I’ll give you a heads up that this is going to be a bit of a stream of consciousness blog post tonight. I have just got home from seeing Neil LaBute’s “Fat Pig” by the Queensland Theatre Company, and need to debrief a little or I will never sleep tonight!
Now, let me just start off by saying that the play is wonderful, with a fantastic cast, though the two support characters are a little caricature-like to really take them seriously. The leads, Amy Ingram and Christopher Sommers however bring depth and an honesty to their characters that more than makes up for the one dimensional supporting characters. I loved the play, it’s an honest, confronting story and really blows open some issues around fat hatred and bigotry that I feel gets the subject out in the open.
However, right now, I am filled with such a blinding rage, an anger so intense that it had me sobbing hysterically in the theatre at the end of the play, fighting to just express how fucking furious I feel right now.
I think my two lovely friends at first thought that I was so upset because I was sad – the play confronts a lot of painful issues for fat women, especially around romantic relationships. And yes, those moments are sad in the play.
However, they were so over-ridden by the rage I felt not at the story, or the cast, or anything to do with the play. What I am so angry at, what makes me almost physically sick, is the reaction of a not-insignificant portion of the audience.
Without spoilers, I can tell you that the two sub-characters in the play are full of some pretty vitriolic fat hate. That’s the point of them. They’re the antagonists in the story. What I didn’t expect was that quite a few people in the audience actually cheered them on, not because of the actors particularly good acting, but because these characters were saying things that those audience members clearly approved of.
There is one particular scene where Jeannie, played by Paige Gardiner, throws a rather theatrical tantrum, and lets spew with a whole string of hateful, vitriolic, bigoted bitchiness about the heroine of the play, Helen. Paige plays this woman as particularly vicious and shrill, which to be honest, is the kind of woman that just makes me want to take a dump in her handbag and give her something to really bitch about, but as she stormed off stage, there were say a quarter of the audience, who applauded, not to acknowledge the actress, but instead as though they were offering a “RIGHT ON!” to Jeannie’s loathing of this fat woman.
And while most of us were laughing and cringing at the sheer ludicrousness of Carter’s (Steven Rooke) shallowness, there were two young women sitting next to us who, at a somewhat shocking and hateful reveal on his behalf, thought it was delightfully funny… while most of the audience were gasping with shock at just how vicious his behaviour was. These two young women weren’t the only ones I’m sure.
I guess what has me so angry is that despite this fat woman, this lovely Helen, being given a face and a name and visible feelings in this wonderful play, despite the play pointing out the offensiveness of bigoted behaviour (not just towards fat people, but towards gay, disabled, old, and others as well) – there were a portion of the audience that just didn’t get it. There were these people who just continued to think that behaviour like this towards fat people was perfectly acceptable – despite it being pointed out to them very clearly in this beautifully honest play, the despicable nature of their attitudes.
That’s what we’re up against in fighting fat hatred. That’s the biggest fight we’ve got in front of us. Not the good people who just let it slide because they don’t want to rock the boat. Not those who feel discomfort about the bigotry and don’t quite know what to do, so they avoid the topic. Not those who are just ignorant and buy into what they’re sold by the media and marketing. But those who openly believe it’s totally acceptable to display hatred towards fat people, who normalise this behaviour as if it’s funny, or should be applauded or encouraged.
And that makes me so very, very angry.
Thanks for listening folks, the debrief has done me good.