I’m sure there’s been plenty written about WALL-E and fat but I’d never seen the movie until last night. I had Little Bear over for the weekend to do a Masterchef cookup; we cooked up lots of goodies from scratch and ah, ate them.
So anyway we hired DVDs last night ‘cause finally after 6 years of living in this place I’ve gotten a TV that actually has the connections for a DVD player! YAY! We watched WALL-E and it was great. I hadn’t expected to like it at all but got completely sucked in, until we got to where WALL-E and Eve go up to the mother-ship. In the mother-ship all the humans are fat people floating about, sucking down their food as milkshakes – and I was thinking “Oh yep, the equation of fat with gluttony and laziness and the positioning of fat as bad, AGAIN”. What struck me most though was that these people were being positioned as having lost their way. They were unconsciously brainwashed into happily succumbing to capitalist consumerism until WALL-E and EVA arrive, jolt them back to consciousness, and get them to go back to Earth. I found it eye-rolly that the people were depicted as fat. Oh! How best can we represent people that have lost their way, lost their humanity! Oh I know, we’ll make them fat! (Ha! what could be less human that eating!).
I was thinking as I was watching, “Fuck, I spend all this time trying to gently persuade the Little Bear that she’s lovely and gorgeous and wonderful but that those aren’t her most important qualities – or that she has dozens of other qualities that are equally as fucking fabulous and then here we are absorbing popular culture permeated with shit messages”. ‘Fat is bad’ and it’s not explicit – it’s not someone saying “fat is bad”, it’s implicit. The people are brainwashed and they’re depicted as fat. Always the conflation of fat with laziness and gluttony and the moral of the story is that those things are bad, bad, bad. Those ideas are everywhere, they permeate our minds and become so normal that we don’t even notice them and we do have to work consciously to deconstruct the messages that we’re constantly bombarded with.
Little Bear is NQMB’s 17 year old daughter and I’ve known her from when she was about 12. I’ve watched her grow up, complete high school, move out of home and begin university. I’ve also watched her negotiate the world as the insidiousness of beauty culture reaches out its tentacles to take her in its grip. And it’s so fucking hard. So fucking hard to know what to do, what to say and how to model some way of being in the world that acknowledges the fucked-up pressures upon women, that it’s ok to be fucked up about it, that it’s ok to perform and conform if that’s what you have to do, that it’s ok to understand theoretically how it’s fucked yet still feel fucked.
I think that because I’ve pointed out a lot of the ways that beauty culture is fucked and because A) I don’t completely conform to femininity nor meet the standards of beauty culture (although I am relatively privileged) B) I try not to hate on myself and C) I don’t engage in body snark and D) I don’t police bodies, I tend to come across as being completely impervious to those pressures. I think for me it’s mostly a safety mechanism that I don’t publicly hate on myself – It’s not that I don’t feel crap about my body sometimes and a pressure to conform to our culture’s beauty standards and I do have an awareness of every single way I don’t meet those criteria, it’s that I’d rather engage in a deconstruction of why I feel that way.
I don’t really allow people in my life who engage in appearance-based criticisms of themselves (or others) unless they also do some kind of deconstruction of those criticisms. I realise now that’s kinda harsh, particularly for a young woman. I remember an ex-housemate I used to live with who said that she thought that ‘feminists still have body issues they just don’t talk about them’ and it so utterly exasperated me. Feminists do talk about body issues and the ways they impact on women and themselves a lot! They also talk about the ways those cultural beauty standards are constructed and the pain they cause, rather than simply believing those standards are natural and ‘real’.
I don’t know how good a model I’ve been for Little Bear because if she thinks that I simply don’t feel that pressure then when she feels it or succumbs to it, then it’s about her and it’s not, it’s not, it’s not.