I’m a little torn on the controversy around hockey player Raffi Torres dressed up as Jay-Z, which required painting his skin black in order to be less Mexican, more African-American. But only a little torn.
Judging by the angry internetz, apparently “blackface” is a special case in the world of race-mocking and racially-sensitive taboo costumes.
Well, okay. Except… this isn’t “blackface.” This is black makeup.
First, let’s point out the obvious here — I’m fish-belly white. I’m descended from a long line of fish-belly white people. I wear SPF 60 in the summer, and have green eyes and light-brown hair. I’m clearly a honky.
So, obviously I don’t have a fucking clue what it’s like to be discriminated against on the basis of my skin colour. I also don’t have the foggiest what being descended from slavery would be like. And, being Canadian, I don’t have the remotest idea what it’s like to live in a racially-charged country that has come from the Jim Crow laws of the South all the way to having a half-black president in office, all in 50 years.
I accept that I’m absolutely ignorant about what being black in America today is like. Guilty as charged.
What Raffi Torres did isn’t “Blackface.” He’s lampooning an actual person, not a whole race or culture. He’s goofing off on the one day of the year that everyone gets to dress up in masquerade.
I understand that, historically, “blackface” was a way of triggering long-felt hurt and mockery amongst socially-aware blacks who know their history. I get that there’s more to it than just being an ignorant theatrical past with stupid white people. I know this.
I think, in that way, that yes, it is somewhat racially insensitive, maybe a little boneheaded on Torres’ part given his public stature, but it’s not racist.
The outcry is over the top on this one. Is there cause for discussion? Yeah, absolutely. A lot of people probably need to know more about the history of blackface. Raffi Torres’ life has been spent without blackface being on television since its last appearance was in 1981, the year he was born.
If people want to talk about why his “costume” is inappropriate, then great. But the “he’s a racist” talk needs to fucking stop. First, he’s Mexican and probably gets it. Second, his agent is black. Third, he’s a Jay-Z fan and wanted to have a night pretending to be a great rapper — who’s black, and being a pasty-faced Mexican wouldn’t have pulled that off too effectively.
Some dude dressing up with painted skin that is done as MAKEUP, not as a mockery that has unrealistically huge lips, or excessive stylizing, isn’t racist — he’s just ignorant of the fact that some would deem it racially insensitive.
Take a look at the ACTUAL blackface shot here, the infamous The Jazz Singer take on it, versus Torres’ attempt at being Jay-Z. Slightly different style, no?
Was the movie Tropic Thunder racist because Robert Downey Jr. wore black makeup? No. It was funnier because of it, because his ignorance was amplified for comedic gain. It seems funny to us that someone could be alive today and be that ignorant, and that’s the joke.
Is Raffi Torres racially insensitive? A lot of people think so today. Would I have dressed up with blackface? No, but that’s mostly because it’s way too much work. Do I think Raffi Torres is racially insensitive? No. Would I advise someone against dressing up as a black person? Unlikely, but depends on the context. This context? I have no problems with it. Rappers by their very nature are pretty easy to lampoon, because they’re so stylized. But white southern folk are easy to lampoon too. That’s how it goes.
There are things we need to societally accept and just get over, and this is one of them. There’s a big difference between wearing black makeup that’s authentically done and wearing “blackface.” There’s a big difference between dressing up as an Asian and drawing “slant-eyes” on your face. One is authentic-looking in an attempt at mimicking, the other is blatant mockery and derision.
Raffi Torres wasn’t mocking, deriding, or insulting black culture. He was pretending to be someone that’s not the same race as him. It’s not an offense.
In some ways, it’s an example of how far we’ve come — that the new generation doesn’t see the offense, blacks have become millionaires and the movers-and-shakers of culture today. They’re as fair game as anyone, and that’s a good thing. That actually is progress.
We need to get to a place where we understand that there’s a difference between offensive behaviour and just having fun. There are sometimes shades of grey, but being unable to laugh at ourselves does us no favours.
This wasn’t racism. It’s not offensive. It’s impressionism, mimicry, and even wanna-be behaviour, but it’s not racist.
If everyone who’s bent out of shape about this could turn their righteous indignation towards the real offenses — like how a race that comprises 14% of the American population still manages to account for 60%+ of those in jail today in the USA.
Bluntly, I have the birthday kinda-blues. There’s nothing like a birthday to make you rethink relationships and other aspects of life. I’ve subconsciously nixed birthday celebrations and now I can’t stop thinking about stuff.
It’s a good/bad thing, the birthday reflections. I like the goals and plans I’ve set of late. I’m optimistic of where things are going. But I’m not particularly wowed by the relationships in my life right now. Let’s just say it’s been a long year, and I’ve had a lot of time to think.
A month ago, there was a big social media suicide, when Trey Pennington, with 100,000+ followers, killed himself during a messy divorce, and it gave me a lot of pause for thought.*
When famous people commit suicide, the thinking usually is that it’s caused by pressures, no outlet for expression, mental illness, substance abuse, right?
When someone “popular” on social media killed himself, the reaction was, “But he was so popular! And likeable! He had an outlet!”
It’s funny, you know, how we kid ourselves about how much this online shit matters. It’s why I laugh at bloggers who aren’t professional and who obsess about traffic, or Twitter people who care about their numbers, and so forth.
There’s this delusion that the more followers you have, the more of a voice you have, or that you can be so much more yourself.
The opposite is actually true.
Be careful of what you wish for. When people start actually reading your stuff, merely venting gets complicated.
I feel I’m less able to express myself on this blog now. I feel like I have to “watch” what I say. Do I, though? Feels like it. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I WANT to express myself less.
It’s a constant battle to remind myself that there’s never been a better time to be myself — because if you don’t like me for being myself, then who the fuck are you to me? Not much, and rightly so. This is me.
Then the irony is, I’m not being myself anyhow. This shit’s edited. Twitter is soundbites. Facebook is selective. Google is me just tryin’.
That’s not ME. That’s a part of me I’m willing to share. But the more of me I’ve shared, the less I feel there is — sometimes. I’m not faking shit, but I’m not releasing the floodgates of truth either.
Welcome to the digital paradox.
You can be “yourself” to a bigger audience than ever before, but how true is it?
You can’t say a fucking thing anymore without realizing a) someone actually heard it and b) half of them are gonna misunderstand it. I don’t care what your grasp on articulation and clarity is, you cannot control how your message is received.
And that’s, again, another paradox. We want to be heard — we just don’t want to be nagged about it. But if you don’t comment or speak to our expressions, then we feel ignored and invisible.
It’s Catch-22, social media style.
We’re reaching that point where the simplest solution is to say nothing.
Say nothing. Somehow I don’t think that would’ve been a good Cameron Crowe movie. “Say Nothing.”
So, this year I’m left with an approaching birthday in which I’m really questioning the authenticity of a lot of relationships in my life. Now and then we have those times in our lives that really test our measure of friends. I’m realizing I’ve had that year. What it’s taught me is, well, a lot and I’ve been silent on too much.
And, the irony is, I have “oodles” of people in my life, supposedly. And yet. It’s been a long year.
The simple truth is, emails and texts aren’t enough. Words aren’t enough. Actions are what counts.
And therein lies the trouble of being in a digital society. Having a sentiment “liked” on Facebook doesn’t measure up much, in the scheme of things. A shout-out on Twitter means shit.
I’m pretty sure there’ll be a new cliche in a decade or two: “No one ever said “I wish I could’ve had more Twitter followers” on their deathbed.”
So, having been of this billowing state of mind for a few weeks, I’ve been really taking stock of my life and trying to solve the things that are important to me.
Writing, it’s important to me. I’ve avoided this topic but it’s been eating at me, so it’s best to put it out there, because otherwise I avoid writing in its entirety. Well, that’s not been helpful.
Other things that are important? Cycling, freedom, little things. I’ve been working on whittling my domestic life, getting my back on track, starting a new work sched, and slowly building an exercise routine. I even have plans for meeting people through non-social media events, ‘cos I’m so tired “networking”.
So, life balance. Real people. Honest moments. Personal accomplishments. Those are priorities.
But I wonder how many people feel like I do — more stifled on speech than ever before? To overshare or not to overshare, that is the question. Someone gimme a Magic 8-Ball, I need me some prognosticatin’. I’m not sure what the answer is.
It’s not an earth-shattering revelation that there’s a lack of tangibility in online relationships. It’s just disappointing when one realizes that, even locally, it’s more in platitudes than in practice. It feels like my words or thoughts go out there into space but do little for me. It’s a vacuum, creatively. Or is it?
But, when communicating starts feeling like work, then what can you expect? Staying “on top” of online relationships feels as much a chore as checking my voicemail or email. And where do you draw the lines? Who’s “online” and who’s not?
In the Facebook age, it’s an interesting dilemma. One I’m sure will grow murkier and more complicated in the future. We’re an ADD digital society who thinks and comments more than we act, and it shows.
Whether it’s throwing a “twibbon” on one’s avatar to show political or protesting sympathies, or just doing online commentary, there’s a lot less meaning behind our online lives than the social media marketers want you to think. Being one of a number online kinda means shit, and it’s a good fact to wake up to.
Getting followers and likes ain’t gonna translate much in your soul, and if it does, you might be doing things wrong.
After a year of injuries and other things that, for a while, made social media a more attractive way of engaging for me, it’s safe to say it ain’t so attractive now.
I don’t have a conclusion. Online/offline socializing is a Pandora’s Box that’s officially opened, and staying that way. There’ll be no simple solutions. Yet.
*No, I’m not suicidal. It’s all good. I might need a stiff drink, though.
I also tend to use more than 20 words at a time, like on Twitter, or 75 words on Facebook. While I’ll always love the challenge of having a brilliant and funny 140-character-or-less tweet, the unfiltered-length possibilities on Google+ make it possible for me to write my Unabomber manifesto for the world at the large without burying it on some obscure “notes” page on my Facebook account, while giving me a larger audience than I enjoy on this lowly blog.
So, there’s that.
And I can edit after the fact, which is fantastic for a neurotic type-A personality like me who wants to cry at support groups every time my iPhone leads me to fuck up and upload a typo. And there’s bold AND italics? Oh, editor porn! Editor porn!
It’s a slippery-slope thing, the after-the-fact post-editing, but it’s LONG overdue in social media, where every word we say can cripple us professionally or personally.
If Google’s smart, they’ll have a built-in system that allows for proper tracking of edits once comments have appeared on a posting. I think, in the interest of truth and transparency, a “track-changes” feature might keep people on the ethical straight and narrow with edits. As it stands, it DOES say the post was edited and at what time, but not the extent to which edits have been done.
Google+ Has Borrowed From Those Before Them
Now, this is early in the game. Yet people are commenting, “Oh, I would’ve expected Google to roll out something much more dynamic, given their global reach,” etc, but I question if these folks really realize the scope of what Google has unleashed.
If you think of Google+ as being the framework upon which The Goog is developing a social structure that spreads throughout the whole web, they’ve created a fabulous start. No one has the ability to catch up with Facebook’s infrastructure — but Google can.
Right now, Google+ offers you “hangouts,” which takes the Chatroulette web-cam socializing idea and runs with it. They have “sharing,” and privacy controls that are far simpler to adjust than Facebook (and more transparency about the lack of existing privacy).
The continuous refreshing feed and ease of sharing replicates the Tumblr-reader/blogger experience.
The +1 bookmarking makes for a DIGG or StumbleUpon replacement and there’s a page on your profile where it saves them. It’s called the +1 Page, but it doesn’t save all the things you’ve “liked” in your main in-Google+ feed (where you +1 instead of “liking” as you would on Facebook), it only tracks external webpages that have a +1 button. (You can change a setting in G+ settings so that Google assigns a +1 button on ALL non-Google pages, and that way it can truly be your new bookmarking service. I’ve been hesitant to go there, but I use Google for all my searches anyhow, and resistance seems futile.)
That Google owns Youtube, which is rolling out the COSMIC PANDA experiment as I type (for which you need to use the Google Chrome browser, I understand), makes for better video interfacing in-feed than Facebook offers, plus excessively-fun and easy animated-GIF posting.
The following options on Google+ are like on Twitter — it’s public and anyone’s game for you to follow without approval, unless they block you, but it’s easier to find people, and there’s a built-in, far more interesting and informative profile that makes the follow/unfollow option much more simpler.
They have ingenius “social circles,” and a smart user will create additional streams beyond the few basic ones that come pre-set by G+ — like I’ve added “local connections” who are people I don’t consider acquaintances but know through the local scene, “extended family” is obvious, “soc med influencers” keeps the Chris Brogans at bay, “news and info” will be news organizations or persons affiliated with them, which I hope are allowed onto Google+ sooner than later, because I think it’d be fantastic for that sort of content. I have “people I like” and “Journalists & Writers” and other stuff relevant to my life. People are grouped in multiple circles if they’re more relevant to me.
I foresee Google allowing a more toggle-able feed, where I don’t have to have all or just one, but can default to 2-3-4 preferred feeds that most affect my content-consuming time.
Built for Engaging
G+ will be, for me, a more powerful way of getting my writing out in the world, and a way to have a much better engaging with my audience, because I never really log in here and write comments, but I do love engaging on topics, and I’m more likely to do so on G+, since I’ve found myself having more ideological discussions there in a week than I have on Facebook or Twitter in a month, and at a far greater length and focus.
For now, Google+ is telling marketers to stay away until the end of the year. I think business won’t really get how to use it, and many will be awkward and shitty at content-generation like they are on Twitter, but one can get away with sucking more at Twitter than you could on G+. With more rope to hang themselves, I’m nearly confident most marketers will succeed handily at self-asphyxiation on Google-plus.
So, It’s More Private Than Facebook?
[insert laughter here] Urm, definitely not.
Privacy? Are there better privacy protections? Arguably, no. This, however, is more transparent, and I think we’re all used to Google knowing everything about us anyhow.
If you want privacy, get off the internet. Really. The two do not compute. It’s like putting alfalfa in cheesecake. What the fuck are you thinking?
Are there issues? Yeah. If you don’t want something private inadvertently shared, you can’t just not include X circles of people, you also have to disable sharing on it. But, wait! You can disable sharing! And disable comments! Yay.
The reality is, Google+ just ensures you’ll be a thoroughly data-mined person in the Google universe, but who’s kidding who? You already are. Facebook has ya, your credit card company’s got a real sweet dossier on you. Fuck, every charity in the country knows when you’re a giver. Worrying about your information being out there, that’s just silly. It already IS.
The only privacy you’ve got is to not say anything you don’t want repeated. Shut up or suck it up, basically.
Google Takes Over The World, Story At 11
This feels very much like a social tool that’s truly social. If Google starts expanding it — and, remember, this company owns Blogger and has stopped developing it — the dynamic nature of their “socialness” will be nearly infinite. Google is among the only companies in the world with the wherewithal to beat Facebook, and mark my words — and many others — this might just be the tool that does it.
Yeah, I’m sticking around. Wanna follow me on Google+? Go for it.
In the meantime, it’s not all sunshine and roses. This damning article says the privacy concerns could blow up big. Other sticking points I’ve found are below.
But, hey, I’ve been on the web for years. My privacy got screwed years ago. Welcome to my party, people.
Shit They Gotta Fix
Comments are bothersome: You can’t collapse comments. I’m liable to unfollow all the “popular” people until this is fixed. For the moment, you can read the post and the comments, then click the greyscale “+” top right of any post and “mute” the post. This will not only hide it in your feed, but it’ll end any notifications associated with the post.
Invasive feed-refreshing rate: The continuously auto-refreshing feed does so while one is writing a post or comment, which doesn’t hurt anything, but can be jarring to the thinking process, and it’s clumsy. I’d like it to be possible to pause the feed.
Indiscriminate re-sharing: When one has shared things with a limited audience, it’s possible for their limited audience to then re-share to the general public, and, if so, the original poster’s name is on it. Great to have attribution, but it’s an invasion of privacy. Instead, G+ should build in a restrictor of some kind. In the mean time, you can disable sharing on each post.
Photo-sharing: When uploading photos, it creates a whole album, and one can share someone else’s complete album. If you ever geotag your stuff, whether it’s shot at home or you have kids, it’s unwise to allow these geotagged photos to be reshared, so, I would advise remembering to disable sharing on every posted photo album. UNFORTUNATELY, this cannot yet be done with the mobile app.
Circle-editing: You can’t edit a circle of friends and just move someone to a new circle, so you really have to be on the ball about it. Instead, you have to add them to a new circle before deleting them from the one you’ve decided they don’t fix, otherwise you have to re-ad them to circles in entirety, which is just irritating.
Ego-boosting fail: When I see great content and re-share it, I now get nothing out of the re-share when someone re-shares it off me. Instead, the person who originally posted it gets all the credit. I’d like to see “By way of Steffani Cameron, and Originally Posted by This Genius Guy” or something. Otherwise, you’re encouraging people to find the original source, upload it, and try to steal credit. Everyone wants their name in the game, Google. Savvy up there.
Buggy, bitches: The notifications, adding people, the numbers in circles, none of it is working completely right yet, but that’s to be expected with a new product that is achieving unprecedented influx of new power users in less than a week. This will smooth out, I’m sure.
Plain Stupid Things: That they request you to list “other names” like “maiden names” and stuff is absolutely moronic. Sure, it’s nice as a be-found-by-old-friends feature, but it’s also an identity-thief’s wet dream. Think twice before you’re so needy for antiquated social connections that you give scam-artists an open door to your identity, people.
While Samuels has great points, she is not in the majority on her opinions.
My position on public shaming shifting slightly. I worry about the severity of public outing right now because of the passion with which the entire city has jumped on these guys.
I loathe the extent to which some are taking the public shaming, via printing phone numbers and addresses of parents of rioters, contacting employers, and things like that. (Not cool, people. Don’t be an ass and do that, or initiate contact that way.)
We live in an era where the saying “Pics or it didn’t happen” is ubiquitous. Everything gets caught on video. If you had a camera on me 24/7, you’d find some real good footage for upending people’s thoughts on the person I am. This is true of all of us.
You’d sure as hell never catch me damaging public property, harassing or assaulting others, or flying into physical rages, though. You’d never catch me vandalising, shouting down a cop, shoving a citizen, or even littering.
That’s my ethos, and a lot of citizens share it.
We citizens are tired of the permissiveness with which people litter, vandalise, and generally abuse public spaces. We’re tired of people who get away with acting like assholes.
Maybe it’s time public shaming come into vogue.
Maybe it’s time we stop worrying about politicians with prostitutes, and start worrying about punk-assed people who treat cops like trash, who burn our city up, and who generally don’t seem to contribute to where we want to go as a society.
Destroying their lives, though, may do us more harm as a society than good.
In this instance, I believe we need to offer first-offense rioters a chance to redeem themselves. We need to give them an opportunity to give back instead of destroying. We need to allow them the chance to not throw their lives away over a stupid night in which they maybe chose to embrace a mob mentality when they might have never done otherwise normally.
Then there’s the part of me who feels that there are people on those videos doing heinous, awful things — beating people, blowing shit up. That side of me feels those people don’t get the benefit of the doubt. They don’t deserve it, they deserve to be outed.
In the end, my ambivalence on meting out justice the old-school way, in a court of public opinion, is tempered by the thought of living in a world where everyone felt accountable for their actions.
If people realise that being a jackass for 15 minutes on Youtube can have real long-term life effects, maybe then we’ll see people acting like citizens, not hooligans.
Actions should have consequences. Good citizens should be angered when hooligans act this way. Thugs who attack our police and other citizens deserve to be exposed for who and what they are.
However, just being present at the riot doesn’t mean one is complicit in it. Jumping on a burned-out car isn’t the same as burning it. There are levels of asshattedness going on here, and painting them all with the same brush of ostracism isn’t ideal.
So, I’m still at a loss. To some degree, this public shaming of thugs is long overdue. Hooligan behaviour needs to be seen as unacceptable, not “fun”. We need youth and others to understand that we expect more of citizens.
At the same time, lives can be destroyed by this process, and while I trust my own judgment in reading facts and situations in an equitable manner, I do not trust that others can or will do the same. My ethos is liberal and open-minded, which isn’t always the case with others, so whose idea of “wrong” is right?
The only thing that isn’t questionable for me is, if one is celebrating that kind of destruction, if they’re contributing to it in any way, if they’re cheering it on, then it makes them a douchebag, and maybe it’s in everyone’s interest to know that about ’em.
Beyond saying “Hey, this guy is a rioting douche,” I don’t think we should be doing anything. It’s not up to us to contact their employers, their schools, their family. We don’t have that right, and anyone who does it should be reprimanded.
In the end, Alexandra Samuels has a very valid point — it’s a really slippery slope. It’s a worrisome possible trend when one thinks of ways it might be misused.
But I don’t like the society we’ve become. I don’t like the lack of social responsibility so many show. If this is what it takes to have a society where everyone cares about how the street looks, respects others’ belongings, and treats each other with dignity, then maybe it’s time to stand atop that slippery slope and see if it leads us to a better place.
Sometimes all it takes to get back into writing is to sit down and do it.
Got a comment this morning that I promptly deleted, since I’m just getting too old for that shit.
If you want to call me out objectively on anything I’ve written, step right up, my friend. Let’s have a beer and chew that chat, all right? I’m down with dissent, constructive criticism, and I don’t shy away from debating anyone I know. I call it like I see it ‘cos I’m too lazy to keep up with lies.
Love dissent and debate, in the real world. Online, who wants to type that much? Still, I try to engage.
But when the extent of your entire comment is “you’re rambling lately,” the delete bin is for you. I used to be one of these “Hey, I’ll publish every comment!” types who purport to be encouraging dialogue, but then I realised that, um, no, it’s just encouraging stupidity.
The older I get, the more I think they might’ve been onto something with eugenics. I’m very aware that, while the internet is giving much-needed voices the airplay they deserve, it’s also broadcasting some real fuckin’ tools.
Here’s the deal. If you go around commenting on posts all the time, and you don’t have a blog, and you’re always antagonistic and IN YO FACE BEYOTCH about it, then just shut the hell up. Really. Do some self-medicating, find a mountaintop guru for advice — I don’t care what you do, but just find a purpose in life, ‘cos it’s just sad, sad, sad to see what some folk get reduced to in life… commenter.
Thank god for the nice people who comment to share stories and are awesome and open and rah-rah-rah, because they’re the reason we keep pushing “publish.”
Them’s the new house rules. No more troll comments published. Dissent? Okay. Be smart and respectful and tell me I’m wronger than than wrong, I’m down with that.
Otherwise, hey, don’t like the writing? Don’t read it. Don’t like my opinions? There’s the door. There’s only 100 million blogs in the world, I’m sure you can find some carbon-copy of you out there somewhere. Good luck lookin’, Skippy.
Life’s short, man. I’m living it as me, writing what I want to say, and that’s the way the blogging cookie crumbles. If I gave a fuck about pleasing anyone in specific, I’d be checking my Google Analytics more than once a month. And probably swearing a LOT less.
Instead, I write or I don’t.
Sometimes the writing blows monkey chunks. Welcome to the “I’m a real person” thingie. Creativity isn’t a tap you turn on and it rushes out. We’re lucky to tame the whirlwind once in a storm season. Now and then: Brilliance. The rest of the time? It’s why sailboats come with motors. Sometimes you’re gonna coast a while.
And that’s blogging. A less-than-selective writing process.
You want consistency? Read a book.
You want real-time accuracy? Snapshots of a person’s life in weekly digestible bits, largely a little less censored than they ought to be, flaws hanging out for the world to see? Read a blog.
You want to be the loser that just writes negative comments without anything of value, lacking useful critiques? Don’t.
As much as many bloggers are self-involved twats, there are a lot of bloggers are ripping off Band-aids most publishers wouldn’t pay to publish. They’re being brutally real about their lives, thoughts, and worldviews.
Bloggers started this whole firestorm of openness and communication that we haven’t figured out how to use for the betterment of mankind yet — Twitter, Facebook updates, blogs, video blogging. It was all born because some dude began journaling on the web a couple decades ago.
Maybe blogging hasn’t definitively changed the world yet, maybe there are lots of twats making it look ugly to others, but I still believe in the power of blogging, the quest for individual truths, the dynamism of millions of voices saying what needs to be said if only for a dozen other people.
And when people who might be timid otherwise finally have the courage to click “publish” and start their blogs, they don’t need spineless hacks pissing on their parade.
There’s a growing call to remove “ANONYMOUS” comment ability. Having one’s name on their vitriol doesn’t make it any more valid, just not as despicable. Maybe one day I’ll remove anonymity here, too.
In the meantime, I blog on the things I think are interesting, important, or that I’m just obsessing about.
Because that’s what blogging’s for. We now return you to your scheduled silence.
I thank those of you who’ve read me (inexplicably) for years, who’ve shared your experiences and opinions. You’re awesome.
Thanks to Catherine Winters, you can now “Like” my blog posts & share on Facebook — which, if you like me, is a nice way of giving me somethin’ somethin’ for my work ’round these parts. Look the “like” button at the bottom of each post, where you can also “share” through many other services. Thanks!
Uncredited photo on NEWSONE.COM.
FIRST: This Washington Post blogger suggests “fat” as become an offensive word. Offended? Don’t read. If you’re foolish enough to give the words power, that’s your choice. Go to a tap-dancing show if you think I should dance around this topic. I’m hitting this, yo.
A blogger for Marie Claire online, Maura Kelly, has had a shitstorm of no compare land upon her since she decided to take on Mike & Molly, the chubby show about a couple who hook up at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting.
Long story short, she said things like:
I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other… because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.
Half the time there’s a “fatty” in the movie, they’re a messy person, they keep missing their mouth with food and wearing it. I mean, hey, scriptwriters, how do these fat people become fat if they only wear their food and not eat it? Mad science, that!
When Hollywood’s concerned, the token “fatty” is almost always a cute but bumbling idiot.
Now and then someone like Oliver Platt comes along, who’s as graceful as he is oversized, but, for the most part, you’d think fat always equaled clumsy slob with no life ambitions. Thanks, Hollywood!
What the hell’s with this sanctimony now?
It’s just ridiculous there’s SUCH a furor over Kelly’s words and not enough anger about the program itself.
Okay, was Maura Kelly an asshat in how she worded her rant? Yes.
Was she saying what a LOT of people probably agree with? YES.
Was she likely baiting people for a reaction? Yeah.
Does that make it right? Not really.
Should she lose her job? HELL, NO.
So where’s that leave us?
Finally friggin’ talking about it.
Here’s how I see this issue, on many levels:
One, Maura Kelly’s pretty wrong but there’s some truth to what she’s saying. Obesity can’t be allowed to become normalized. We can’t sit back as a society and say that what we’re doing to our health is okay. We can’t keep eating ourselves to death because we’re too lazy to chop up some vegetables.
Two, the problem with being horrified by “fat” people making out is, they’re not the only people with bad eating habits, they’re not the only unhealthy people. Are Kelly-type people grossed out by the “fatty” lack of health or just the fat? How hypocritical is that? IN FACT, there are “fat” people who eat healthy meals and can probably haul ass further than you. Don’t judge the chubby books by their ample covers.
Three, by keeping the perception of health on how we LOOK, a lot more “skinny fat” people will keep feeling validated in their habits because they have smaller than a 34 waist — much to the chagrin of the 5’4, 125-pound type-2 diabetic I know who drank himself into the disease by way of two full-sugar Big Gulps a day over a decade, and much to my chagrin as as a very-healthy-but-chubby taxpayer.
Four, is the show really doing “fat” any favours by making it a sitcom about fat people who meet in a fat-people place and who live their life around a lot of fat-people issues? I’m not so sure we should be celebrating the program while demonizing the critic, if the show’s reinforcing stereotypes. Know what “sitcom” is short for? “Situation comedy”. This situation, for Mike and Molly? Fat man meets fat woman at a fat meeting and they go home and are fat and awkward together. Oh, win, Hollywood — just made of win. The plot development seems a little, well, thin to me.
Five, when Maura Kelly likens seeing fatness to that of seeing a heroin junkie or an alcoholic, is she that far off the mark? Most weight situations are insanely difficult to be reversed, like a lot of addictions are, but they can indeed be reversed. Not all cases of obesity are caused by poor lifestyle choices, but many are. For me, she would NOT have been off the mark. Food is, and always has been, my primary choice of drug — be it my undying love for butter or passion for anything cooked well — and it would have led me to an early grave if I’d continued as I had from 1999-2003, as surely as an overdose or alcohol poisoning could have.
Six, by being a complete asshat in how she positioned some of her argument, Maura Kelly has shown us just how hateful most people’s speech is when it slips out in seemingly-harmless little chunks here and there — whether it’s a snide little “Oh, lord” about a morbidly obese man on the next corner, or a quiet chuckle as they see a heavy woman trying to squeeze into a too-small chair on a food court. Hypocrites.
You have no idea the jokes that are made to my overweight father’s face. To his FACE. He’s the kindest man I know, and he’s fat, and he knows it, and yet even his “friends” and “family” make remarks that break my heart. To his FACE.
Because he’s “fat,” it’s somehow all right.
People are often ASSHOLES, even “nice” people, and it’s about time they know these comments cut and they cut deeply. At least Maura Kelly had the balls to sign her name to her words.
This conversation needs to be had. Accepting people who are 35% obese and greater as just something we have to get used to is dangerous to our health as a society. But skinny-fat people who scarf down their fast food with no regard for sodium, heart health, or diabetes, they aren’t doing society any favours either, and the hypocrisy is glaring.
Ultimately, the conversation has to shift from what healthy LOOKS LIKE to what healthy IS.
Judging overweight people by their exteriors is stupid and foolish, but being permissive of an ever-enlarging population to just keep getting bigger, while chuckling at it and making it part of our entertainment, well… that’s not solving the problem either — and actually hurts those it purports to include in “Hollywood”.
Is there an easy solution?
Yes. As a society, we regulate food like we do anything that can kill people. We must stop legally catering to commercial food producers who see it as “product” and not our health. We tax those foods that can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other diseases so that it pays for the medical care it will surely one day demand.
We ditch shit food, we celebrate farmers, we learn to cook, we eat in moderation, and we exercise.
All of us.
Because most of us are killing ourselves — fat and thin. And it’s really not okay anymore — especially not when, in countries like Canada, the rest of the population picks up the tab for it.
You may hate Maura Kelly for her ideas and her attitude, but she should keep her job, because she’s done what she was hired to do — she got us all talking.