Wokesters on twitter have found another glaring social injustice; ‘Fat shaming’. The word ‘fat’ is no longer allowed among the virtuous; in the enlightened US they have long used ‘Big’ instead, so that if someone tells you they come from a ‘big family’ you don’t necessarily need to look enthusiastic.
The issue has swelled to large proportions by skinny actress Emma Thompson having the temerity to play evil headmistress Agatha Trunchball in a new musical film of Matilda, described in the original novel by Roald Dahl as forty-eight years old, five foot seven and about fourteen stone. To play her, Thompson has had to turn herself into a female Fatty Arbuckle.
Oh Emma!’ one tweeter chides. ‘She pops on a fat suit for her role in Matilda and undermines all the excellent messages she has given us. I’m not sure she realises that by demonising fat women, she’s part of the problem.’ Others accuse Dahl and the film’s producers of ‘fat phobia’. Some are triggered by traumatic memories of past bullying flooding back.
A young journalist from online Metro asks bitterly, ‘How else would the film industry portray an antagonist, who is evil, ugly and has a nasty disposition, than with a slim actress in a grotesque fat suit?’ She uses the term ‘Plus-size’ and insists that evil film moguls are portraying a fat person as evil because they automatically link size with sin.
Some tweeters suggest that Emma’s adipose crime was the equivalent of a white person blacking up. Black tweeters respond accusing them of racism as no one must impinge on their protected status. There was no suggestion that thin actors should avoid appropriation, as in black/disabled/gay/trans roles having to go to the correct identity group, or that genuinely fat actors should play fat people.
Obesity is being turned into yet another protected category which cannot be represented at all except in a positive light. This issue is not so much about fat as thinning down what we are allowed to say, watch and hear. The agreed view was that tyrannical Trunchbull (also a spinster, a word also now discarded as ‘stigmatising’) should be rewritten, re-depicted as thin, or if fat, has to be morally good.
Unfortunately for free speech and artistic freedom woke laws on what is allowable for us to see and hear fit in with the homogeneity now required by international market forces. Social media now plays a huge part in that with nearly four billion social media users world wide in 2021, about forty-eight percent of the world’s population but most crucially, eighty-four percent of US adults aged between eighteen to thirty – that is the new market. Their preferences and prejudices now apply.
They are not generally customers for English humour, irony, eccentricity or multi-layered theatrical complexity; there would be no Eileen Atkins, Glenda Jackson, Peggy Mount or Freddie Jones on their wish list. The BBC now depends on foreign markets more than ever and although they plead poverty, make a fortune from them. The US spent £500 million on BBC TV in 2020 alone, Canada £80 million, China £40 million and rising.
The demand for slender youth has always been there in casting for big budget films, but never so extreme and pervasive as now. Emma Thompson, once admitted that she didn’t move to LA when her film career took off because she realised she would always be seen as too fat. She once threatened to leave a British film production of Brideshead Revisited because the lead performer was being harassed about her weight. ‘So many actresses into their 30s simply don’t eat,’ she said. ‘I said if you speak to her about this again, I’ll leave this picture. It’s evil what’s going on out there and it’s getting worse.’
The difference is now that with woke, which she does seem to have missed, beauty is now important not just for its marketable appeal, but as a crude approximation of morality. We’ve always had the ‘white hats’ against the ‘black hats,’ but this now even reaches film which purport to be serious.
Denial, in 2016, financed by the BBC and ‘Participant Media’ an American company dedicated to entertainment which, ‘inspires and compels social change, dramatised the court battle between right-wing historian David Irving and American lawyer, Deborah Lipstadt,’ and chose comic-book casting.
Whatever you think of Irving, he was conventionally good looking; tall, square shouldered, square jawed with abundant hair. His opponent was a plucky but plain little Jewish woman. In the film he was represented by the short, balding Timothy Spall, while Lipstadt was played by Rachel Weisz, a slender English rose.
This cupidity can interferer grotesquely with story lines and obscure the real truth.The 2017 film, Another Mother’s Son about the Nazi occupation of Jersey, by Bill Kenwright Films, described true story of humble shop keeper Louisa Gould who sheltered a Russian fugitive. The ordinary, fat little islander, sacrificing her life was played by tall, blonde, Aryan, Jenny Seagrove. Perhaps they couldn’t find a plain actress? They may well now be extinct.
Added to this brew of uniform blandness, woke insists that appearance is all important in terms of identity. The only fat, ugly women we see on screen now are there because that is the way they deliberately identify, appearing as devastatingly unfunny female ‘comedians’ masochistically reviling themselves in stand-up acts and panel games on BBC Radio 4. Their jokes usually involve menstruation (radical honesty) being over-weight (victimised) and life-long abuse from men.
Obese SNP stand-up activist, Janey Godley, who describes herself as ‘quietly devastating,’ famous for turning up at Turnberry Golf Club with a banner declaring, ‘Trump is a C***’ has been able to entertain us recently with her cancer diagnosis and her intensifying hatred of England. She is the new fat lady, the acceptable face of the marginalised. Best to forget the days before comedy and cultural output were entirely controlled by the taste of foreign markets, and all those funny looking character actors we used to have, Flora Robeson, Margaret Rutherford, Hattie Jacques, Dandy Nichols, Violet Carson, all wrapped in their intrinsic English irony – which has gone with them, woke and hard cash have chased them out of town.