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Did you ever notice fat people in movies?

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Old 06-29-2008, 03:02 AM   #1
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Angry Did you ever notice fat people in movies?

I just saw the new movie Wanted, with the beautiful, but extremely emaciated Angelina Jolie. I was very upset because (other than hating the movie for it's stupid plot and pointless violence), it had an obese character that was very unpleasant. Now that I'm home, I'm watching Evan Almighty to find another heavy person (John Goodman's character) be the bad guy. Ok, I know it's not always the case, but it just tics me off. Thanks for listening to my vent.
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Old 06-29-2008, 03:21 AM   #2
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A movie I always have a hard time watching is What's Eating Gilbert Grape. It features an overweight woman who has a hard time leaving her house. I have never felt so awkward during a movie. I identified with her family; it reminded me of my own in so many ways.

I know what you are saying though. It is sad that the movie industry villianizes people who are overweight. Did you ever see Muriel's Wedding? I think how they portray Toni Collette's character is genius. She totally owns it. I also loved Circle of Friends. I hated the new Hairspray, but I love the old one with Ricki Lake. So much fun to watch.
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Old 06-29-2008, 06:32 AM   #3
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im american, but living in england... this isnt a movie, but on a soap here called eastenders there is an overweight woman named 'heather'... at first i was irritated because she is kinda ditzy even tho she has a big heart.. but from reading the 'spoilers', she is going to come into her own as a big girl, and have much deeper story lines ... they are working on breaking the stereotypical role for heavy people... here's hopin
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Old 06-29-2008, 06:58 AM   #4
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On a related note, opera is only entertainment venue (I can think of) where heavy performers have historically been on an equal footing with their thinner peers. But in recent years, a movement has been trying to bring opera more in line with other mainstream forms of entertainment. With that comes the preference for svelt singers.

Deborah Voigt, American super diva, was released from her contract a few years ago in her role as Ariadne at the Royal Opera House (in London) because of her weight. She underwent weight loss surgery and slimmed from a size 30 to a 14. In very recent news, she has just been rehired in the role of Ariadne.

Blurb here...

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/htm...1_voigt11.html

And here's an interview that goes more in depth into her background and struggles...

http://entertainment.timesonline.co....cle4231182.ece
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Old 06-29-2008, 07:01 AM   #5
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One very insulting (for me) movie is Norbit (I saw the trailers and felt totally disgusted). I rest my case. I haven't seen the old Hairspray to know the difference but I liked the Travolta one. Though here I sat thinking "Could an overweight girl feel so confident?".
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Old 06-29-2008, 07:55 AM   #6
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Quote:
Though here I sat thinking "Could an overweight girl feel so confident?".
Well, Nicki Bronski (iirc that's the actress's name? Although I may be misremembering) does seem pretty darned perky and confident, bless her. I was so sorry that the Writers' Strike (which I supported, mind you) meant that the Golden Globes got cancelled, because that meant she didn't get to have her fifteen minutes of gorgeous frock and peer recognition, poor kid.

Anyway, yes - it's the nature of Hollywood (and much US telly) that characters tend to be physically idealised. "Perfect hair", teeth, t*ts, arses, skin etc etc. It's a rare imperfect actor or actress that gets to play anything other than bit parts - and of course fat actors are more acceptable than fat actresses, because that's the nature of Western society and its attitude towards women. Sucks.

I'm quite fond of Jack Black, but Shallow Hal just made me wince from the trailers far too much to bother catching it. And Big Momma's House seems to depend almost entirely for its comedy on the sheer hilarity of how revolting fat women are. Yeah. Thanks for that.

Of course, John Waters gave Ricki Lake lots of great roles back in the 80s, and I'm actually perfectly fond of the musical version of Hairspray too. And we've got Dream Girls - that had a large-ish actress in one of the main roles, being utterly awesome. We tend to have actors and actresses of various shapes and sizes on UK telly (and I remember Pam Ferris piling on weight for her character in The Darling Buds of May, who was very much one of the good guys), and on TV even in the States you've had Roseanne, that fella on LOST, a couple of the characters on Popular...but, yeah, okay, positive portrayals of heftier people (and I mean, even a wee bit hefty, never mind big fat buggers like myself) are still pretty few and far between. I mean, do you remember all the kerfuffle about Renee Zellwegger putting on weight to play Bridget Jones, and all the BS about how "fat" she was? @@

To be fair, though, we could equally have this rant about US portrayals of Brits. A British accent on a bloke (whether the actor in question was a Brit or a Yank) was shorthand for 'Macchiavelian villain - probably gay' throughout most of the 80s and 90s, and is only a little less so nowadays. British women were almost invariably depicted as posh, frustrated ice-maidens just dying for a good shag from a red-blooded American man.

This is just how mainstream bums-on-seats cinema works, you know? Stereotypes abound, and the women have to be shaggable.

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But in recent years, a movement has been trying to bring opera more in line with other mainstream forms of entertainment. With that comes the preference for svelt singers.
Oh dear. I confess, I do find it HORRIBLY distracting when the singer doesn't look the part - I mean, I'm more of a theatre-goer than an opera-goer, and so when I do go to opera I'm generally engaging more with the narrative than with the music (because it's not my area of expertise, and beyond thinking 'Oooh, that's a good one! Ack! Need hanky!' I really can't make any sensible comments). And this means that if the character is supposed to be a gorgeous young princess and she's being played by a huge woman of advancing middle years I find it TERRIBLY distracting. I would far rather pay to see the singers just stand there and sing, or to have the singers just stand there and sing while some mute dancers act it all out...but being asked to believe that this bloke in his 40s is actually the hot young apprentice or whatever...well, I find it very difficult to get engaged with the performance. It throws me right out of the whole suspension-of-disbelief thing.

I realise that's rather shallow of me, and I do feel very bad for the hefty opera singers facing employment problems.
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Old 06-29-2008, 08:05 AM   #7
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Hey, I have been saying for years how I would love to see "Charlie's Cherubs" hit the movie screens, with three plucky, voluptuous babes solving crimes using brains, gadgets, and plenty of sass! All while turning the heads of every beautiful man they encounter. Let's throw in some kick-*** outfits, too!
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Old 06-29-2008, 10:15 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by yoyoma View Post
Deborah Voigt, American super diva, was released from her contract a few years ago in her role as Ariadne at the Royal Opera House (in London) because of her weight. She underwent weight loss surgery and slimmed from a size 30 to a 14. In very recent news, she has just been rehired in the role of Ariadne.
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I may be in the minority, but I actually don't find it surprising or outrageous. I know opera is a bit different than for example movies, but you wouldn't cast Camryn Mannheim into a role that calls for someone with Angelina Jolie's physique, would you? My example is a bit exaggerated (sp?) but that's just to get the point across.

I have to say that I absolutely LOVED Hairspray (I didn't know there was an earlier one with R. Lake) - Nicki was absolutely fabulous in it and I so wished she would end up with some coveted award. Travolta was great as well.
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Old 06-29-2008, 10:52 AM   #9
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I have a huge bone to pick with Hollywood, but it isn't just about their portrayal of fat people. Yes, they often rely on obesity to be a source of humorous entertainment (which is really silly; how funny can someone's weight truly be?! Weight-related comedy stops being funny after the first few minutes for me), but they also promote completely unhealthy beauty ideals throughout society; women of a HEALTHY weight rarely get cast for leading roles, too... and the ones who DO get cast usually end up playing the tag along or frumpy friend.

Most Hollywood actresses are considered underweight by the BMI chart and are not an accurate portrayal of the real American woman. I have always said I wish the women of Hollywood (since they, like, totally all communicate with each other) would get together and start a rebellion against the media and actually begin embracing a more *healthy* body image.

But... back to fat people in movies... Hairspray and DreamGirls are the only movies I can name off the top of my head who actually have confident overweight characters portrayed in a sassy, flattering manner. Well... those movies and a whole bunch of Mo'Nique ones (Hair Show, Phat Girls, anything where Mo'Nique is the lead character usually has her playing a confident woman who people find sexy instead of repulsive).
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Old 06-29-2008, 11:16 AM   #10
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Related but not....

What annoys me as well.....the double standard. That 95%+ of women roles are thin, pretty women. Or, even if they're not attractive, they're still thin. BUT, men...there are many leading male roles (John Goodman, the guy with the Bronx role, etc.) that are overweight. Typical: overweight husband with thin wife. "roseanne" (UGH) was against the norm.

I do think back to 15 years ago in college. I was afraid to get by body fat % done, I thought I was fat. I was 124 at 5'4", and very fit. Looking back, I'm sure I was 20% or so. But I thought I was fat. Because of standards of beauty. That you had to be stick thin, not a bit of saddlebags, and tall too...to be considered beautiful.

At 37 and after 2 kids (via csection much less), I'm trying to shake that engrained idea.

Great, hollywood...thanks.
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Old 06-29-2008, 11:45 AM   #11
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I did a lot of feminism study in college and watched some excellent films on women and weight, and women being portrayed in the media. Yes, no names, but many of the women are UNDERWEIGHT, and it's scarey - and it's sad. I am not going to sit here and lie, I DO think that's how I AM supposed to look. That's because they take the models and actresses who are underweight, about 10% of the ACTUAL population here in the states, and make them look like they are 99% because they get so much attention. I am all for different body types and shapes, but seriously, if they are only 10% of the population - then they should only get 10% of the roles. But as women, we know it never works out like that - doesn't mean it shouldn't.
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Old 06-29-2008, 12:14 PM   #12
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What truly annoys me is the fact that even when you do have a positive character with a little meat on her bones, that's the whole point of her character. They can't treat the character as just "normal" if she's over a size 2 -- that has to be the whole plotline. It's often the same with interracial relationships (although that's getting better), homosexual relationships, and older woman/younger man relationships. If those things exist in a plot, they're the whole point to the movie, instead of just being a normal development. On the other hand, you have 60 year old men dating 20 or 30 year old women in movies and it's supposed to look "normal" to us. Imagine seeing Bea Arthur dating Jake Gyllenhaal in a movie, with no explanation. Or Jane Fonda as an action heroine, like Harrison Ford and Sylvester Stallone.

Sorry, I got a little off topic...
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Old 06-29-2008, 12:20 PM   #13
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I wish that when there is an overweight person in the movie, that it would be like they were any normal person, and there would be no need to comment on the weight.

Just like if the person was blonde, brunette, short, whatever. To just have an overweight person just be another character without the weight having any bearing upon the story. You know, kind of like real life??
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Old 06-29-2008, 12:20 PM   #14
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On the other hand, you have 60 year old men dating 20 or 30 year old women in movies and it's supposed to look "normal" to us. Imagine seeing Bea Arthur dating Jake Gyllenhaal in a movie, with no explanation. Or Jane Fonda as an action heroine, like Harrison Ford and Sylvester Stallone.
YES, YES, YES! And yes to the rest you said about anything that makes a character an "outlier" being ALL THERE IS TO THE CHARACTER in the media!
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Old 06-29-2008, 12:34 PM   #15
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Thanks for all these great responses. Unfortunately, money talks in Hollywood and most people want to see skinny mini's on the screen. The thing that got to me so much about the character I mentioned in Wanted, was how much they focused on her eating habits. They would show her eating a donut in slow-motion and made it look so horrible (even though plenty of skinny people enjoy donuts) and how the movie's heroin (who is more like a motivation for another Columbine-style killing) says he feels sorry for her and that comment seems to be more focused or as much focused on her appearance as her personality. Meanwhile, as I mentioned, Angelina Jolie is looking so skinny that I just don't get it! I think most men would prefer her to be at least 15 lbs. heavier, so why is she so thin? Also, I was shocked that she would make a movie that was so violent without at least some good message...given that she is such an ambassador of good will. Anyway, sorry to rant all over again, but I'm glad I'm in good company on this forum!
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