“Dear Fat People”: Why “Comedy” Doesn’t Justify Bigotry

Featured image courtesy of GIPHY

As a high school senior who’s graduating in a few months, I can look back on my high school experience and say that I’ve had my fair share of insecurities over the past four years. High school has taught me that attempts to balance academics, sleep, a social life, extracurriculars, and health often result in neglecting physical appearances in order to focus on a slew of other responsibilities. This, combined with raging adolescent hormones, doesn’t exactly help in the self-esteem department.

So when I heard about Nicole Arbour’s “Dear Fat People” YouTube video, which promotes fat-shaming, I was shocked – shocked at the outpouring of support within the first few hours of its release and shocked at the effect it had on the internet community over the next two weeks.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the video, it basically amounts to this: Nicole Arbour hates “fat people.” In her video, she ridicules those who are overweight for their health issues and physical limitations. She claims that fat shaming is “made up,” then proceeds to call it “brilliant” and jokes that being obese is as much of a disease as being a shopaholic. To top it off, she begins her video by stating:

“Dear Fat People…Some people are already offended at this video! What are you gonna do, fat people? Chase me? You gonna chase me? I can get away from you by walking at a reasonable pace.”

Of course, the internet community exploded over Arbour’s insensitive comments, especially because Arbour, 30, is a 5’10”, 140-pound blonde berating people who are overweight. So far, dozens of YouTubers have uploaded videos in response to “Dear Fat People,” including Grace Helbig, David So, and Philip DeFranco.

Some YouTubers, like Nabela Noor and Whitney Way Thore, uploaded more personal video responses recounting their own struggle with their weight. They also discussed their friends’ reactions to Arbour’s hateful video, which included relapsing into eating disorders, skipping meals, and harming themselves.

Arbour claims that her video was made for the sake of comedy and “promoting health.” She has accused her critics of being “overly PC (politically correct)” and “killing comedy.”

But in my book, comedy usually involves laughter.

Making fun of people who are overweight is nothing new in comedy. Well-known comedians like Gabriel Iglesias, Tina Fey, and Ricky Gervais have poked fun at weight issues in the past without setting the internet ablaze. What differentiates Nicole Arbour from these comedians is a lack of self-deprecation; whereas these comedians have made fun of themselves and have sympathized with people facing body issues, Arbour simply castigates “fat people” who believe in “#BodyPositive” vibes.

Throughout her video, Arbour unapologetically mocks people who struggle with their weight and even recounts her disgust at sitting next to an overweight child on an airplane.

“I get on the plane…and Jabba the Son sits beside me…I actually took his fat and pushed it into his seat.”

Clearly, “Dear Fat People” is nothing more than bullying thinly veiled as “comedy.” It perpetuates a culture of intolerance and promotes self-hatred among those who are well aware of their own health issues and appearance.

Arbour’s video, in short, is extremely detrimental for the online community. “Dear Fat People” has amassed around 5.8 million views so far and continues to gain attention worldwide (while I wrote this article, the video reached 6.1 million views). Today, because the internet is the most powerful tool used to spread information, viral videos like Arbour’s have the potential to influence millions of people—especially high schoolers who already struggle with body image and self-esteem.

So to my fellow high schoolers: know that the opinion of someone who verbally attacks a child for being overweight shouldn’t have any influence on the way you see yourselves. Know that people like Nicole Arbour willingly choose ignorance over understanding by discriminating against people they feel are “different.” Know that you are not alone in facing these cyberbullies, or these body issues, and that things do get better in high school. With acceptance of ourselves and of others, we can mute voices like Nicole Arbour’s. We can realize our potential to be happy with who we are.

And we can make discrimination—in any form—a thing of the past.

 

References
Arbour, Nicole. Dear Fat People. YouTube. N.p., 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.
“Dear Fat People at 0:40.” YouTube. N.p., 3 Sept. 2015. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.
“Mean Girls Burn Book.” GIPHY. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.
“Nicole Arbour Height Weight Body Statistics.” HealthyCeleb. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2015.
“Was told that if I made edgy content the ‘godfathers’ would come for me… I’m not a kids entertainer, I’m a comedian, stop killing comedy.” 4 Sept. 2015, 2:24 a.m. Twitter.

Cathy Nie

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