I have been covering for a very long time the fat hatred that is routinely wielded against Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, despite the fact that, as is probably quite evident, I am not a fan of his politics, to put it politely.
I challenge fat hatred being directed at Christie out of my own self-interest, and on behalf of other fat people, because fat hatred kills, and because subsituting fat hatred for legitimate policy criticisms is bad politics.
One of the biggest repeat offenders is "Nicest Guy in Show Business" Jimmy Fallon, host of The Tonight Show, on whose stage Christie has appeared a number of times. Virtually every time Fallon mentions Christie in his monologue, he makes a fat joke about him. When I was still watching the show, often I would see Fallon make a fat joke and then insist that Christie is a "good sport" about them to his audience.
But Christie has pushed back on Fallon's fat jokes on a number of occasions. During a "Slow Jamming the News" segment, video of which doesn't seem to be available anywhere, Fallon made a fat joke, to which Christie responded: "It hurts. So step off, brother." Fallon replied with yet another fat joke: "Isn't that what your scale says every night?"
Earlier this year, Christie appeared on The Tonight Show, and started out the segment by pushing back on the fat jokes:
Fallon: Thanks for coming on the show!The rest of the segment is Fallon introducing Christie to The Tonight Show's new ice cream flavor, and Christie trying it, pretending to refuse to share it with Fallon, and then giving it an over-the-top endorsement as "the greatest ice cream ever," when Fallon accuses him of failing to show sufficient enthusiasm for it.
Christie: Oh sure. [Fallon laughs heartily] I feel like I'm on the show every night. [Christie is referring to the constant monologue jokes; Fallon laughs loudly] I'm tired, man! Oh geez.
Fallon: Thank you so much. No, you're great— You're a good sport.
Christie: Yeah, sure. [rolls his eyes; puts up his hand to create a division between himself and Fallon]
Fallon: And you look great. You look great. You look great.
Christie: Wait a second! If I look great, what the hell with all the jokes every night?!
Fallon: [laughs] What are you talking about?! [crosstalk] No, you do look great. Do you feel good?
Christie: Yeah, sure.
Fallon: I know you're working out.
Fallon: You do?
Christie: Absolutely. [audience laughter; Christie turns to the audience] Stop laughing up there! [huge audience laughter] I got all your names, too! Be careful! [Fallon laughs]
Fallon: I wanna— I gotta thank you for all the material.
Christie: [laughs mirthlessly] As well you should!
As much as Christie is a "good sport" about fat jokes being told at his expense every night and being bullied right to his face even as he tries to push back against it, it's because that's the only allowable response from fat people when thin people mock and shame us under the auspices of "jokes." We aren't allowed to be hurt or angry, certainly not on a platform like the stage of The Tonight Show, because then we invite ridicule and hostility for being "too sensitive" and "humorless."
Last night, Fallon again made a fat joke right to Christie's face:
The segment begins with Christie talking about attending the Fourth of July Parade in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, and staying, along with his wife MaryPat and Senator Marco Rubio and his wife Jeanette, at Mitt and Ann Romney's holiday home in the area. He starts an anecdote about how Mitt Romney decided everyone should all go on a boat ride after dinner. The entire anecdote is basically that, during the boat ride, Romney suggested they stop for ice cream, but none of the dudes had any money with them, so Ann Romney says, "Don't worry, would-be Presidents: I have it handled."
But the story gets interrupted halfway through (at 1:20 in the above clip), as Christie says: "[Romney] says, 'Okay, let's go for ice cream!' All right. So we get off the boat, and he turns to me and he goes—" Fallon interrupts him: "First of all, you weren't like 'All right.' You were like 'YAHOOOOO!'" Fallon pumps his fist in the air and bounces in his chair. He looks at Christie with a huge grin, but also, recognizable to any fat person who has ever been in this position, a challenging grin.
Christie gives him a blank look for a second, then gets up and pretends to walk offstage. "Goodnight, everybody!" he says, waving to the audience. He walks toward the curtain, waving and bowing, as though he's going to leave. The band begins to play him off. Fallon laughs and shouts at him to come back. Christie returns, and, as he's sitting back down, Fallon says, "It's a good story! I just want to make sure we're both telling the truth."
Christie says: "I gotta tell you something: If I ever leave public life, you're gonna have to hire two writers just to replace the garbage you say about me." Fallon laughs uproariously. "It's unbelievable," says Christie. He is being a "good sport," playing like it's all a gag, but, well, any of us who have been there know it's not.
This, on a day when the big news story about Chris Christie is that he wants to tag immigrants like FedEx packages. If there is something for which Christie deserves mockery, it's that.
His being fat has fuck-all to do with his loathsome politics. But addressing him on policy takes more work—it's harder to craft a joke about policy than roll out another fat joke—and it keeps Fallon and Christie on an equal playing field, where Christie might get the better of the host.
But a thin guy making fat jokes? Well, he'll always win. That is a game from which Christie can never emerge the victor. At best, he can be a "good sport" about being obliged to play a game he cannot win.
I don't want Chris Christie to be president. But I don't want him to lose like this. Not because he's the object of scorn for being fat.
I want him to lose for the right reason: Because his policies are fundamentally indecent.
And I want Fallon (and everyone else) to knock off the fat jokes because they are fundamentally indecent, too.