Is the fatsuit the new blackface?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by MickeS, Aug 30, 2001.

  1. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    Julia Roberts, Eddie Murphy, Courteney Cox, Martin Short, Gwyneth Paltrow have all recently donned a fatsuit to play overweight or obese people (although according to many reports, I haven't seen it myself, Robert's fatsuit made her seem more "normal" than "overweight").
    Is this equivalent to white actors in blackface? Why not let obese people play these characters, or if they want to keep the actor, skip the fat angle altogether? Or is it just another makeup trick and shouldn't be taken so seriously? Is it demeaning to fat people, or does it portray them in a good light?
    Personally, I think it's OK if it's done well. In the case of Martin Short, I really don't see why he has to use a fatsuit at all, wouldn't the character work just as well without it?
    /Mike
     
  2. Aaron Reynolds

    Aaron Reynolds Screenwriter

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    In the cases of Murphy, Roberts, Paltrow and Cox, the same character is shown fat and slim, neccessitating either a fat suit or finding an actor who looks just like 'em but bigger. Part of the appeal of The Nutty Professor films has been seeing Eddie Murphy play numerous characters, all of whom were physically different looking.
    I think you need to see the films and shows in question before criticizing them in such an incendiary way.
     
  3. chris winters

    chris winters Second Unit

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    I this this is a valid point to raise. Of course the fat angle is played for laughs in most of these cases. Its easy to reason that it is all for the sake of the character, however look at the nature of the character. Its almost always played for laughs, Fat Bastard from austin powers etc...The thrill comes from seeing the actors you know getting into a fat suit and shocking the audience. But to pretend its not getting a laugh at the expense of overweight poeple is denying the obvious. We have always laughed at fat people, which is why they often develope a sense of humor to cover up there insecurities. they learn to laugh at themselves. however that doesnt mean a obviously skinny courtney cox getting into a fatsuit to play herself as she was younger isnt going to hurt the feelings of people with a real weight problem. Plus the weight of the characters usually goes along with unfavorable character traits, such as being geeky, rude, socially akward, or just plain unattractive. In monica from friends case, from ugly geek, to popular beauty, fat bastard is rude, obnoxious,same goes with the Klumps except for sherman, and martin shorts new character is loud and brash and all of these cases the weight is used to help portray that. We dont know what the case will be in Paltrows movie yet, but the trailer is full of gross out fat jokes. Maybe not on the same level as black face, but still unsettling in some ways.
     
  4. MickeS

    MickeS Producer

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    Crhis, thanks for pointing out Fat Bastard from AP2, that's a good example of a very negative stereotype. Can you imagine if he had used blackface but otherwise kept the character the same same?
    Yes, in some cases it's needed to have a thin actor play fat, because the show contains flashbacks and such. I'm all for that. However, even in those cases, like Chris points out, the fat character is often described in very negative ways, and these negative attributes often seem directly linked to the weight. Jiminy Glick, for example, is overweight and often sweating to make him seem even more obnoxious and clueless.
    I'm not saying that overweight is good (it's a health problem for many people) or that you can't joke about it (Chris Farley made good use of his weight), but the way that the fatsuits are used makes me rather uneasy sometimes.
    /Mike
     
  5. cafink

    cafink Producer

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    In what movie did Courtney Cox wear a "fatsuit"?
     
  6. Steven L

    Steven L Stunt Coordinator

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    Carl, Courtney Cox's character on the TV show Friends was fat when she was younger. She wears a fatsuit in flashback scenes.
     
  7. Lane Denson

    Lane Denson Extra

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    In the case of Paltrow's upcoming movie, the whole message seems to be that the inner person is where true beauty lies, so it might be a bit premature to judge that particular instance...
    ------------------
    I am funkier than you
     
  8. Mitty

    Mitty Supporting Actor

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  9. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Let's say that Hollywood is indeed making fun of fat people a lot. Whether you think it's wrong or not is your opinion. I won't offer mine, it's not important. But it's not comparabel with blackface. A person's weight is mostly, if not all, a result of the person's choice. With few exceptions, a person can take it upon him/herself to get in shape. Black people don't "choose" their ethnicity. Blackface is hateful bigotry. Not the same thing.
    I don't dig unnecessary fat suits. Moral issues aside, it's just cheap, like fart jokes or ass shots.
     
  10. Danny R

    Danny R Supporting Actor

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    A person's weight is mostly, if not all, a result of the person's choice.
    I think this is a huge generalization and ultimately proves false. We are not talking about simple pot bellies most of us get as we grow older, which result from simply eating a few too many Big Macs. A large percentage of these folk... the type these films make fun of who are grossly overweight, are this way from an early age. For them its not simply a matter of "getting into shape", but a lifelong hardship.
    Most of these people's bodies are now conditioned to the weight they have because they were overweight throughout adolescence. This is why people like Oprah, Rossie O'Donnel and others are always in the news for losing and then regaining weight. Without a regime of constant exercise (hardly normal behavior) their bodies revert and fat reforms, even with a very slim diet.
    Fat jokes for them are just as cruel as black face I would say.
    But then most humor is simply a reflection of pain.
     
  11. Kirk Tsai

    Kirk Tsai Screenwriter

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    I also feel that idea is a generalization, but that is not really of any concern either. The fact is that it is making fun of people based on physical appearances. It doesn't matter if one can chose or not (in fact, if this were part of the debate in discussing blackface, it would too insulting for anyone to dare mention), it functions like the blackface.
     
  12. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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  13. Bob McLaughlin

    Bob McLaughlin Screenwriter

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    Hey, are any fat people out there insulted by this practice?
     
  14. andrew markworthy

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    I'm overweight, and I find some of the jokes funny, other stuff very offensive. Jokes about the problems of being overweight are generally very funny indeed, since you're usually laughing at the predicament someone finds themselves in, rather than the person themselves. What offends is when someone points at someone who varies from the 'ideal' and laughs at them *purely* because they're different. This is the sheer egotism of someone so small-minded that the only way they can make themselves feel good is to say 'I'm average, you're not'.
     
  15. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    While I think Hollywood has a right to say whatever they want in movies, I must correct the fact that fat people are that way by choice. People with a low metabolism will have a much, much harder time staying thin. Calling them lazy is unfair. I myself am blessed with a high metabolism, and I know people who get a heck of a lot more exercise than myself, whom are a lot heavier than myself. Also, as someone else has mentioned, early eating habits have a large impact on your weight. If you are brought up eating healthy, then you will find it much easier to stay in shape than if you are raised with fat, sugary food.
    Regardless of your opinions on weither Hollywood should be able to poke fun at fat people, it has a great deal more in common with blackface than you know. Metabolism and skin color are both genes.
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  16. chris c

    chris c Stunt Coordinator

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    Fat Bastard, he, he, he
    "He weighs a metric ton...his name, Fat Bastard"
    Do you mean to tell me people are really offended at this? Give me a break.
     
  17. ryan_m

    ryan_m Stunt Coordinator

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    Of course these fat suits and whatnot are offensive. If you're playing up a stereotype to get laughs it's probably going to offend somebody out there. It's not like the people wearing fat suits are just wearing them cause the role calls for an overweight person to play the doctor and no fat people were available. They wear them for roles where they act silly and stereotypically fat so people can laugh at them. It's really no different than blackface or acting like a flaming gay or a really butch lesbian or a dwarf etc, they all pretty much have the same result (offending the people they are portraying).
    After saying that, I certainly think Hollywood should be able to make fun of people and offend them. I have no problem with that. I like the Howard Stern type brand of humor myself.
     
  18. Keith Plucker

    Keith Plucker Screenwriter
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    I am approximately 70 lbs over a "healthy" weight. I have yet to see a movie where I was offended by an actor in a fat suit playing a fat character for laughs. These roles are obvious caricatures. Making fun of a particular character is not the same as making generalizations about an entire group of people that have a certain trait. Be it weight, race or gender.
    As an example, I will point out something that was said in this very thread....
    "We have always laughed at fat people, which is why they often develope a sense of humor to cover up there insecurities. they learn to laugh at themselves."
    This, to me, seems significantly more offensive than anything I have ever seen Hollywood come up with in regards to fat people.
    -Keith
     
  19. chris winters

    chris winters Second Unit

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    I apoligise for my statement. In no way was i attempting to offend anyone, and if I did so inadvertently, once again i strongly apoligise. I was only attempting to point out the history of overweight characters being used humorisly, and the ridicule heavy people are too often forced to endure in real life. That being said, I would like to make one other point. in your post you mentioned you have never been offended by characatures of fat people in movies, as they are meant to represent specific characters, and not a generalization. I would argue that the same "specific" characters types are used so often in the media that the've become generalizations. and thus potentially offensive stereotypes. Also the argument in the origional post stated specifically about fat suits. The idea of a thin person wearing a fat suit, for comic effect, and displaying exageratd mannerisms of a common characature to reenforce stereotypes. This is what is similar to the old trend of blackface. And potentially insulting.
     
  20. Mike Broadman

    Mike Broadman Producer

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    Adam,
    Actually, metabolism is dictated by lifestyle. Proper diet and exercise increase metabolism. Sure, some of it is genetic, but much is also lifestyle. For many people, it requires a lot of effort and constant vigilance to maintain their health. So, fat people aren't "lazy," but they're not going out of their way to make this effort, either. Fat jokes take this idea and exagerrate it, associating being fat with being lazy. Hollywood has decided to take this to its logical extreme, where it's just stupid; to stupid to even be offended by it.
     

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