Fat Ethics and Kevin Smith

Cult film director Kevin Smith was ejected from a Southwest Airlines flight last week for being fat. The talented  director (and sometime actor: he plays the character of “Silent Bob” in several of his own films) of “Clerks,” “Chasing Amy,” “Dogma,” and the Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan comedy “Cop Out” was deemed too obese to fly, although he passed the supposedly definitive armrest test: he could lower both. Smith says this has never happened to him before, perhaps because he is in the habit of buying two seats—not because he needs them, but because he says he “hates people.” Although the airline apologized to him, Smith still hates Southwest, and is inclined not to let the matter drop.

Apparently a lot of people hate him too, just because of his weight.  The blogs were full of comments  attacking Smith, both on general principles and as a safety risk for the other passengers. “If there was an emergency and the passengers had to deplane, his fat ass would be like a cork in a bottle,” one commenter posted. And yet oddly, when I flew right after hip surgery and could have been lapped by Kevin Smith in a footrace, nobody seemed to regard me as a danger. Nor does anyone throw feeble seniors, children or individuals with other disabilities off of planes.

If seven out of ten Americans are overweight, as the media constantly tells us, why are airplanes constructed for the 30% minority? Law professor Paul Campos has written that the media and others have an affirmative bias against fat that defies science and logic. Many cable shows prominently featured anti-fat crusader MeMe Roth, the president of National Action Against Obesity. Roth appears to be borderline anorexic and almost phobic about food, but as Campos points out, her body mass index range has a higher mortality rate than Smith’s.
Anti-fat fanaticism is typically justified by health concerns, but also seems to be rooted  in deep-seated prejudices and stereotypes. Fat people are lazy; they consume “more than their share,” they are a burden on society. Never mind that many obese people eat no more than the thin people who denigrate them: they are older in a culture that favors the young, less attractive in a washboard abs-obsessed society, and easy punchlines for jokes.

A man like Kevin Smith should not have to endure anyone’s ridicule, especially from someone who has contributed as little to the world as MeMe Roth. Some people are not toned and svelte because instead of spending eight hours a week, 32 hours a month and 384 hours a year jogging and exercising  to maximize their own health, longevity and attractiveness, they are working every waking hour  to create art that enriches the lives of the rest of us, or striving to cure diseases that are killing people, or building businesses that provide jobs , products and services for the nation.

Fat Winston Churchill did as much as any man to save the world from fascism. John Adams was decidedly portly when he led the push for American independence, as was George Washington, when he became America’s first president. Fat bodies have housed many of the world’s greatest, bravest and most productive minds and souls. Indeed, Martin Luther King was a bit long in the belt when he said…

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

One’s fat to muscle ratio ought to be as irrelevant as skin color when it comes to measuring human worth. Some have suggested that Kevin Smith’s humiliation could be the Stonewall tipping-point for discrimination against the overweight. I am not optimistic, but it would be healthy for our society if it was.

2 thoughts on “Fat Ethics and Kevin Smith

  1. Think about all the food someone like Michael Phelps eats. He eats as much food as it would take to feed a family of 8 (just a guess, not a fact). I would think people who are not portly are just exercising too much and wasting food. Their high consumption ways, I would argue, increases demand on food thus raising food prices for the rest of the population.

    I’m a normal sized couch potato – so I have the truly obese raising my health insurance costs and the avid exercisers raising my food costs. Sounds like a tax on the “everyman” to me.

  2. So, let’s add to the “obesity test” the “ugly test” (they offend, too), the “IQ 80 test” (they annoy immeasurably), the “poor white trash test” (they embarrass everyone), the “bad taste in dress test” (except for construction workers one averts one’s eyes), the “unprofessional wardrobe test” (most offensive to female lawyers who actually appear in court), etc., etc.

    We care more about looks than contributions to society? Tightening my abs can change my life? I suppose if my only goal in life was tightening my abs, it might well change my life. But then again, that’s not my goal. I am other-directed.

    Find me the man or woman who contributed most to the advancement of society (from 1,000 BC forward) who passes the “fitness” or “gorgeous” test. What it comes down to in 2010 is WHAT DO WE VALUE? Do you think Fox News and Headline News dresses up their newsreaders as “babes” because they are so good at what they do? Count blondes vs. brunettes; low-cut v-neck sweaters to simple suits. More cleavage means more people watch. Pathetic. I watch Fox News for other reasons.

    What has happened to heterogeneity? I admit that obesity is a health problem. But who are the “gods” who should decide what we look like? No one seems much to care how we act, how much botox we take, how much plastic surgery we can afford to make ourselves “beautiful” in the eyes of self-proclaimed judges who determine beauty and fitness. Fact is, the medical reports say that middle aged people who carry an extra 10 to 15 pounds actually live LONGER than the ectomorphs and anorexics!

    And what about a genius like Stephen Hawking? A quadraplegic who needs constant care would be a real pain on a commercial airline, but he has contributed more to the man’s scientific knowledge than almost any living man… Is he not worth our time because he’s not “fit?”

    Consider your values. We can all be stupid, beautiful people. But where would we be now if that was the case? Consider the great scientists, writers, artists, inventors, our nation’s founders, and effective leaders who have taken us successfully through some extremely challenging times (FDR sick in a wheelchair comes to mind). Would we have been better off if in 1941 Cary Grant (much as I love him) had been president of the United States? (I know, I know, he wasn’t a natural born US citizen, but he WAS the kind of looker people would have elected…)

    Just grow up. Advertising tells us we can stay young forever. And that it’s somehow our fault if we don’t. Advertising tells us that we MUST be thin, muscular, and have the face of a 20-year old. That is the big lie. Try to stay healthy: okay. That means your contribution to the world may be prolonged. But to “look good,” “be welcome on an airline,” “not be ridiculed by fitness experts” is a pathetic goal for a life.

    When you’re dead in the ground, what will your epitaph be? “She looked good for a long, long time?” Some legacy.

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