Y’all, I want to talk (again) about the headless fatties used to illustrate articles on THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA.
First, somebody just sent me a link to this old MeFi post by someone who recognized him/herself as a Headless Fatty on the local news. S/he asks if there’s any legal recourse, and the answer is pretty much no, but the ensuing discussion is really interesting.
Is it really defamatory — ethically, not necessarily legally speaking — to identify a fat person as a fat person? From an FA perspective, no, of course not — but it can still feel that way, even for someone who’s fine with her body. The problem is not that your friends and relatives might watch TV and discover the big secret that you’re fat — it’s that you’re there as the embodiment of a freakin’ “crisis,” and more often than not, the reporting will reinforce that people like you brought this upon themselves, are emotionally dependent on food, are obviously sedentary, have no self-discipline, are suffering from serious health problems or will be soon, are costing other citizens money because of those health problems, yadda yadda. There are a whole lot of presumptions and implied insults there. But because those are only being thrown at “The Obese” in general — not at you, the specific person in the picture — all you can really argue is that they called you fat. Which you are. Not much of a case.
I do love this response from one of the commenters:
The alternative reaction is to parlay your displeasure into celebrity. Picket outside the station with a sign that says, “Why are my pants on TV?” Talk to every reporter in town. Contact some local DJs and see if they’ll put you on the air. People love little-guy-versus-authority stories, and if it’s about a garish pair of pants, all the better. Have fun.
I do not love that the original poster ultimately concluded that s/he needs to throw out the comfy, recognizable pants and lose weight. Sigh.
So there’s that. Second, somebody wrote to me asking if I had any thoughts on the “Headless Fatty” phenomenon, and I was like, “Oh, let me direct you to this perfect post I wrote!” Except then I searched the blog and realized I’ve never written that post. We talk about HFs all the time, but usually in comments on tangentially related threads.
I did find this one, where I remarked that the photos chosen are usually of people who would fall into the “morbidly obese” BMI category — i.e., about 6% of the population — to illustrate articles about an OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA that’s comprised primarily of people with a BMI of 30-35. (It should go without saying that those in the “death fat” category deserve exactly the same rights and dignity as any other human being — but illustrating a so-called epidemic with pics of people who represent a very small percentage of the population is intentionally misleading.) That’s one point. But I still haven’t written the epic post I thought I’d written on how decapitating the fatties dehumanizes us, how the photos chosen are inevitably unflattering and clearly meant to evoke disgust rather than merely represent an ordinary fat person, how the headless fatty shot injects a bit of editorializing into even the most objective article, etc.
Unfortunately, it’s almost 5 on Friday, and I’m done thinking for the week. So think for me, Shapelings! Your weekend assignment is to give me a brilliant thread on headless fatties that I can point to the next time somebody asks. Thanks!