Louie & Fat Girls

[Content Note: Misogynist fat hatred.]

So, there was a scene on the most recent episode of Louis CK's show Louie which is getting a lot of positive attention for being an honest or moving or beautiful or whatever representation of what fat women feel about men and dating. I don't watch Louie, because, despite the fact I have enjoyed some of his comedy (and give him credit for helping revolutionize how comedians and other artists can get their material directly to their fans), I don't trust someone who tells, enjoys, and defends rape jokes enough to tune into his show.

(And I'm reasonably certain that of all the people who would totally get on board with that decision, Louis CK is right at the top of the list.)

Also, if I'm being honest, I find super annoying the endless amounts of cookies that Louis CK gets for saying things about race, or sexuality, or other issues facing marginalized populations of which he's not a part that people from those populations have been saying for decades. To be very specific: I'm not annoyed at him that he gets those cookies, because privilege rewards privilege, but because he's happy to accept them, without acknowledging that his privilege means he gets credit for advocating basic decency, while people fighting for their own equality and respectful treatment get dismissed as oversensitive hysterics.

Sometimes by Louis CK himself.


Despite all this, I was made aware of the scene by fat female friends who liked it, so I went into it with an open mind. I watched it here, where there's also a partial transcript, and where it's described as a "beautifully honest scene about fat girls." And I read this interview with the actress hired to read Louis CK's words, for further context.

And I hated it.

Now, my saying I hated it doesn't mean I think you should hate it. Like what you like! It's just that there are a whole lot of places to talk about enjoying the scene and thinking it's terrific and congratulating Louis CK on his awesomeness, and I wanted to provide a space where fat women (and others) who didn't like it could safely talk about that, too.

The scene has the same problem that all scenes in which one person is meant to serve as avatar for an entire population has: One fat girl's experience is not all fat girls' experience. The fat woman in the scene, tasked with speaking on behalf of fat women, is straight and white and able-bodied and desirous of a relationship, to one extent or another, with a man. That disappears the experiences and perspectives of a whole lotta fat women.

But, okay, even conceding that's a common conceit in pop culture, and extending tons of latitude for the inevitable defense that the character is meant to represent lots of, if not all, fat women, the scene still has issues, three of which I'll address here.

1. The scene ends with Louie taking her hand, after she says all she really wants is for a guy to hold her hand and walk and talk with her, and then telling her a joke about a fat woman, the punchline of which is the woman exploding. At which the woman laughs, naturally. Because the only thing worse than being a fat woman is being a humorless fat woman.

That's not a resolution for the fat woman in the scene, who gets the platonic version of a pity fuck. That's a resolution for Louie, who gets all the cookies for having "learned something" and "done something nice." Presumably right after he goes back to dating and fucking thin women, since the actress was hired for only this single episode.

There's absolutely nothing satisfying to me, as a fat female viewer, in watching a fat woman talk about how men mistreat fat women—how many of them are willing to fuck us but not love us; how men who themselves deviate from the male beauty standard are worried about their social status being undermined if they hold hands with a fat woman—and then get her hand held in public for thirty seconds by a guy who's doing it because he just got shamed by his own prejudice.

The scene is ostensibly about "fat girls," but it's really about men and their feelings about fat girls.

It's a scene written by a man about fat girls. And even though the camera lingers on the fat actress delivering the speech, it's still about how men feel about fat girls, and how fat girls' value is determined largely by how men feel about fat girls.

That's not really a fat girl's voice being amplified. It's a man who hates fat women's voice being amplified.

2. The scene pretends that there aren't already loads of men who love fat women. Men who are specifically attracted to fat women, or men who fell in love with individual women who happen to be fat. Men who, in either case, didn't need an education on how fat women are human beings, many of whom are desirous of and deserving of romantic love.

Men who don't expect to be "rewarded" in some way for loving and being attracted to fat women.

On its face, that might not seem particularly important, but it is—because the routine disappearing of these men underwrites the narratives which pathologize attraction to fat women. Which, suffice it to say, doesn't do any favors for fat women.

It would be significantly more radical, and more progressive, for Louis CK to simply have had his character be attracted to and date and fuck a fat woman without any commentary about her weight at all. Like lots of men already do.

And, remember, this is the guy who cast a black actress as his white children's mother on the show without in-show explanation. But somehow he couldn't conceive of a commentary on dating a fat woman that consisted of his character just dating a fat woman without in-show explanation. Huh.

It's continually amazing to me how comedians (and other people in the entertainment industry) are obsessed with documenting how fat the entire US outside of NY and LA are, but can't wrap their heads around the idea that fat women are loved and get laid.

Which doesn't negate the idea that there is prejudice against fat women. It's just that there's a pretty obvious way to challenge that prejudice that doesn't consist of a speech in which Louie Learns to Be Nice to a Fat Girl for a Minute.

3. "I mean, can I just say it? I'm fat. It sucks to be a fat girl. Can people just let me say it? It sucks. It really sucks." So says the fat women in the scene. And, on the one hand, shit, I get it. I get it so hard. Like, I really get it.

On the other hand, it doesn't suck to be a fat woman because being a fat woman is intrinsically difficult. It sucks because of fat hatred. And although the scene is ostensibly trying to get at that reality—"And I'm going to go ahead and say it. It's your fault. Look, I really like you, you're truly a good guy, I think. I'm so sorry. I'm picking you. On behalf of all the fat girls, I'm making you represent all the guys. Why do you hate us so much?"—the sum total of fat hatred is not "boys don't like me."

I am loved by a man who is probably one of the Top Ten Dudes on the entire planet, who is my best friend and my lover and everything in between, who never body polices or shames me and who spontaneously compliments me on my appearance all the time, and that doesn't mean it doesn't "suck" being a fat woman anymore.

Because my partner doesn't exist to validate me or fix me or imbue me with value.

And because his loving and being attracted to me is constantly demeaned by a culture that treats him like he's doing me some kind of fucking favor. Or like he must be broken himself to love and be attracted to someone who looks like me.

That scene? Is encased of all of that shit, right there.

So, no. I didn't like it. I didn't even think it was neutral, no less helpful. And I am keeping all of my cookies to myself. Insert all the fat jokes here.

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