Post “Fat Pig” Debrief

Published June 18, 2010 by Fat Heffalump

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.

17 comments on “Post “Fat Pig” Debrief

  • Geez… I guess it’s to be expected these days. It would be like somebody cheering for the slavemaster in “Roots” when he’s whipping Kunta Kinte.

    Hooray for evil!

    Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with people?


  • I’ve never seen Fat Pig, though I’ve always meant to read the play. I’m outraged, disgusted and depressed on your behalf by the audience of scumbags you were forced to watch it with though. What I’m not is surprised. That pathetic facebook group, ‘saving the cosmos from fat tarts in leggings’ or whatever the hell it’s called, has almost seventy thousand fans. That dismays me way more than the juvenile halfwit(s) who came up with the premise. That is the mountain we lowly foot soldiers have to scale in order to bring otherwise liberal thinking people up short. Hopefully your friends have had their eyes opened by your reaction and that’s a start. Teaspoon by teaspoon, dear Heffalump.

  • I am so sorry that your enjoyment of the play was ruined by these ignorant, hateful people. God, what a sad thing it is that so many judge others by the size & shape of their bodies, their color, gender, age, looks disability. As an aging disabled fat woman, & one who has been disabled since birth, I know far more than I wish I did about how prevalent these attitudes are. Far too many people take out their own insecurity & unhappiness on others & it comes out as small-minded meanness, as well as laziness, being just too damn lazy to learn better than to have these attitudes.

    I see it here & there where I am not expecting it, in something which probably seems minor, which expresses a kind of careless ignorance & total, unthinking acceptance of stereotypes. I was checking out some restaurants here along the Maine coast for someone who is vacationing in a couple of weeks, & reading some restaurant reviews. One person posted that, when she is traveling to unfamilar places & looking for a good place to eat, she looks for places which are frequented by ‘larger people, because they are the big eaters.’ Really NICE way to pigeohole a whole group of people by a physical characteristic, lady, & weren’t YOU yourself looking for good food &, presumably, large portions, as perhaps many people of all sizes do on vacation?

    Anyway, the hatred, cruelty, intellectual laziness, & stereotyping got old for me many years ago, &, since I am over 60, I have had a great deal of exposure to it.

    I send you comforting thoughts & healing vibes & hope that you can put the behavior of these idiots behind you soon.

  • I’ve long been interested in the playwright, and now I’m going to have to read up on this play.

    It’s really interesting how the play, an artifact, became a mirror of the audience’s attitudes. It’s that provocativeness that, I think, has been noted about LaBute’s work … also called “edgy” … or once upon a time, before that became an insufferable cliche.

    Unfortunately, people who aren’t as thoughtful as they should be have co-opted both the word “edgy” and so-called “edgy” art away from the sense of “makes you think” to “an excuse to be an asshole.”

    I’m not being very clear … so I’ll stop now. Clearly, the people cheering for the fat-hate are stupid and missing the point of the play. Not just mean, but also not too bright.

    Thanks for writing this! If you have anything more to say about the play, I’ll look forward to reading it.

    Also, @Patsy — I enjoy your comments and your wisdom.

    • Julie don’t get me started on “edgy”! How that whole thing has been misappropriated! Aye caramba!

      I haven’t seen or read any of LaBute’s other work, but what struck me about this piece was it’s honesty. It doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to how shallow and childish so many people are, and also how weak some people are that they can’t get past the peer pressure of those shallow/childish folk in their lives.

      I think I might blog a more formal review after it’s season finishes here in Brisbane, I don’t want to offer up any spoilers before anyone goes to see this very good local production.

  • Wow. Were they watching the same play you were? I’m so sorry that you experienced and witnessed that. I can’t even begin to understand the way some people’s minds work. I wonder what the playwright thinks of it all?

    • Carmel I don’t know about the playwright, but I went to a conversation session a few weeks ago with the director and cast. Interestingly, the director (Morgan Dowsett) admitted he enjoyed watching the audience as they usually fell into two groups – those that found the play confronting because they’d been the “fat pig” in question, and those that were made uncomfortable by the knowledge that they had perpetuated that bigotry. Though he didn’t say anything about those who totally didn’t get that their douchebaggery was being pointed out to them!

  • Poor girls…there is a fabulous dimension of beauty in the world they will never see. Maybe we could taser some awareness into them?

    • Majella it was girls, women, men, older people… those that I noticed totally missing the point and thinking that this was an excuse to indulge in more of the bigotry were quite varied. But yes, the two beside us, were young women.

      What happens to them when they are no longer young and perky? Do they remember the attitude that they held towards women just like they are now?

  • I discovered “Fat Pig” my junior year of high school when I had to read a play and write a report about it. I remember walking out of the bookstore with the play in hand, my mom beside me saying “I wouldn’t have been brave enough to have bought a book called Fat Pig. You’ve got balls!” At this time, I was just starting on my journey to accepting my body and I didn’t know that Fat Acceptance even existed let alone with a community.

    That play… reading that play, it did a lot for me. It made me realize that yeah, that’s how it is a lot of the time, and it needs to change.

    It sickens me that people are so idiotic. It’s pretty obvious who the protagonists are in the play. What obnoxious asses.

  • Last night was full of folks verbally beating on fat folks, and being cheered on by others all around. I felt like a woman on an island surrounded by land-walking sharks. Thanks for this post. I hate that we’re all facing this blatant fat hate, but I’m glad I’m NOT alone, like I felt.
    Also, I’m very interested in this play now.

  • I saw the play a few years back as well, though not at the same theater as you. It was everything you said it is. Honest and brutal and thought-provoking. Thankfully, I didn’t notice any hateful comments coming from the audience like you did, but then again, I was pretty wrapped up in the play and might have missed it.

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