I checked out the recent episode of Louie titled, "So Does the Fat Lady" to see what all the fuss was about. I had heard some rumors online that it was "fat shaming." Being the fat, impressionable internet user that I am, I immediately found myself angry with Louis CK for doing something so mean spirited.
Didn't he know better?
Didn't he have daughters of his own?
I thought you were cool, Louie.
However, after taking the time to watch it in its entirety, I can't say I saw anything "fat shaming" about it. I wondered if I had watched the wrong episode. I'm a fat girl. I've been "fat shamed" throughout my entire fat existence. The only thing I felt after watching this show was empowered.
The show starts out as it always does, with Louie finishing his stand up act and unwinding at the bar. A pretty, albeit "chubby" bartender named Vanessa (brilliantly portrayed by Sara Baker), starts chatting him up. She quickly moves to ask him out on a date and he awkwardly declines by saying, "I'm just really tired tonight."
The episode highlighted the double standards our society places on men and women regarding their physical appearance, not only through Vanessa's beautifully delivered monologue later on in the show, but through the actions of the other characters as well.
Did no one see the irony in Louie turning down a woman for being fat (at least it's assumed that's why he turned her down) only to ogle "sexier" women the next day, while trying to catch his breath because he's winded from walking up the block?
Let's not forget seeing Louis and his friend go on a "bang bang", which means going into two random restaurants and eating a full meal each time. I got a stomach ache just by watching them stuff themselves with an odd combination of Indian cuisine and diner food. What I found particularly interesting during the "bang bang", was when the waitress at the diner started to talk to Louie much like the way Vanessa The Reject had done the night before. The only difference was that the diner waitress was thinner and Louie was clearly into her.
Later on, Louie ends up taking Vanessa on an unofficial date, which only happened because Louie felt guilty after accepting basketball (or hockey) tickets from her. Things were going pretty well, I got the feeling that there was potential for more Vanessa episodes. Then Vanessa makes the mistake of being herself and that's where all the "fat shaming" outcries come into play.
Vanessa tells Louie that it's hard to date when you're fat and 30. It was an off the cuff remark, maybe even an attempt to bring some humor to her "predicament". Louie responded the way most people do when they hear someone say "I'm fat."
He told her she wasn't.
Vanessa went on to deliver, what I felt, was a beautiful nail on the head speech about how insanely infuriating it is to not be allowed to say "I'm fat" without it being taken as something insulting. How frustrating it is to be consistently romantically rejected because of a number on a scale. How demeaning it is to be seen as nothing but a size, and to have all of your "better" qualities overlooked because of it.
She asks, "...Why do you hate us so much? What is it about the basics of human happiness, feeling attractive, feeling loved, having guys chase after us, that's just not in the cards for us? Nope. Not for us..."
Somehow, this is considered "fat shaming".
Willa Paskin stated on Slate that "...A woman as confident and comfortable as Vanessa would not, I don't think, imagine herself as the victim of her weight and blame guys like Louie as entirely as her speech suggests..."
Frankly, I think Willa missed the point. Vanessa never claimed to be a victim, unless a victim is anyone who voices frustration with their current situation, and just as the media uses one female body to represent the whole, so did Vanessa use Louie to represent the whole. She wasn't blaming him; she was telling him that what he was doing didn't make him a hero and that she wasn't beneath him.
While Vanessa's monologue was brutally honest, I found there was also something powerful in the fact that Louie shut up and just let her unleash on him. He never walked away, he never told her she was wrong. He shut up, and he listened. He listened so well, that when he heard her say, "I just want someone to hold my hand in public", he did. It was almost like he was saying, "You're right; I didn't realize I was a jerk, you're awesome, and I'm sorry." That gesture snapped Vanessa out of her anger, and they carried on with their date that wasn't a date.
So again, I ask, where was the "fat shaming"? A woman spoke her mind and in the end she got what she wanted. There's nothing shameful about that -- if anything it's empowering.
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