There are only a handful of TV shows that Sweet Babou and I watch. We’re really picky, and we want plot, good dialog and character development. We watch a lot of Dr. Who, in other words.
Nevertheless, there are a few (well, two) current TV sitcoms we like to watch when we want a little down time together on the couch. You know, when you want to be entertained and not have to think any deep thoughts. That’s what we are after – chilling out and amusement.
So it pisses me off when there is something that jerks me out of the copacetic zone and into feminist rage. It damages my calm.
The recent excursion into harshing my mellow has come from a character who is a heterosexual white male with a career that affords him a lot of disposable income and who has an extremely promiscuous sex life. In other words, the epitome of patriarchal hegemony. This character, whom we shall call “Barney Stinson” because that’s the character’s name on How I Met Your Mother and I cannot think of a single reason why I shouldn’t just tell y’all that, is very proud of his sexual excesses. Barney is devoted to the objectification of woman and the pursuit of casual, unemotional sex. I’m actually fine with that, because it is portrayed as a failing, and his arc is all about becoming a more connected, less misogynistic human being.
It’s the “fatty” references that are driving me up the frigging wall.
About every third episode Barney makes a denigrating reference to “fatties”, meaning the most dreadful of all fat people — fat women. In Barney’s opinion, any woman on earth older than 18 and younger than 30 is an acceptable sex partner except a fatty. That is all-to-often the punch line of a joke. It irks me every single time.
Sweet Babou thinks it is just meant to be an example of Barney’s profoundly shallow nature, no different than his fear of dating a woman his own age. However, I think there is more to it than that. For one thing, almost every other sitcom I’ve ever watched, even those that are of otherwise high quality and are carful to present racism, sexism, and homophobia in a very negative light, are prone to making a “joke” about how embarrassing and humiliating it is for a man to lower himself to having sex with (or God forbid dating) a fat chick. Overweight, even obese, male characters almost always have wives who are at most a size 8, so sleeping with fat guys is something that can be done without shame … but if a male character dares to find a fatty attractive he is the object of scorn. Fatties are for loser guys.
For another thing, Barney’s friends chastise him about his behavior and horrible opinions in other areas, but they content themselves to mere frowny faces when he attacks fatties. They are disgusted that he said it out loud, but none of them have ever called him on it, and clearly it is the fact he said it, not that he thought it, that is the problem. Moreover, the married male character, Marshall, is zaftig and no one ever says his wife, Lilly, is doing something gross by sleeping with him. The other single male character, Ted, has only dated non-fat or slender women … thus, he adheres to Barney’s “no fatties” rule, even if he doesn’t vocalize it.
In fact, fat people on TV are mighty, mighty scare. We are almost 69% of the US population, but I would guess that we are less than 1% of the people you see on the TV. We are even scarcer than non-white people, and that is totally saying something. However, we at least appear occasionally, which is more than disabled people are allowed to do. It seems odd that in TV land, America is overwhelmingly populated by white, abled, heterosexual, thin people. It’s almost as if those are the only people of worth, and the people to whom all other Americans are measured against as “normal”. Hmmm … that means if white, straight, abled, thin people are normal, then anyone who does not fit those parameters is “abnormal”. They are deviant. They are the Other.
I am deviant. I am the Other.
That’s bad enough. But most TV shows now go out of their way to show that prejudice against Others is wrong, and something done by asshats. The exception to that is prejudice against fat people, especially fat women. It is totally cool to avoid, mock and revile them. It is a symptom, and a reinforcement , of the fat hate and discrimination toward fat people that permeates Western culture.
Since fat is erroneously constructed as being 100% a matter of free will, even though science has known better for over a decade, it is acceptable to be disgusted by these horrible people who have no self-control. Since a woman’s attractiveness equals her worth within our patriarchy, and fat is both “ugly” and voluntary, fat women are making themselves unappealing to men only because they are too gluttonous and lazy to control their diet and are therefor failing the hegemony. Fat chicks are defying the patriarchal definition of a good and valuable woman! Quick! Punish them! Also, be sure to punish any man who loves a fatty because he is betraying the patriarchy by fraternizing with the enemy!
This punishment comes in the form of social policing and ridicule, which is what Barney is doing whenever he spouts off about “no fatties”.
That’s why the fatty jokes drag me out of the flow of narrative and relaxation — I know they are anti-feminist hegemonic bullshit. Furthermore, I don’t like being reminded that I am a hideous beast no one should love, and I don’t like idea that my Sweet Babou only “settled” for me because he could do better. It’s insulting to him, it’s insulting to me, and it is insulting to the sincerity of our feelings for one another.
So I really wish sitcom would STFU with the fatty comments, because I would really like to just be able to space out with my husband without having to think about all the ways my culture abhors me. That would be great.