Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A lesson in what not to do...and other items.

When a conversation comes up about the immense pressure on people (especially women and girls) to conform to society's extremely narrow beauty standard and people voice their dismay at the difficulty involved in trying to keep our heads above water and above all the steaming, wretched horseshit thrust at us every single day, the way to reassure those participating in the conversation isn't to post up a picture of a Hollywood actress who is slightly larger than the average Hollywood actress as evidence of what a "real" woman looks like.

First of all, let's take a 101 break: EVERY woman is a "real" woman. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. The woman who is 100 pounds soaking wet is as much a woman as one who is 300 pounds. The whole "the only women who are REAL women are ones who have meat on their bones" trope is silly-ass and wrong, so you need to get that through your noggin now, thank you.

Second of all, posting up a photograph of a woman whose body shape is one that would be just as difficult to obtain for many women as obtaining an extremely slender body shape doesn't address the ultimate issue, which is society's extraordinarily small range of what is considered beautiful and the resulting, massive pressure upon all of us, women and men, to conform to that standard. So sit back, think a bit, contemplate the bigger picture.

Third of all...well, there is no third of all at the moment. Or maybe there is, I've still got time on my hands to yap for a bit longer. I found myself astounded a bit ago while reading Shakesville - Melissa McEwan linked to an op-ed column on the Chicago Sun-Times website, which I won't link here because I don't want the writer to get any more page hits than she already may be. The op ed is a fat-hating screed done under the guise of "being funny" (those always wind up going oh so well), and it's not particularly surprising in its smugness or its complete fail in the humor department. It reads like something I might have written as a humorous column for my high school newspaper - pretty much shit, shit, shit for 500 words or whatever. But what's truly that a good 98 percent of the comments...TELL HER OFF. There's no "why yes, you're right Crappy Writer, those darn fat people make this world a shitheap"s or the usual claptrap. Like, there are people telling her she's an ignorant butt writing ignorant nonsense! I'm telling you, it's like setting eyes on a wonder of the world seeing internet commenters on a story about fat NOT HATING ON FAT PEOPLE. It's like Bizarro Internet Commenter World, up is down, black is white, dogs and cats living together - MASS HYSTERIA. I'm sure it's an anomaly, but damn, was it refreshing to read.

Oh, and one more thing - holy shit am I sick of the ad for Miller beer or some such shit that takes place at a dog show at a sports arena. The beer guys are appalled, heavens to Betsy are they appalled that a DOG SHOW is being held in a place where such masculine sporting events as basketball and hockey normally take place. Memo to dog showers - your hobby (in some cases, a mighty profitable one) is officially stupid, worthless, and just a wee bit too sissy to be held in a place that celebrates Manly Athletics and sells Miller products. In my view, it's not a gentle tease at the culture of dog showdom, it's a "jeez, those fuckers are weird and obsessed with *dogs* - so if you want to be cool, you'd better not be one of them".

It makes me think of a blog post I started a couple nights ago and then stopped because I was wedging my head far too up my ass and getting too pompous (and believe me, I am plllenty pompous) and Opening Up the Lecture Loft-y about the facts of life. No, not the facts of life involving the birds and bees, but the little things that I wish I knew at an earlier age that might have made certain years of my life a wee bit easier. One of those was that no matter what your interest might be, be it dog shows or "Star Trek" or cosplay or whatever, somebody out there is going to take quite a large amount of delight in shitting all over it. At some point you will be made to feel stupid for liking something or having a certain hobby, and you may be made to feel so bad about it that you abandon something you love in order to avoid the pain that comes with being mocked. If you abandon it, it's certainly understandable because being mocked constantly isn't, you know, fun. But if you can manage it and take refuge in the thing you love and the friends you may have made because of that thing you love, being mocked won't hurt quite as bad and you'll still have your kick-ass whatever it is to enjoy.

One of the best things I ever learned over my years was to stop wasting my time trying to be cool, trying to be hip, trying to be something or someone I wasn't. There is tremendous freedom in not giving a rat's ass and I invite you to try.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

And I link other people's blog entries.

Shakesville's Melissa McEwan hits it out of the park/smokes it/wails like awesome with today's edition of I Write Letters. Read more on this article...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Jonah Hill and my former life.

For those of you who don't know, Jonah Hill is a 26-year-old actor whose star is on quite the rise. He first garnered major attention in 2007's "Superbad" and has since become something of a go-to dude in dudecentric movies like "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"* and "Funny People". His latest film, "Get Him To the Greek", matches him with U.K. comedian Russell Brand, who reprises his role of Aldous Snow from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall". He's featured prominently on the posters for the comedy, and I'm guessing from the general tone of the trailer, he's essentially the star of the movie.

Oh, and he's fat. Fat, white, and male. Hmm.

I don't begrudge Jonah his success - it's rather refreshing to see a fat guy (not Hollywood fat, but full-metal fat) in the spotlight, even if it's in movies that aren't exactly warm fuzzy huggles for anyone who isn't male or white. He's even done a somewhat arty indie dark comedyish flick called "Cyrus" alongside Catherine Keener and John C. O'Reilly, so he seems invested in expanding his range beyond just baffled/affable zinger-doling fat guy. The thing that just kind of rubs my chub a bit is that we all know goddamned well that if Jonah was Joanie, Joanie wouldn't be toplining a major summer comedy release from Universal Studios. Joanie would be doing heartfelt, tear-streaked interviews with "Entertainment Tonight" or "Access Hollywood" about how repellent a person she was for being fat and how many personal trainers she had in her employ and what diet plan she was currently using to finally GET CONTROL of her life. She'd be doing the usual bullshit song-and-dance that almost every full-metal fat or even showbiz fat woman does the second she receives any sort of notoriety. Just now, I did a google search for interviews with Jonah Hill, trying to see if there was anything referring to him going on any sort of diet or weight loss effort for his "health", and while there's plenty of places where *others* discuss his fat, there doesn't seem to be anything from his mouth itself. His fat - at the present time, at any rate - isn't a liability.

And that just kind of frosts my ass a bit. In my younger days, I did some performing, I trod the boards, if you will. In college, I took improvisation classes with a wonderful teacher, Martin deMaat, probably the singularly most inspiring teacher I had in all my years in school. One of the initial exercises we did in my level one Improv class was standing in the middle of a circle of fellow students and loudly proclaiming, "I AM A GODDESS/GOD!". Ohhhh, I struggled with that a lot. Insecurity and cynicism does not lend itself to proclamations of goddessness. The size of my body and my general disdain of its size restrained me more often than not. I knew I was good at improv, I wasn't afraid of performing, I wasn't afraid of being funny - really, my only fear was saying unfunny things at inappropriate times. Martin gave me one of the best compliments I've ever received - that one of my strongest skills was being able to revive a scene that was dying and make it funny again. I could have easily moved into the training center at Second City, I reckon. But at 21, I also suspected what the score would wind up being. Second City was not (and still isn't) known for being a springboard to success for funny deathfat chicks. So I turned to writing - screenplays, primarily - and lost that improv muscle I'd worked so hard to develop.

Which, really, frosts my ass a bunch to this day. If there are any regrets I sport, it would be how I allowed my fat to guide my chickening out, because it was chickening out. Oh, I don't doubt for a second that my fat would have limited my "potential", and I would have struggled mightily, and hell, probably would have given up the ghost at some point. But I loved improv and I loved performing. I still love making people laugh. Not just *shrug* "love". We're talking LOVE in gigantic puffy letters. Looooooooooove from the back of your throat, looooooove from the bottom of your feet to the top of your skull. But my love couldn't overthrow the voice in my head that said "you need to apologize and make amends for being as fucking fat as you are/you need to be X size in order to be a success". My love (at that time in my life) couldn't have held up against the inevitable barrage of questions and demands my body would have inspired. Hiding was easier. Writing romantic comedies (ironic since when I was in my major screenplay writing mode, my life severely lacked both romance and comedy) that always featured a heroine that was just this side of plump was easier (Kate Winslet would be employed for eons if I had my own production company). I couldn't have borne the brunt of rejection that would have revolved solely around my fat rather than my ability.

Which leads to my ultimate frosting that frosts on behalf of both women AND men - that when you fucking google Jonah Hill, it autofills shit about his weight. It offends me that there are forums discussing Jonah Hill's weight or any other celebrity's weight. It's a plumb fucking miracle that I read an interview with him where he was discussing his part in writing the movie version of "21 Jump Street" and his weight wasn't referenced at all. While fatness might not be quite the liability for male performers as it is for females, we're always but a concern trollesque question or barely-disguised fat joke away in a puff piece or a movie trailer from being reminded that Jonah Hill or Kevin James or Jorge Garcia or Seth Rogen (though not so much at present) are GOOD SWEET CHRIST FAT!!!! They're Hollywood employable-fat, mind you, but fat all the same. And the shame is that 95 percent of the time, it's the performers themselves who work overtime to let us know that they are a) fat and b) will gladly humiliate themselves as needed onscreen or onstage in order to apologize for said fatness.

My dreamiest dream, which I don't expect to be fulfilled anytime soon, would be for a fat actor to be in a leading role where one's character didn't sob miserably due to one's fat; didn't engage in constant, snarky self-depreciation because of one's fat; didn't embark on a wacky montage illustrating just what a lumbering, clumsy oaf one was in physical/exercise situations because of one's fat; didn't sit down in front of a dinner plate piled with towers of "junk" food and proceed to shove it all into one's face because of one's fat; and didn't "strike out" with a romantic interest because of one's fat. I know, I know, it's asking an awful lot to see a movie or a television show where a fat person is portrayed as human, but I told you, my dreams are terribly dreamy.

*I am, despite its many problems, fond of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" as the movie made a valiant attempt *not* to portray Sarah Marshall as the world's most awful harpy woman in the entire world - an effort was made to, you know, give her something resembling depth. Also, frankly...I have a Jason Segel thing.

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