"Get Off"

[Trigger warning for fat hatred and discussion of eating.]

So. The fact that I am not a fan of Jamie Oliver and his mission to shame the world into thinness (and his insufferable devotees) will not exactly come as a surprise to regular readers. Which is why I generally try to resist writing about every example across which I stumble of Oliver's increasingly obnoxious crusade.

But this description of a scene from his show Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food, from Dr. Arya Sharma's "The Pedagogy of Obesity Reality Shows" (which I strongly recommend you read in full), is just beyond the everloving beyond:
Jamie returns to Natasha's house to find that she is once again feeding her daughter cheese-chips. "Sorry, I'm just embarrassed," Natasha says eventually. "I don't know how it gets like this. I really try with money, I do."

Jamie, looking confused, replies: "Look," he begins, "I'm not going to say to you that I understand, because … well, erm, I don't."

Natasha gets tearful, and explains that during the week she had spent all of her benefit money on bus fares and overdue bills, and had little left to buy the ingredients for the recipe that Jamie had taught her.

As Jamie stands in the kitchen Natasha cries. "Come here," he says, moving towards her to hug her.

"Get off," she says, pushing him away.
Sharma adds that, in another episode, "another woman explains to Oliver, 'The thing with you, Jamie, is you live in a bubble. You've got no bloody idea what it's like for us.'"

Rage. Seethe. Boil.

Leaving aside the three-hour rant I could have about Oliver's manifest refusal to acknowledge people's right to choose to be fat (and/or "unhealthy," or whatever word(s) he would use as if they're synonymous), I'm struggling to find the words to sufficiently convey the profundity of my contempt for his continual insistence on admonishing people to take individual responsibility for systemic problems.

Oliver is hardly alone in sanctimoniously lecturing individual people to eat in a way that every aspect of their environment conspires to prevent them from doing, but he certainly has one of the loudest voices.

And the true absurdity of Oliver walking into people's homes and lives with the confidence that they will reverently follow his empyrean advice, then getting miffed when they don't, is that he is frequently asking them to change things about their lives over which they have no control, which he hasn't bothered to learn.

Yet, even appearing to be completely oblivious to the reality that his expectation entails their being able to overcome poverty, food access, and time constraints, and casually abandon the eclipsing, importune comfort of cultural tradition, he scolds them about how easy it all should be, which is some fucking chutzpah coming from a bloke who can't be arsed trying to understand the basic facts of a life he wants to change.

The privilege is suffocating, even to contemplate. "Get off" indeed.

For many people, changing one's diet is not difficult. For others, changing one's diet is incredibly challenging, whether because of external circumstances, emotional concerns surrounding food, or some combination thereof. That's not a moral failing.

The irony is that Oliver, and those who share his outlook, want individuals to solve systemic problems, and yet he refuses to acknowledge those people as the individuals they are, with individual circumstances and individual perceptions and individual needs.

All of the individual responsibility; none of the individual respect.

Of course, if Jamie Oliver respected people, he'd publish his cookbooks and eating guides and trust that people would use them, or not, in the best way for them, instead of treating people like gormless blobs of embodied helplessness in need of saving.

"Now with MORE unwanted hugs!"

[Jamie Oliver: You, sir, are no Tom Colicchio.]

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