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Why Gabby VS Hollywood debates annoy me.

I can't stop thinking about this damn clip (below) about Gabby from the Joy Behar Show...and every other show which seems to be covering her story. What annoys me most, perhaps, is the poor framing. They ask "Is Gabby too fat for Hollywood?" The question centers judgment on Gabby and not on Hollywood. But everyone already knows the answer to the question, "Is Hollywood too closed minded and bigoted for Gabourney Sidibe?" The answer is, generally, yes. Hollywood is a place where fat dark-skinned Black women are invisible. First of all, more men are cast in movies than women. More white women are cast than Black women, by far (in my estimation), and when Black women are cast they tend to be light-skinned. And certainly more thin women are cast than fat women.

The question when turned on Hollywood may seem pointless, but the question turned on Gabby is unproductive. I don't see anyone thinking critically about WHY it is that there are no roles for fat women, Black women, dark-skinned women and/or someone who exists in all three of those categories.

When I think of why, I think of Norbert. Fat women are jokes in movies. This is even truer when they're not played by fat women, and often they're not--particularly if they are especially fat*. The women cast in movies (and on TV) are so narrowly chosen that anyone outside of those parameters is rendered unintelligible as anything other than fodder for jokes, scum of the earth, sob stories, and weight-related storylines. We don't make sense any other way. The idea of casting Gabby in a serious role where her confidence might shine through is probably unimaginable to most people in Hollywood. Instead, elite Hollywood women are "made ugly" in movies where a feel-good transformation is needed. And since Gabby is, according to Joy Behar, more than "full-figured" she cannot be transformed from ugly duckling to swan...without losing weight, that is.

By focusing on Gabby the media are subtly (or not-so-subtly) invoking a weight loss narrative because it's the only narrative they know for a fat woman, the only way they see her having a possibility, they only way they see her existing. It's why they are confounded by Gabby herself.

And that is not only indicative of Hollywood's closed-mindedness and bigotry, but of the rampant lack of creativity that befalls them. Why aren't people taking up the challenge? Brainstorming possibilities? Debates about whether Gabby "fits" in Hollywood are unproductive. But in a profit-driven industry people would rather have the same-unproductive debates over and over again.

So, gimme a pitch. What kind of role would you like to see Gabby in? How do we make Gabby intelligible in a movie without resorting to cliche?

*I have become very fond of calling myself "especially fat" after hearing the phrase used by Paul Campos in his UCLA talk. He said it plainly, but to me it reeks of pridefulness. Especially Fat is Deathfat's sassy sister.

Surprise! Howard Stern is a giant jerk |'re too fat. Thanks for coming in.

Bree's picture
March 13th, 2010 | Link | First of all, I have to say

First of all, I have to say that at least this discussion didn't focus on really nastily bashing her looks, ala Howard Stern. They recognize that she is confident, which is a start. But I think that even if she were a size 0 or 2, she still would be invisible because she is dark skinned. I remember Grace Jones from the 80s, whom Hollywood just didn't know what to do with.

I think the main issue, besides her being a dark-skinned extremely heavy young woman, is that she is not the self-loathing fattie that society is more accepting of. Kirstie Alley, Oprah Winfrey, Carnie Wilson, etc. are still ridiculed, but get more sympathy because they're actively trying to get thin for appearance reasons. Here you have a very large gal like myself, who is out there, wearing fabulous clothes, very funny, confident and doesn't seem to give a rat's ass about her size. Happy, fat people who are confident in their skin scare society because we refuse to be pitied and there's less people to try and "fix", health-wise and sex-appeal wise.

I think Niecy Nash (who I loved on Reno 911) has it right to a point where she says that we have to get out there and create it, but if Hollywood won't accept us, then who do we go to? Even the indie industry is starting to become more looks-obsessed these days.

I hope Hollywood really opens its eyes and realizes they do have a talented woman who can play more than "abused, unhappy obese girl" or "sassy best friend" or "donut-hoarding receptionist." I think the public today is a bit more savvy and wants to see more variety in movies. And, if men can get casted while fat, then women should be able to as well.

Viola's picture
March 13th, 2010 | Link | Too close-minded for

Too close-minded for Gabby--I like that reframing. And I'm going to start using the term especially fat. Laughing out loud

DeeLeigh's picture
March 14th, 2010 | Link | or "exceptionally fat!" I

or "exceptionally fat!" I like those terms too. If you don't think of "Fat" as negative, then there's no hidden negativity in them.

Anyway, what about those of less impressive width? "Regular-fat?" "Commonly fat?"

scratchy's picture
March 18th, 2010 | Link | I'm an actress in Hollywood

And it is really REALLY difficult to find a role that isn't demeaning. I have passed on roles for major networks. I recently walked out of an audition that would have paid off my student loans because the lines they asked me to say were: "go away fat thin is where its at." I sat at this audition with several prominent actors and actresses and no one seemed happy to be there yet the casting people were OBLIVIOUS to the fact that it was even offensive. I made a pact with myself early when I moved to Hollywood that I would never represent larger women in a stereotypical way. It is extremely challenging. Its funny but even the better parts are always described as dumpy. Still it has become my life purpose to challenge these stereotypes.
"FAT" - the feature documentary. COMING SOON IN 2010.
If fat is the new normal why is fat discrimination on the rise? Follow the lives of three women struggling with fat and fat hatred. Learn the hidden facts

rebelle March 21st, 2010 | Link | Thank you, Scratchy.

Thank you, Scratchy. Walking away from a paycheck had to be really hard.

alex.k May 22nd, 2010 | Link | Bree wrote: "Happy, fat

Bree wrote:
"Happy, fat people who are confident in their skin scare society because we refuse to be pitied and there's less people to try and "fix", health-wise and sex-appeal wise."

You know, I'm actually starting to believe that every culture, throughout pretty much every period in history has come up with unique ways to discriminate against women, holding them to a completely unrealistic beauty ideal is contemporary western society's way. Just like daring to defy certain clothing-norms in some countries may be seen as provocative or outright unspeakable, so is being happily fat in our culture. Sticking up for one's size is going against one of the most well-known unwritten laws in western society - that of having to constantly aspire to conform to a certain kind of beauty ideal. Just like in the olden days people would hunt down independent women who preferred to live by themselves, and who may have offered alternative forms of medicine as 'witches', and people were encouraged to heed extremely negative opinions on them, nowadays we ascribe so many negative attributes and heed so many 'superstitions' about fat people, this almost feels like a psychological-warfare version of medieval witch hunts.

The second thing I wanted to mention is that what pissed me off considerably was this comment, by one of the users.
(Disclaimer: I realise I'm not offering that person much of a chance of a comeback by posting this here, on the other hand, I probably wouldn't either if I posted over at the HP, mostly because I'm a few months 'late' for the party.
I'm not quite sure if re-posting comments from off-site is OK on BFB, so if it isn't, it'd be great if someone could let me know, in which case I promise not to do it again in the future.)

The comment:
"What? Ive never read an article that tries to rationalize being overweight so nobely. Some people have real physical disorders, true. Yet most overweight people have psycological disorders that personally I believe they are to weak to kick. At her size it would be easy to quickly and safely lose some weight ie minimal changes in diet or very light exercise. People like Kate Moss and others get scrutiny all of the time for being too skinny why do we have to pretend that its ok for this woman to be that overweight."

This is wrong on so, so many levels.

Not only is he / she boldly proclaiming that "most" overweight people have psychological disorders (-reference needed here. Oh wait, reference probably never gonna happen, because that person pulled it out of their ass), but he / she is *also* implying that something as grave as a psychological disorder doesn't take much more than willpower to shake. I better not show this comment to a psychologist friend of mine, seeing as he'd probably go through the roof after reading that. Ignorance proven twice, thanks.

He / she ends his / her posting with a bang too, saying that people like Kate Moss get scrutiny all the time and implying that overweight people get less, or that "everyone complains" the moment someone bashes on fat people... (????) If only the latter were true. If only.

Part of the reason I posted this was because it leads on nicely to what I wanted to say.
Someone forgot to remember that Kate Moss is also considered a top model, and has been for ages now. Doubt there were huge discussions about her being too thin for her first modelling contract, doubt she had to fight her way to the top using a healthy dose of "thin activism"... what quibbles people may or may not have about a celebrity once they're famous is one thing, preventing someone from getting an equal chance at fame due to their size is a completely different issue. It's shocking how some people are obviously too lazy / hateful / thick to work out the obvious difference here. One is personal opinion or alternatively, legitimate concern being voiced, the latter is plain-out discrimination.

Moss makes her millions and millions and millions, despite her BMI most probably being in the nether regions of underweight on the BMI, and those of legions of other underweight top models most certainly are too. How many overweight models make the same kind of cash, enjoy the same kind of fame? Exactly.

On a side note, i'm positively sick of people arguing against the appearance of confident, happy fat people on TV because "they send out the wrong message". What about those same people of the industry, promoting models who were obviously on illegal drugs to maintain their figure, back in the early 1990's (or whenever the whole "heroin chic" thing kicked off...) It was something that was widely *endorsed* in the entertainment industry, and by the people behind the starlets. It's revolting how perfectly hypocritical Hollywood and the surrounding buzz continually manage to be.

-Tell the kids that shooting up heroin is fine, and will get you a modelling contract. But hey, I could and would never, EVER endorse something as unhealthy as showing happy fat people on national television. Why? I have morals, man!

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