner scared me has a hard time saying "used to" because I'm still not thin, and it's a constant struggle.) Even if you think I'm fat now, I can assure you, I used to be fatter.

And then I stopped being so because I got off my ass - literally - and changed things.

Again, some, few unfortunate souls won't slim down. But many can.

And I think Pixar's genius was in presenting a sci-fi future that fits our current pant size exactly.

This is the biggest bullshit statement of them all:

It ought to go without saying that this stereotype of the "obese lifestyle" is simply false. How fat you are has a lot more to do with your genes than with your behavior. As much as 80 percent of the variation in human body weight can be explained by differences in our DNA. (Your height is similarly heritable.) That is to say, it may not matter that much whether you eat salads or drink "cupcakes-in-a-cup," whether you bike everywhere or fly around in a Barcalounger. If you have a propensity to become obese, there's only so much that can be done about it.
Pedophiles have a propensity to kiddie-fiddle, but we still think they should modify their behavior for the good of society, right?

Bad analogy, I know.

The Slate writer, however, misses the Wall-E constructs, uh, construction. It's clearly shown on screen how these future Earthlings brought on their own sloth. They didn't have to leave Earth because they got fat. They got fat because they wore Earth out and had to leave. And got bored. After 700 years on a spaceship, it's understandable.

Second biggest bullshit statement:

That's not to say that our circumstances can't lead us to gain weight. But there's little evidence that overeating causes obesity on an individual level and no real reason to think that anyone can lose a lot of weight by dieting. (Most of us fluctuate around a natural "set point.")
Um, how do you figure? Two people can eat the same plate of food, everyday for a year. One may be fat, one may be thin. To that extent, I suppose, yes, you can read the data as correlative and not causal. However, if you know that your body tends to hold the bad stuff longer, because of genetics, etc, then why don't you change what's on your plate? If two people eat a tub of peanut butter and one dies of anaphylactic shock, we don't congratulate the dead guy for pursuing his right to eat the same thing as everyone else.

I can't eat what other people eat. If I do, I get fatter than they do. This sucks when my naturally svelte husband chows down on his third chocolate biscuit of the day and I really want to join him. But he stays svelte, I absolutely do not.

Maybe the problem is that these fat-defenders have turned "overeating" into a universal amount of food. But what is overeating for me and what is overeating for someone else can be vastly different.

If someone suffering from an honestly medically-induced weight problem feels bad after watching Wall-E, they should buck up, knowing that they are not the target of Wall-E's call to action.

For the rest of us, who have to rationalize what we eat and at time seek comfort in the notion that it's not our fault we carry extra weight - well, we should feel bad if our behaviors are as wasteful as the Buy N Large shopping Wall-E humans.

If we're not helping create a future of literal garbage sky-scrapers, then we should also buck up and recognize that Wall-E's message is to stop trashing our planet. It really isn't that much about our bodies. That damages comes later, after we've run out of environment to ruin.

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