Fat, Media

Kung Fu Panda Open Thread

Liz Henry at Body Impolitic thinks it’s a surprisingly body-positive movie. Liss is unconvinced.

Not having seen any part of it other than the dumpling battle, I’m inclined to go with Liss, though I might still go see it out of curiosity. What do you think, Shapelings? Have you seen it? Do you want to? Is a sorta fat-positive message worth the hoary old fat jokes? Are there any surprises? Discuss.

68 thoughts on “Kung Fu Panda Open Thread”

  1. I haven’t seen it, and I imagine I might be quite offended actually sitting through it (I’m envisioning a lot of snorts and me and Dan going “oh right, because fat people eat all the time” to each other until we’re asked to leave), but at the same time I’m kind of inclined to file it under “baby steps are still steps.” There are so many movies that are unrelenting fat jokes where the fat character either remains a completely two-dimensional personality, good only to be the butt of jokes, or loses weight in order to become acceptable. The fact that this panda becomes the hero without losing weight is actually a really big deal. The reliance on fat jokes for the entire crux of the plot is pretty lazy, but the apparent upshot is kind of a surprise — by the end we apparently have a believable fat master athlete.

    So, I mean, “so much better than it coulda been” is damning with faint praise, but we can’t expect people to get it all at once.

  2. Also, before we get into any Jack Black bashing (which is probably inevitable), please watch him play the Devil in “The Joke, The Musical” — before any Hollywood selling-out, before the D had an album, before anybody made him lose weight (although honestly he’s at a thinnish point here) or cut his hair or shave — and tell me he’s not the sexiest thing EVAR.

  3. Ok,
    I saw this 2 days ago and was really wondering who I could talk to about the scenes where he says he’s an emotional eater and that his master trains him with food. There was a WHOLE lot in that movie I could have gone on and on about had I had a blog anyone in FA cared about, b/c I saw a lot in there.

    Thanks sooooo much for covering this, I liked the movie, he saves the day! It was interesting how at first the 5 masters are discriminating against him and one of the major ones was Angelina. Then at the end they’re bowing to him and calling HIM master.
    I also half expected to see him thinner, as well but he stayed the same!

    Plz delete this comment under “Aunt Fattie” b/c I commented in the wrong section and don’t wanna seem even more like a dumb-dumb!!!

  4. I just saw it yesterday and was pleasantly surprised. Yes, there are fat jokes at the panda’s expense, but the viewer is always encouraged to sympathize with the panda. He enjoys food but there’s never any indication that this is morally wrong, and the other (thin) characters also are shown enjoying food and, at one important point, hiding cookies. Po’s rotundity is presented as cute, not gross.

    I didn’t watch the dumpling battle clip, so I don’t know how much it includes, but at the end when he wins the dumpling, he gives it back to the master and says “I’m not hungry.” I suppose you could see this as some kind of impending panda eating disorder, but the way I saw it was that he really wasn’t all that hungry and was just playing along for the fun of it.

    The emotional-eating stuff was a little annoying, but that was the worst of it and most importantly, none of the other characters put him down for it. When the master catches him raiding the pantry and Po is all, “I eat when I’m upset!”, the master just tells him where the cookies are hidden and walks away.

    And then, at the end when he’s beaten the bad guy, and the bad guy says, “But you’re just a big fat panda!” Po says, “No, I’m THE big fat panda!” a theater full of five-year olds cheered, which struck me as a positive thing right there. The overall message was that if you accept who you are and work with that instead of trying to change into something you’re not, you can accomplish great things.

  5. And then, at the end when he’s beaten the bad guy, and the bad guy says, “But you’re just a big fat panda!” Po says, “No, I’m THE big fat panda!” a theater full of five-year olds cheered

    Oh, that warms my (bitter) heart!

  6. I hadn’t even thought of it any way regarding body issues, fat acceptance or the like. I was just looking at it as a funny, animated movie about animals who could do Kung-Fu?

  7. cypher, what an insightful comment.

    Nettle, I heard about the “I’m not hungry” part and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it… he’s not hungry because he finally got some exercise? He’s not hungry because he finally feels emotionally fulfilled? But of course you could be right — he’s not hungry because he’s not hungry, and once he’s released himself from the confines of the fat stereotype (because it’s true that some fat people are emotional eaters and food-driven because they’re told that fat people are like that), he can actually recognize it. I suppose there could be a hidden intuitive eating message in there.

  8. I just posted a post on my blog about this, because I had a lot to say. But in general I really liked the movie. All due respect to Liss I really think if you’re going to talk about the social effects of a film you should actually see it first.

    There were fat jokes, but I always felt like I was laughing with Po, and not at him. That could just be because of my perspective. It was a lot better than I expected. The action sequences were really cool.

  9. Also I would just like to say that one time I had an RPG character who was a panda and a badass fighter and weighed in at over a deuce and had like 21 charisma.

    Just sayin’.

  10. I want to see it, but mostly because I got my green belt in aikido when I weighed 275 lbs. Yes, fat girls can do martial arts!

  11. I haven’t yet seen the film, though I’m considering it.

    As I commented to Liss, though, what gives me pause more than anything is the possible fat-as-asset message in the film.

    One thing that’s always kind of bugged me about some FA rhetoric is the association of fat with something positive as a means to combat the negative associations. Personally, I think this is the wrong tack to take. I would much rather be working toward forwarding the idea that body size is irrelevant to the worth of a given human.

    I don’t want to “celebrate my curves” or anything like that. I would just, for once in my life, like to be seen for who I am as a person rather than anything that has to do with my body at all. I’ve been “thinged” when I was a teenage bombshell, and I’ve been thinged as a 30-something fat person. I don’t want to be thinged anymore. I want people to stop associating my body–and the bodies of everyone else–with any personal qualities whatsoever whether negative or positive.

  12. vivelafat, but what would the farmer say?

    And what about the moocow?

    And what about the hay??

  13. Ok, I was previously saying meh, maybe a cute kids’ movie, about this, but now I want to see it! Just that Po doesn’t lose weight at the end and still kicks ass sounds ever so excellent.

  14. I’m probably not going to see it…while part of me (who loves me some Jack Black, checkered past/present notwithstanding) wants to disengage the FA brain and just enjoy a flick….in the preview I saw, the “funniest” bit involved the old fat-person-sitting-on-thin-person martial art (haha so funny!), complete with slow-motion animated jiggle that – on the one hand, wow, accurately animated wobbly fat! – I don’t believe for an instant was meant to be empowering.

    Baby steps, yay. I’m glad people who may not see fatties in *any* positive light ever might shift something because of this….but it smells like one too many cheap shots for my taste.

  15. I hadn’t planned on seeing this movie due to problems of cultural appropriation. I watched the dumpling battle clip and laughed my ass off, though, because I’m a big fan of old Kung Fu movies and I liked that they were both paying homage and lampooning the genre at the same time. I may get in the waiting list behind the 400 other people who will be checking out a copy from the local library, but I don’t expect to enjoy any aspects other than the action. I may, in fact, watch it with the volume down and the captions off, as I do with any mind-numbingly dumb action movie.

  16. I’m glad people who may not see fatties in *any* positive light ever might shift something because of this

    Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. Anti-intellectual dipshits (I just deleted one) who think this is “just a cartoon” are of course being wilfully ignorant about the way in which pop culture both reflects and reinforces the zeitgeist. I don’t like the way that this movie is apparently reflecting aspects of our culture that I don’t approve of… but it’s taking in fat hate, and giving back fat hate with a little leavening of positivity. So maybe the next movie that reflects the fat-hate zeitgeist leavens it a little more. You know? If you’re one of those people who comments with vitriol on news articles, talking about how all fatties are deluded lazy disgusting slugs, even a food-motivated self-deprecating fat hero could shake up your worldview.

  17. I all too vividly remember being at school and someone bullying a fat kid who said back at her, “What’re you going to do–sit on me?”

    From my own perspective as a mother of a four year old and a seven year old (as well as a 3 month old who is too young to watch movies), I feel like we’re setting our sites a little low in being thrilled that the long-running fat joke doesn’t end with the panda losing weight. Because I’d argue that the reason he doesn’t have to lose weight is that he’s A) male and B) the butt of the joke (and hence he’s paid the price necessary to remain fat in providing comic relief).

  18. Check out the AWESOME CUTENESS that is the fat cell!


  19. I just came back from taking the kids I watch to see this movie. I liked it. Much better, imo, than the previews suggested.

    I’m torn on the fat politics of the film. I don’t love the generally accepted premise that fat people must be either greedy gluttons or emotional eaters, but I also appreciate how positively food was portrayed in the film. One of my big complaints with “Hairspray” was that Edna’s eating was a constant joke, but you almost never saw Tracey take a bite of anything. In fact, it’s one of my pet peeves how rarely you see people really just enjoying food in movies. When one of the characters suggests that Po should be able to thrive on very little food, they’re portrayed as the one with a problem. Po eats when he’s upset, but it’s never suggested that this is what makes him fat.

    I agree with MIriam that his being male probably has a lot to do with how positively he’s portrayed.

  20. I may see it out of theatres, eventually, but I don’t think I want to pay money for it. Seriously, the advertising was not fat friendly. If the movie is fat friendly, great, but the advertising basically was ‘this is a fat joke! come and see our movie!’

  21. If the movie is fat friendly, great, but the advertising basically was ‘this is a fat joke! come and see our movie!’

    But that’s how I would advertise a fat-friendly movie, too – to trick the haters into viewing it!! Then again, I don’t think this was what they were doing.

    I saw a poster a few days ago and wondered what the movie might be like. Thanks for reviewing it before I could watch it. I think I’ll agree with the baby steps thing – it could have been worse, so I might even watch it one day.

  22. I am the hated milk machine, everybody hates me now.

    SM and I like to sing this on New Year’s instead of Auld Lang Syne.

  23. And now to actually contribute to the conversation. (thanks a lot fillyjonk, for side tracking me) I loved that Hairspray wasn’t afraid to touch on eating. Fat people eat. Thin people eat. Neither of the main characters was ashamed that they like to eat, and it was never directly stated that they were fat because they liked to eat. (no judgment associated with the fact that they liked food, no one ever told them to eat less.)
    I like food. Good food. I like to eat. I’m proud of that, because just as Liss says being fat is a radical act, I think eating what you want and liking it is radical as well. To be able to make fried oreos when I get the craving for them (OMG they should call them fried orgasms) and not feel the least bit guilty for it is like a little rebellion. I love it.

  24. I took my 4 year old to it yesterday. It made me think about FA, but to be honest it mostly made me think about how much violence there is in kids programming. To be sure, at the beginning the kung fu is portrayed as athletic and honorable, but of course there is a bad guy and at the end of the movie a whole lot of violence smashups.

    But, for FA thoughts…

    Po eats when he’s upset. Nobody in the movie tells him that he’s bad for that. Nobody tells him to diet. Though he’s frequently referred to as fat, there is never a rant against fatness, or an insult to fatness itself (that I can remember.) Mostly, the other kung fu students are upset that he was picked to be a special warrior when they have trained for it their whole lives and are in super fighing form, and he clearly is not in fighting form (and this may have nothing to do with fat, but more with the fact that he has zero training.)

    About food, one of the other very athletic kung fu heroes hides cookies. Po is a good cook, and there is one scene where all the super-athletes are sitting around a table complimenting him on his cooking and all are really enjoying their food. As far as the dumpling scene.. Po eats when he’s upset, and he’s upset that he will have to fight the bad guy. My take on the dumpling scene, which does end with him saying “I’m not hungry” is that he trained for food at the start because he was scared at the idea of fighting the bad guy. However, Po finally realizes how much he has learned and how prepared he is, and he tosses the dumpling back. It shows that he’s scared no longer. He’s ready.

    I think there was one scene where Po rolled over the bad guy with a close up of Po’s cute panda butt on the bad guy’s head. Yeah, it’s a classic fat joke. it is also a classic kids joke, putting a butt on someone’s head, fat or not. All the kids laughed delightedly. Po also successfully uses his big belly when he fights as a sort of sumo-wrestler move (mixing fighting styles here, but you get the point.)

    At the end, I asked my 4 year old his favorite part. “The booty and belly parts!” he said. He loved the physical body humor, which kids tend to do. This was a kids movie, and I think it gave the kids a fat-positive view. The hero stays fat, he trains intensively when fat, he makes friends when fat, and he saves the day when fat. He also, by the way, has a message to “believe in yourself” and because he believes in himself he can do all these miraculous things.

    I hadn’t thought about the male/female angle (whether he’s more accepted because he’s fat male, rather than fat female). My only thoughts there had been delight that 2 of the 5 super athletic kung fu heroes were women, so it wasn’t a totally male thing. Also, for size acceptance (not really fat) one of the athletic heroes is a mantis, and he tells Po “who am I to judge someone’s size? Look at me!” meaning he’s a tiny mantis yet has successfully trained as a kung fu warrior.

    So, yeah, from the FA point of view I think it is a good movie for children. From the violence, well, maybe not so much.

  25. I watched the Kung Fu Panda last night, and was hoping and praying that it would get some discussion here, thank you all!

    I thought that parts of it were really funny and that parts were pretty abhorrent, especially the food-motivated training sequence. I also had the thought that the message wasn’t really about fat acceptance as much as about accepting fat people who also have super kung fu skills and save your ass from certain doom. Would that translate to other fatz people in the village? I don’t know.

    The latest incarnation of Hairspray eeked me out a little too, but for feminist reasons. I know that John Travolta dances pretty well, but were there no ACTUAL fat women in all of Hollywood who they could have cast to play a fat woman?

  26. Bellacoker, I could be mistaken but hasn’t the role always been played by a man. I don’t think a fat woman has ever played the role, I thought it was traditionally for a cross dressing man.

  27. Bella, The Edna character in Hairspray is intended to be a drag role. Of course, choosing Travolta for it was a dreadful mistake, but yeah, Divine originated the role, so it wouldn’t have been appropriate for a woman.

    as much as about accepting fat people who also have super kung fu skills and save your ass from certain doom. Would that translate to other fatz people in the village? I don’t know.

    Yes. And insert any “otherwise uncool” trait, too.

    It’s the “you’re not one of the BAD members of your group, so therefore you’re cool” thing. You’re a properly masculine homosexual. You’re a properly feminine fat woman. You’re a properly wealthy and educated person of color. You have a disability through no fault of your own. Etc…

    It’s rubbish. We either accept people as they are, or we don’t. There shouldn’t be any conditions attached to it save the one about not harming others.

  28. I want to see, fat jokes and all, because I do believe the final message is one of body positivity.

    However, Wall-E (by Pixar, coming out soon), which I’ve wanted to see for a year….umm, I might change my mind. I recently saw an extended trailer, and I’m fairly certain (based on the trailer, and a few early reviews) fatty, selfish Americans are the bad guys. And it looks like every stereotype is played out in that movie too.

  29. I saw the movie yesterday and was surprised that the movie was 200% better than I expected.

    Except for a few fat jokes, I thought the movie was stunning. At no point in the movie did I think the message was that Po should lose weight or that he couldn’t do Kung Fu BECAUSE of his weight. The other characters doubt him and he doubts himself because he has no martial arts experience, he’s out of shape and clumsy, he’s a wide-eyed Fan-Boy of the Furious Five, and he has precious little time to learn to become a Kung Fu Master.

    When Master Shifu decides to use food to teach Po Kung Fu, I didn’t see it as though the fat panda could only be motivated to learn with food. Po lived his whole life in a restaurant family making noodles. Being around food was where he felt comfortable and Shifu understood that in order for Po to relax enough and open his mind enough to learn, he would have to begin in Po’s comfort zone.

    What I loved is that Po doesn’t lose an ounce of weight with all his Kung Fu training and he does learn that his weight and his body is an incredible asset, just like the assortment of bodies that make up the Furious Five.

    By no means were the funniest parts of the movie centered around Po’s weight. The movie is freakin’ HILARIOUS and I would love to go see it again.

  30. I saw Harispray twice, and afairk you never see Tracy eat anything. She takes an apple at the beginning, then gives it to someone else. She doesn’t take any of the donuts at the large sized store.

    Bizaarrely, at the party, no one except Edna eats any of the food.

    I loved the movie in general, but I think eating was really mishandled.

  31. Yeah, Nancy, I was watching it on TIVO just last night and I think the eating wasn’t handled well.

    That and the scene where Link finds a half-eaten candy bar under Tracy’s pillow – ick. I honestly don’t mind the idea that someone with a diet-obsessed mom might hide junk food, but sleeping w/ an unwrapped candy bar under your pillow? Gross.

    Also, I totally agree with Ducky.

  32. Obviously I’m thinking about Kung Fu Panda a lot!

    But I liked the fact that Po’s fighting style was all about his physicality and personality. I mean, the butt on the head stuff is a bit sophomoric, but the fact that he doesn’t ‘overcome’ being fat in order to be fit was nice. As someone who really loves getting stronger and increasing my endurance, but still huffs and puffs going up the stairs…

    wait, I’m starting to identify too much with the cartoon panda, I think.

  33. I just saw the movie last night, with my 11 year old (thin-normal) daughter. I felt annoyed by the “emotional eating” comments, but overall I felt the message was positive. The take-away was “what makes you special is YOU, not some scroll or mystical thing outside of yourself.” I agree with the commenters who have said that the food training sequences had the potential to be squicky, but were less so than they could have been, or seemed like they might be at first. In fact, it just represented an accurate picture of finding Po’s motivation, and then using that as a lever to help him find his own abilities. And those abilities all centered around his being himself, exactly as he was. He is a large round panda, and he learns to use his mass and inertia in positive ways, often turning the opponents’ force back against them.

    On the whole, I thought it was worthwhile, and I’m not sad that we went to see it.

  34. I just wonder which of my students will come back to school next year with the nickname “Kung Fu Panda”. Sigh.

  35. I saw the movie this weekend and was a little worried about it being full of fat jokes. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised for the reasons many people stated above. The one point I LOVED (potential spoiler, but I’m trying to be vague) is that one of the major take aways of the movie is that Po didn’t have to add (or subtract) anything to be a master… he just was. There were fat jokes, but I think Po was vindicated in the end by just using his strengths and being him and nobody else. That seems like a great message.

  36. Well just on the Hairspray point, Edna has *always* been played by a man. It’s a part written for a drag queen. Although on stage she’s often been played by fat men, not men in fat suits.

    I’m excited to see Kung-Fu Panda regardless. Although my favorite Jack Black movie will always be High Fidelity. Think he’s sexy in Joke the musical, watching him sing “Let’s Get it On” in High Fidelity is amazing. OMG, just OMG.

  37. I, too, was pleasantly surprised by the movie. I went in, expecting to be disappointed, but was instead really pleased with the film overall. Food does play a big part in it, but as others have stated, eating is never seen in a negative light.

    SPOILER ALERT (Kind of)

    The group of adults and kids I was with stayed through the credits to see whatever little scene would appear at the end. Instead of another joke or more kung fu action, the final scene was of Po and Master Shifu sitting together and enjoying a bowl of dumplings. This was a very positive portrayal of eating, of sharing between the two characters, that I was very glad to see.

  38. Saw it. Loved it. And the three year old spent the whole movie showing her “moves.” (knocked a drink out of dad’s hand, knocked me over in the lobby!) lots of positives: loving single parent who was not the same species, strong women–just to name a few.

    Here’s the geek alert (as in, I have read too much about this): One of the reasons for the different animal depictions is that each animal represents a style of martial arts. The body form of the animal (or insect) is inherent in the approach and style of the fighting. Po needed to learn about the strength of his body to be able to apply this to his fighting style. He is a panda, pandas are built a certain way; those attributes serve as an assest to him.

  39. I just saw this movie. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! but thats much more for the art than it is for the body positive or negative issues.

    I think its realistic in the face of fat. I was a little upset when they did the whole “I eat when I’m upset” thing, but other than that. He was a fat panda, and stayed a fat panda and won anyhow. If you take out the unhappy=eating too much its an otherwise wonderful movie. The rest of the characters could have easily made fun of him for a whole host of other irrelevant things (aside from abysmal martial arts skill) and it wouldn’t have been a whole lot different.

    I enjoyed it because being big/fat was part of his special fighting style.

    but geez the art. the artists for this did an amazing job making fat completely graceful and basically plausible. whenever did the animation had a good idea of how a person/character of that weight would move. Instead of being portrayed as horribly weighed down (other than the stairs which would have any normal person gasping) he was shown moving …normally. Moving like a person. His fat wasn’t just something that was there, it was part of the whole and movement illustrated this.

    and I’ll quit now because its late and I don’t think I’m making so much sense anymore

  40. Haven’t seen Kung Fu Panda yet and was initially turned off by reading Liss’s post – but now I think I want to see it, warts and all. But now I’m scared of Wall-E. DUDE if that movie is ruined by fat hate I may have to make a, uh, third version of the Incredible Hulk. Looks so cute! Cannot. Not. Go. See. Robots.

    @ Godless Heathen and others who have seen it: Any thoughts on racism issues as they overlap with FA? I get the cultural appropriation’s existence but would love a thought as to whether FA and racism make a mean, mean sundae here.

  41. @suezette: Posted while I was pondering. The “type of animal” thing is actually a GOOD, GOOD sundae made of FA and non-appropriation. At least, sort of. Yes?

  42. Ok I just saw this movie last night and actually went into it very naive not knowing much about the movie ( I went to see Prince Caspian at the Drive in, Kung Fu Panda was the first of the double feature) at the very beginning I thought oh no … this is going to make me hate myself being that I am very very sensitive to jokes pointed at fat people.

    Honestly it was quite the opposite for me I felt a bit empowered and a little more freedom. Yes ok there was the standard fat jokes.. but they didn’t seem to be done in malice and it seemed that that was what the “Masters” could pick on simply cause they couldn’t admit their pride was hurt cause they weren’t picked. It wasn’t long before you heard the other masters like the mantis say in essence “pfffft what is size look at me, in fact look at all of us we had to overcome our sizes too”

    When the Tortoise comes up to Po and finds him under the peach tree eating peaches, the kind and matter of fact way he simply said “it is ok, I know you eat when your upset” without shaming Po just really stood out to me. Ok he eats when he is upset… he is still the Dragon Master.

    Po’s attitude really did inspire me to be honest, yeah he knew he was fat… he didn’t try to hide it, or make excuses for it, nor did he let that stand in his way of following his dream. When he told the master that he could endure all the trainings and stuff because following his dream was no less painful than living in his skin every day of his life, well shoot I wanted to stand up and cheer.

    The whole dumpling thing well at first I got a little upset, cause I am naturally on the defensive with stuff like that but then I thought how cool that the master realized what, at that moment, motivated Po the best, and even though it was food he used it to help Po reach his dreams, and unlike my parents he didn’t put severe restrictions on food and make Po ashamed of every bite he ate, which seemed to give Po the freedom to finally say.. you know what.. I am not hungry. He wasn’t hungry, so he didn’t eat, (intuitive eating anyone?) and lol he didn’t lose weight either.

    Ok I should stop here but overall I really liked it, I liked the message, I loved the pandas attitude and I am going to work to have more of that attitude in my life, I will reach my dreams, and I will no longer use my size as an excuse not to! I think if people go into the movie with an open mind without preconceptions and give it a chance maybe they could get that same message as well, and yeah I do gotta agree with Shinobi on this, I don’t think it is fair to critique and tear apart a movie that you have never seen.

    Just my Humble Opinons, I do know I will be getting this on DVD and watching it again and again :-P

  43. …….it’s true that some fat people are emotional eaters and food-driven because they’re told that fat people are like that

    I have to say that this describes me, (and a lot of thin people). The problem is not being food driven, but being fat and the way it is stigmatised, not people’s innate eating dispositions.
    I have to say I think that emotional eating is an irritating and typically fatutous attempt to create disorder out of common humanity. When we get stressed, our nervous systems become physically tense, this seems to provoke the appetite in some people, as it is part of the nervous system, in some people it tends to have the opposite effect. This varies even in the same person, when my eating was disordered, due to trying to lose weight, under stress my appetite rose, now, if I’m stressed, I’m more likely to lose my appetite, something I never experienced until giving up dieting and deprogramming myself to a certain degree.
    I do not choose to be food driven if you want to put it that way, I just seem to be. I can want to fight, pace the floor, become depressed, all through being just a little bit too hungry, or I can be quite sanguine about it, go figure!

  44. I went to see it opening night, more for the “Squee, Pixar cute-ness” factor than anything else, and I have to say I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. From a non-FA POV and looking at it as a movie that didn’t set out to break conventions or push boundaries, it had a lot of really well delivered moments, superb animation, a lot of Disney-fied trite and a lot of traditional Pixar self-mockery.

    I personally thought they handled Po’s rotundity, for lack of better word, quite well. You’re never NOT aware of his physical size, but at the same time nor do they go overboard in ignoring it. It was just part of who he was, and that was fine. The panda-sitting-on-head bit was a bit cliché, but again I thought that played more into Pixar’s self-parody than feeding into traditional fat jokes.

    One thing I did want to point out – reading the comments here is making me surprised at how many people are taking the ’emotional eating’ thing personally, because I had just really thought of it as more of a ‘girl joke’ than a ‘fat joke’. I’m not overweight in the traditional sense of the word (despite whatever issues I may have with my body shape), and I eat when I’m upset. I freely admit it, and I’ve never really been called out on it. Most of the idiotic comments I do encounter in this regard tend to be of the “Hurf-Durf-girls-on-PMS-eat-chocolate-amirite” variety (never mind that chocolate makes me feel sick), rather than “omg you feel like crap and want to eat something to make yourself feel better, what’s wrong with you”?? Hence my surprise at the idea that emotional eating was such a weight-targeted stigma.

    But that is most probably simply due to my ignorance of social pressures not directly targeted at me, so apologies if I’ve offended anyone, t’was not my intention.

  45. One more thing to add…

    When the movie begins, Po is living his normal un-kung fu life. He’s not shown as a lazy slob, or any of the other fat stereotypes. He dreams of becoming a kung fu warrior, but is a devoted son who works hard heping his dad in his restaurant. He has never pursued his kung fu dream because his dad needs him, not because he’s lazy, ignorant, fat, etc. etc. The movie could so easily have gone into bad territory, and it didn’t.

    His dad is tremendously proud of him, loves him, treats him well. At one point, the dad thinks he will make some money and says “Maybe we can build a kitchen tall enough for you to stand up in!” There is no reference in this movie that Po should change his body shape to conform to the world; that one liner seems to be saying the world should accomodate a greater variety of sizes (yay!).

    Really, really good movie. I can’t think of any other kids movie that has such a message about self-acceptance. And the art, it was wonderful.

  46. When I saw the trailer for Kung Fu Panda, I said to Ben (fiance), “Pandas aren’t fat. They’re panda-sized.” I guess, as an objective neutral descriptor, a panda is fat (possessed of visible adipose tissue). It seems to me, though, that Po is being presented as fat for a panda, not just fat because he is a panda and all pandas are fat.

    I’m guessing that wild pandas vary in size, and that some of them could be considered fat for a panda. But that’s not objective anymore.

    But now I’m thinking, Kate Harding is Kate-Harding-sized. She is not fat for the scale of Kate Harding (assuming here that ‘fat’ means ‘well above natural set point’), but she is fat (“possessed of visible adipose tissue”) by the scale of humanity (well, the subjective scale of current culture, which isn’t the same thing at all).

    Oh, argh.

  47. @ Bekki:
    thanks for bringing up the unfortunate Wall-e circumstances on this thread. I honestly had no idea that the underlying framework was a ol’ big obesity crisis metaphor, and I was all set to go see it. I’m really glad I found out now, instead of in the movie theatre. I feel personally betrayed by Pixar right now.

  48. The thing is that we can’t really separate this from the cultural appropriation aspect (and I know this is an FA thread and my intention is not to derail it). It’s OK for him to be fat not only because he’s male but because he is an other (thanks all the stereotypes in the known world…)

    Great that he’s confident and can use his body and doesn’t have to lose weight, but the issue has never been about large Asian males (frankly it’s seen as a good thing to be a fat Asian male in Asian cultures, at any rate). Can’t really divorce FA from the (IMO) amazing amounts of racism.

  49. I should clarify because here I’m looking like I’m calling all Chinese-y cultures “Asian” which I’m not (and I really can’t stand it when people do it to my face). Of the culture I am familiar with (SE Asian Chinese), fat males are a good thing. Food is something to be greatly celebrated.

    Of course with increased Westernization this is becoming less true, but not to the extent that we see in American media.

  50. Someone on another thread (shakesville, prob) mentioned what an excellent wasted opportunity it was not to make this movie a little fat positive – and “green”, too. Pandas eat bamboo. They are fat on purpose – nature likes ’em that way. See? Fat can be healthy. Aaaaand, please note that a diet of salad/bamboo may not make you thinner.

    Not that I have anything against dumplings. I love me some siu mai and har gow (sorry for my westernized spelling misstakes).

    And they could have tossed in a line or two about bamboo deforestation and flooring and fast regrowth and blah blah blah drive a prius.

  51. Filljonk, I saw the youtube you linked to. Jack Black was really good looking when he had the long hair. I also thought he looked so cute in the farmer’s outfit.

  52. I went to see Kung Fu Panda with the hubby over the weekend, and am still feeling a bit ambivalent about it. On the one hand, I was absolutely ecstatic that Po’s fat wound up being a boon (and really fantastically animated as well) and that it was ultimately all about the self-acceptance. On the other hand, I got cranky about the continual references to fat and did not feel that they were at all ameliorated by the eventual acceptance of Po by the other character. I suppose what really burned my cookies was shifu’s complete neglect of Tigress and his other pupils in favor of Po. It’s like, “By the way, those years of honing your art under a harsh master whom you love, respect, and try to make proud don’t mean shit. We found a white dude with no training who will save us all! And I will invest more personal feeling into his montage scene than I have in your entire life’s work!” I know he was hurt and betrayed by teh Bad Guy, but that was resolved whereas this wasn’t…I suppose the film pissed me off more from a feminism and antiracism perspective than from an FA standpoint, although the fat shit was there too. Meh.

  53. “I suppose what really burned my cookies was shifu’s complete neglect of Tigress and his other pupils in favor of Po”

    There was a part where Master Shifu says to the Fab 5 “If he doesn’t quit, I will have failed you.” He works Po hard because he expects and wants Po to give up, and thus force the turtle to pick one of his beloved Fab 5 as the real warrior.

    Redblossom, why do you call Po “a white dude”? He’s a panda, colored as pandas are. Could you please explain?

  54. Well, I was hoping that the whole moral would be more teamwork-oriented, like the Fab Six in the end, Po accepted into the group, adding his strengths, and all of them defeating Tai Lung at the end. I perceived Po as a white dude because he’s voiced by Jack Black, a white dude, and I’ve been noticing the ‘white dude without discernible skill passes up woman with actual expertise to save grateful people of color’ theme more often since seeing Forbidden Kingdom.

  55. Hey, I’m just a lurker who reads, and I love all your comments, they really make me think about concerns that I don’t know if I’d consider on my own. I personally don’t know what I think about Kung Fu Panda, as I haven’t seen it, but I wanted to just quickly bring up that the film is made by Dreamworks Animation and not Pixar/Disney. Sorry, sorry, I’m a total geek about that sort of thing, I’ll go back to lurking now.

  56. I saw this movie today. I live in San Francisco. I’m a big guy. There aren’t a lot of big guys in San Francisco. I felt a little uncomfortable and embarrassed several times during the movie. They made the fat panda seem stupid during most of the movie. There we also many put downs and jokes made about the fat panda by other characters in the movie.
    While watching the movie I thought I may have been too sensitive or critical. I used the test of ‘Would they have made similar racial jokes?’. The answer is no. This movie pretty much perpetuates stereotypes of fat people regardless of the “happy ending”.

  57. I’ve seen it and not only is it funny but its cute. Its a children’s film and not a political statement. There are quite a few fat jokes but nothing truly negative. Its actually a very funny film, go see it with some children they’ll love it.

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