Thursday, February 08, 2007

Am I The Only One...


I don't think I am the only one, but I often wonder if I am the only person who does this. You know when the news talks about fat people and puts up random shots of fat people walking? You know how they either do front shots with the head of the person cut off or a shot from the back? And, mostly, they are frumpy and, in my opinion, don't really show the fat demographic. At least I hope not.


It is such a fear of mine to recognize my pannus on the evening news. I know it will probably never happen and these are just stock footage from 1987, but I can't help but examine these people to see if they are me, or someone I know.


Who are these people? Do they know that they are on the news? Have they seen themselves?


I think this is going to be a mystery for a long time coming, but I will forever be on the lookout for myself on the news...I just can't help it.

45 comments:

Me said...

Don't worry. You're not the only one.
I've often wondered who these anonymous fat figures are. And I pray that I never see my lard ass on tv.

Shari said...

Your fears are not unfounded: it happened to someone on MeFi.

I never really thought about it until I saw that post. Since then, the possibility has been just a little more sadness in the back of my soul.

Chris H said...

Oh god, imagine the horror if you did see your fat ass on TV! I would die of shame, and my ass is not even fat anymore. I think I'd sue some fat bastard.

Diana said...

Sadly, I think the fear of finding oneself a Headless Fatty on the evening news is a very common one.

They're not always dressed frumpily. Occasionally on an expose about The Childhood Obesity Epidemic they'll show a teenage girl stuffed into low-rise jeans, or a fat boy in swim trunks. Now that would be worse than being captured in a baggy t-shirt and jeans.

Andrea K said...

What bothers me the most about those "headless fatties" sequences on the news is that it dehumanizes fat people and makes it easier to objectify, condemn and discriminate against them.
For example, it's a lot easier to chow down on a piece of beef, chicken, fish or pork if the face isn't still attached. I'm not implying here that fat people should be associated with livestock. What I'm saying is, once you put a face, an identity and a soul to a body, you might just feel some compassion and understanding for the person instead of judging them on things like color or size. And you might just become a vegetarian to boot!

Anonymous said...

Andrea, you are so right. I never realized it until I read your comment, but it is exactly that.

Tara said...

I have had this concern for a long time and it really pisses me off that they are allowed to do this without permission. Like Andrea said, it really does dehumanize people.
One of the lists that I'm on people recognized where the footage was taken and saw friends!

peace,
Tara

Kelly said...

I thought it was just me! I totally wonder who these people are and if they see the news and if they realize that they are being used as the fat example and then if it inspires them to join a gym, or just to eat some more ice cream.

Anonymous said...

I used to have that fear too. I'd cringe every time I saw a TV show on obesity issues, hoping I wouldn't recognise my fat ass. The only way to get over it is to lose weight. Sorry.

I would die of shame, and my ass is not even fat anymore. I think I'd sue some fat bastard.
Chris - read the comments on the link shari posted. It's highly unlikely you'd have a case.

Margy said...

I agree, I REAALYY hate it when not only do they show the headless fat person, but the headless fat person with a tray of food, or a McDonald's bag. Because you know that's all we do is eat...
Skinny doctors with their research aren't the whole story...

buffpuff said...

I too despise this dehumanisation of random fat people but I'm certainly not going to waste time worrying somebody might take my picture. Even if they did it's unlikely I'd see it since I watch very little TV and avoid most women's magazines like the plague. That's another way of getting over possible fat-arse-recognition, anonymous, and I really wish the McGees would try it for the sake of their mental health.

Anonymous said...

That's another way of getting over possible fat-arse-recognition, anonymous, and I really wish the McGees would try it for the sake of their mental health.

OK, just don't read newspapers or magazines, or watch TV, to preserve your "mental health". That's a *much* better idea than losing weight to restore your physical, mental and emotional health isn't it?

Hmm... I think someone is in deep denial.

buffpuff said...

Well, anonymous, to coin a well-worn phrase, I suppose you would think that, wouldn't you?

Just to clarify, I didn't advocate a boycott of newspapers, nor indeed a total embargo on television and magazines. But cheap, lowest-common-denominator, ersatz reality drivel like The Biggest Loser? Magazines full of little but celebrity weight-loss fawning and bitchery subsidised by ads featuring photoshopped 17-year-olds assuring you the secret of their youthful skin lies in some random pot of gunk? Rags that grudgingly feature half a page of ill-chosen plus-sized clothes modelled by a size 10 once every 18 months and figure they're doing me a favour? Perhaps you find them aspirational and life- enhancing but, since they're patently doing nothing to assist McGee moral, yeah, I'd recommend giving them a miss.

buffpuff said...

Apologies. That should read "McGee morale".

Steve Sanders said...

What no one is talking about, but should:

TrimSpa really works! It's curbed Anna Nicole Smith's appetite for the past 4 days!

Lynn said...

I guess this has never bothered me, even when I could have easily ended up on the news in an obesity segment. If you look closely, most segments that have stock footage don't include faces so they don't have to get the permission of the people involved. Today while I was checking for a quick weather report I saw a Valentine's Day segment with people holding hands. Did they show faces? No. Were they condemning couples? Hope not. I think it's just hard to convince someone to be the face of obesity for the six o'clock news.

As for the media in general, I think its good to know why things make you uneasy. If looking at a fashion magazine makes you think you ought to look like a model, that's problematic. Models can be pretty, but that's their job. I can think of better role models than undereducated teenagers and I wouldn't want to do what they do.

Do I like looking at fashion? Absolutely. Why do some silhouettes come back almost every season and what do they represent is an interesting question to me. Cathy Horyn for the NYT always writes a really interesting column and I wouldn't want to miss out.

Buffpuff- In case this was more than just a slip of keyboard- the correct phrase is "to borrow a well-worn phrase". "To coin" is to make a new phrase.

Anonymous said...

Buffpuff- In case this was more than just a slip of keyboard- the correct phrase is "to borrow a well-worn phrase". "To coin" is to make a new phrase.

And Puffy calls herself a professional writer. Hah!

Lynn said...

And Puffy calls herself a professional writer. Hah!

Which is why I mentioned it. It's easy use phrases that aren't quite correct. Personally I like to know when I mix metaphors or something similar. I'm sure Buffpuff is a committed writer and would like to know her mistake if she didn't already.

No need for taunting. Everyone has off days, no matter how good they are at their job.

lynn said...

And it's also easy to leave out words and apostrophes, apparently.

Weight Master said...

never thought about it.

Heather said...

Oy Vey...who cares about punctuation on a blog?!?!

As to the topic at hand....I have never thought about being one of the random fatties that they show on television. I guess if they want to use my ass as an anonymous example of what NOT to be,it wouldn't affect me one way or the other.

The thought that popped into my mind when reading the topic was Biggest Loser. I know that the girls like the show. I think that there was even some talk about them possibly wanting to audition for the show. If someone is afraid of seeing their ass (and only their ass, with no face attached to it) on TV, I can't imagine how on earth they'd be able to do a reality show where every aspect of their life is put out there for all of us to see.

buffpuff said...

Lyn, you are quite right and I indeed stand corrected.

Like you I also have a keen appreciation of fashion and find it telling that, despite your own interest and apparent media savvy, you dismiss models as “undereducated teenagers” if they don't get under your skin in some way - which bears out some of the points I made earlier about women's magazines, (even, regretably, those that offer intelligent commentary).

Secure people don’t feel the need to put others down, but the fact is most of us don't feel secure and the media plays a huge part in maintaining that sorry state of affairs. Let’s face it, most women, whether fat, slim or in-between, look nothing like models, and the constant exposure to one single, (and wholly unrepresentative), body-type used to sell us everything from clothes to toilet cleaner is simply not good for our collective self-esteem.

With regard to “the face of obesity”, frankly we all know there’s no shortage of folks who’d do anything to get on TV but, as andrea k pointed out, it’s easier to objectify, condemn and discriminate against some dumb, faceless lump. A face, however, could indicate a likeable or sympathetic personality; or, worse still, open it’s mouth and say something that flies in the face of negative stereotyping. The only face the six o'clock news is ever likely to show when commenting on obesity is one that’s shoving cake into it because, after all, that’s all fat people ever eat.

Lynn said...

Considering the fact that most couture models start modeling while they are under sixteen, they are teenagers. There have also been significant reports on the lack of education that they receive. That is why older models go to college and aspire to have different careers. Only the public seems interested in emulating models well into their adult lives, most models have second careers by their mid twenties.

I'm not sure making sweeping judgments about self esteem is helpful. Self esteem, as supported by several very helpful studies is about skills, not ignoring things. If we can teach people to recognize the part that advertising plays in their lives they can better understand their own feelings about it.

I'm sorry that seeing images of other people make you feel as though you must emulate them, but I think that is what must change, not the faces used to sell products. Other people should not be the determining factor of your self esteem.

The evening news reports (very badly) on studies having to do with health. Just as they do not always profile a heart attack victim while covering the latest in that type of research, they do not profile an obese person every time. Perceived stigma is a factor, most people I write up in studies ask to have their names changed. If you feel that this is wrong, I think you should contact your local news and offer if you meet the requirements.

buffpuff said...

Lyn, I have a degree in graphic design, wrote my thesis on fashion and the female image, (linking societal changes with prevalent ideals of female beauty throughout the 20th Century), and my father worked in advertising. What's more, I worked with both advertising and editorial clients for many years as an illustrators’ agent. This is not my first day at work.

I don't feel obliged to emulate models and my own self-esteem is pretty good, but my concerns go way beyond the personal in any event. It’s precisely because I do have a keen understanding of the way advertising affects our lives that I disagree with your assertion that simple awareness is enough to prevent the assimilation of negative messages. The imagery we see on film and billboards, in our magazines, newspapers and retail environments, is too abundant to truly ignore even if we wanted to. And the fact remains that the aspirational ideal repeatedly served up for our collective masochistic delight is not reflective of our physically diverse reality in any way.

Why do you think the original Dove campaign caused such a furore? We’re so steeped in the idea that we can’t possibly be beautiful in our imperfect bodies some can’t even handle an honest representation of what a grown woman actually looks like. Does it not strike you as significant that an ad featuring a bunch of perfectly average-sized women was branded irresponsible advertising that sanctions obesity? Never mind the plethora of genuinely irresponsible advertising that encourages self-hatred. Do you think it’s happenstance that eating disorders are on the rise, or consider it healthy that children as young as 5 are starving themselves for fear of becoming fat? Toddlers know jack shit about health; the fact is poor self-image has their mothers by the short hairs and unless we start to question and change the disproportionate value we place on extreme thinness, those kids – and theirs – are stuffed.

With regard to your last paragraph I really feel you’ve missed the point about dehumanisation and negative projection that I and several others have tried to make. I’d be happy enough to talk about my fat on the evening news. However I don’t think they’d have me, since I don’t have high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease and lack the requisite apologetic mien.

Anonymous said...

What Buffpuff is saying is so true and, increasingly, it also applies to men.

Anonymous said...

What about children as young as 5 having joint pains because they're so fat or children as young as 10 having sleep apnea?

Eating disorders are very, very rare. Complications due to obesity are not.

(And no, having an LJ screenname Proanaforever and joining a community does not mean one has an ED.)

Anonymous said...

Yawn, BuffPuff yammering on again.

Thany said...

YES YES! Me too!

BetterBody21 said...

check out my new wl blog: betterbody21.blogspot.com

buffpuff said...

Anonymous at 1.10, men are indeed catching up with women in leaps and bounds. Eating disorders among hetrosexual men - something virtually unheard of a decade ago - are also currently on the rise, courtesy I suspect of the rash of self-styled men's "health" magazines, which were also largely unheard of a decade ago.

Anonymous, 1.11. I've said my piece. Why don't you check out www.everywomanhasaneatingdisorder.blogspot.com
You know. For a laugh.

Anonymous said...

What about children as young as 5 having joint pains because they're so fat or children as young as 10 having sleep apnea?

Eating disorders are very, very rare. Complications due to obesity are not.


Puffy, why don't you address this point? You know. For a laugh.

buffpuff said...

No, anonymous, why don't you address it? Or, if you're not the same anonymous who brought it up, maybe they can elucidate as to why they feel encouraging self-hatred and body dysmorphia in parents through advertising might prove in any way beneficial to children? Because if they truly think that's the answer to obesity and/or eating disorders, both of which are on the increase...why, we're clearly not hating ourselves nearly enough.

Anonymous said...

Yawn, buff puff taking the bait again

greenwing said...

Why does buffpuff always label any wish to become or to remain thin as self-hatred?

All the fat-acceptance stuff I have read seems to assume that eating less - less, not nothing - is some horrific deprivation that no one can be expected to endure. But for most people, being fat would be even worse, so we watch our portions. It just isn't that big a deal.

I am size 6. I am not going to try to be size 0. But I don't intend ever to be size 14 either, so I'll do what it takes to maintain my current size. I call that self-love, not self-hatred.

Anonymous said...

Well said greenwing! Couldn't have put it better myself! [Applauds wildly]

Anonymous said...

Yeah, over on Bigfatblog, they even compare crash dieting to the Holocaust *rolls eyes*

It really says something about an intense love of food if dieting and deprivation is *that bad*. Sure, it's not an ideal state and it's a shame when someone is forced to deprive themselves of what they want to it to fit into a social standard, but it's really not as torturous as you seem to think it is, buffpuff. we are lucky to even have the choice to go on diets.

i also don't feel one has to hate his or her self to go on a diet. buffpuff, don't you think that's a pretty strong accusation to accuse someone of? are you completely satisfied with every single aspect of yourself or do you ever try to improve? for some people, dieting isn't about hating their current self (for some it is), it's about improving their current self.

in that case, the only thing that differs between you and that person is that they think a slimmer version of their self would be attractive, and you prefer the fatter version. this difference of opinion does not warrant a condescending accusation of self hatred. you need to be really careful about spewing absolutes -- it makes your views look very extremist.

Lynn said...

^^^ I agree completely.

I still disagree with Buffpuff. I guess I have more faith in people, that if they are given good information, can make their own choices and affect their own culture. I point to the feminist movement and its role in changing 50's ads. Rather than blaming advertising, advocates changed the perception of women and helped them gain more opportunities. Advertising changed because it no longer reflected the insecurities of the culture and therefore did not sell.

Of course there were people who thought they knew best and insisted that all women should get jobs. Their legacy is guilt for this generation of women, who feel that no matter what they do they are letting down the feminist movement.

Also, I find it very funny that you pull out degrees to give your opinion validity. If you truly believed in education, wouldn't you give credence to PhD's that tell you obesity is not good for your health?

buffpuff said...

Anonymous 9.49, as far as I’m concerned dieting is not the subject under discussion and, since I've made my anti-dieting stance clear on numerous occasions, I’m disinclined to retread old ground.

Lynn, I made reference to my areas of study, cultural environment and professional experience in order to demonstrate my opinion was informed and considered. You had, after all, been rather dismissive of it, despite making a point on which we are in perfect agreement - "if we can teach people to recognize the part that advertising plays in their lives they can better understand their own feelings about it".

Advertising still reflects the insecurities of our culture; indeed it creates them. Throughout my life I have known many more women with skewed self-perception, lousy self-esteem and eating disorders than women who are happy and confident in their bodies. Few of those who viewed themselves with contempt have been overweight. I could have drawn on some individual case histories but, since we were discussing the impact advertising plays in people's lives, I felt it more apposite to draw on my commercial art background. It's certainly a little more subject specific than the "significant reports" and "very helpful studies" you used to validate your own opinions.

Anonymous said...

You didn't answer the question of why you dismiss doctor's opinions. Aren't their opinions after 4 years of medical school and 3-6 of residency more informed and considered than yours when it comes to the human body?

Sure, doctors can be wrong and biased, but they still know a shitload more than you do.

buffpuff said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buffpuff said...

No one's answered any of the rather more on-topic questions I posed either, 5.47. I wasn't discussing doctors or their biases; I was discussing the effects of irresponsible advertising on self-perception and self-esteem. Moreover I was discussing these effects on the psyches of all women, regardless of size.

A PhD is a doctor of philosophy, and may not necessarily be a medical doctor at all. Perhaps Lynn and yourself might like to check out nutitionist Linda Bacon, (http://www.lindabacon.org), a PhD with graduate degrees in physiology, specializing in weight regulation, and psychology, specializing in eating disorders and body image. Since she's a leading proponent of the HAES movement among the medical profession I've no beef whatsoever with her - though you might have.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I believe in HAES too-- that it's physically possible to be healthy at any size (well, not like 800lbs obviously). My dad is a medical doctor AND PhD and he tells me that it's possible to be overweight and healthy--it's just not *as* likely to be in the 3-400 pound range and be healthy as it is to be in the 1-200 pound range. Anyone can beat statistics. You can smoke your whole life and be "healthy" and never get a disease. It's just not as likely.

What we need to do is not focus on weight, but on healthy eating habits and exercise. But, I'm willing to bet that if more people did that there'd also be far fewer obese people. There will still be a wide range of sizes in people but the people who did get fat from lack of exercise and bad eating habits (and please don't say there aren't any people like that because that's just stupid) would probably lose some weight.

Natalie C. said...

This is my first time on this blog. Whew! What a comment war. I just wanted to say that the headless fat person thing is a good thing to think about. I would LOVE to go on Biggest Loser for the extra help & motivation of losing weight, BUT think about those clips from peoples' submission reels that they replay and replay where people are taking their stomach flab and waving it up and down or showing off other unflattering parts of themselves. There's something to be said about being comfortable with your body, but there's also something to be said about just dignity and not being a spectacle because you're overweight!

Bubu said...

You are not the only one who fears that, I do also...

Besides, I think is sometimes cruel when they do that, can you imagine the feeling of watching yourself pointed out like that?

Auch...

William Fatner said...

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Look, here's the DIET SOLUTION; anyone that wants to lose the flubber should simply take a picture of themselves and put it on the fridge next to a picture of a starving child. Next time you need a cupcake, stare at the picture for 30 seconds and get real.

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http://iblogfat.blogspot.com/