reviews

All posts tagged reviews

Fat in Fiction – A Review Post

Published November 1, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

I think this post is going to be an ongoing one.

I’ve been working on it for ages now, slowly building up a collection of books with fat characters that I can review for you all, and I know there will be more in the future, I’m sure there are plenty that you can recommend for me that I haven’t covered here, which I will add to my To Be Read and Reviewed pile.  But we’ll start with the ones I’ve collected so far and go from there.

So what am I looking for when it comes to fat characters in fiction?  Well, let’s start with the main protagonist actually being fat.  Not a sidekick or sassy friend.  Not the main character’s mum, not a cliche villain (though I do love Ursula), not the peripheral character used for pity or to illustrate some awful point.  In particular, I am looking for fat women in fiction.  Positive portrayals of fat women in fiction.

Again, if you know of any that aren’t listed here yet, please do let me know in the comments.

Corinna Chapman – Kerry Greenwood

CarolynLeslie-Baking_up_a_storm-corinna_chapman_collage

I simply must start with Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman series.  I will never forget the first time I read the first book, Earthly Delights – I was completely blown away by being able to read a story where the heroine was a fat woman.  A successful, happy, beautiful, loved fat woman who was smart and funny and clever enough to solve mysteries that other people couldn’t.  Set in Melbourne, Corinna Chapman is a baker who inadvertently finds herself solving mysteries.  With her collection of colourful friends and colleagues, her gorgeous boyfriend Daniel (swoon!) and her regal cat Horatio, I fell into these books and read them voraciously.  The whole series is excellent.

Eleanor and Park – Rainbow Rowell

eleanor03

Let me start off by saying that there’s no real indication of how fat Eleanor is.  She thinks she’s fat, kids at school call her fat.  So I’m going with her as a fat girl protagonist.  Even though she may not actually be so.  The reason I put this one in is because it strikes so close to home for me.  I’m about the same vintage as Eleanor, I was a fat teenager picked on at school and from a pretty shitty home situation.  Eleanor is smart, and strong, and the relationship between she and Park is gorgeous (note, there are also some problematic elements about Park’s Korean family members).  Eleanor and Park is not a perfect book, but it is one that struck a lot of chords for me.

Dumplin’ – Julie Murphy

dumplin_c

Oh how I adored this book.  This is the book I needed to read when I was 15. Willowdean “Dumplin'” Dickson is an unapologetic fat girl, navigating the maze that is teenage life. Cute boys, spats with your best friend, the school bully, the loss of a loved one, a dud relationship with your Mum, not being able to find cute clothes, school and your first trip to a drag club.

Garnished with a liberal helping of Dolly Parton, red lollipops and cringe-worthy moments, I laughed, I cried, I cheered and I crossed fingers and toes with Willowdean.

 

 

Dietland – Sarai Walker

dietland Firstly, I found Dietland SUPER triggering.  That’s not to say it’s not a fantastic book – it is a fantastic book.  It just pushed some buttons for me.  But that said, it’s really compelling and subversive and has some of the most beautiful prose I’ve read in a long time.  Plum is a very fat woman.  Thank fuck for that, I’m sick of inbetweenies being as fat as it gets in fiction and being called radical.  Dietland is PROPER radical.  Described by some as “Fight Club for women”, Dietland goes where a lot of other novels fear to tread.

In Real Life – Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

InRealLife-Cov-300rgbFinal

This one is actually a graphic novel aimed at younger readers.  But it’s super cute and nerdy, with a subtle ethics lesson running through it.  The artwork is as cute as hell, and while the central character is never referred to as fat or chubby or anything, she just is.

 

Everything Beautiful – Simmone Howell

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 3.21.30 pm

This book is a delight. It has so many things going for it. It’s Australian. It is set in a cheesy Christian holiday camp. The love interest is a disabled guy. The support characters are diverse and mostly really interesting. But the best thing of all… The protagonist is a fat girl and she gives ZERO fucks about it! She’s fat. She doesn’t hate herself. She’s confused and frustrated and sick of people treating her like shit, but hey, she’s a teenager. But she knows what she has got by way of her body and she fucking flaunts it. I loved Riley Rose so much, and Dylan, the love interest is hot and complicated and a bit of a jerk sometimes and pissed off and just gorgeous.

The only criticism I had was the very abrupt ending, which made me feel like I was being chucked out the back door and told to “move on”. I didn’t get any sense of resolution to several threads of the story, and I don’t quite know where Riley Rose was at as much as I would like to.

Fatizen 24602 – Philip C Barrigan II

Screen Shot 2015-11-01 at 3.24.32 pm

This is another really subversive one.  Quite a bit more violent than I would normally choose, but it is really engaging and with well developed characters.  Lots of in-jokes for people who have been around the fatosphere for a while.

It’s a dystopian future in which fat people have their citizenship revoked and are imprisoned – sometimes even snatched off the street or from their homes.  I was somewhat uncomfortable with the portrayal of fat people and food, but could also understand why the author went where he did.

I particularly loved the artwork in this one.

 

~~~@@~~~

This should give you all somewhere to start with fat characters in fiction.  Again, if you have other books you have read, please share them in the comments*, I’m always on the hunt for more books to read, and if they have positive portrayals of fat people, even better still.  I will attempt to read them and add them to this post as I do.

Happy Reading!

*Please keep comments to topic as I will be deleting anything that is not about fat characters in fiction.

Mad Max: Fury Road – Furious and Furiosa!

Published May 31, 2015 by Fat Heffalump

Heads up, this post is going to be chock full of spoilers.  Continue on at your own peril!

So I am fresh home from a lovely day out with friends which included seeing Mad Max: Fury Road at the cinema this afternoon, and I cannot NOT blog about this one.  Holy crap what a movie!  I don’t normally do review type posts for movies unless they have a distinct fat theme, but this is one that I just HAVE to write about.

CCPvHmCVIAANjN3.jpg_large

I actually wasn’t going to see Fury Road at the cinema originally.  I had seen the original trilogy back when they first came out but wasn’t particularly attached to them in any way.  I remember the first one being extremely violent, and the third being kind of cheesy, but hadn’t given them much thought since then.  I had been seeing bits and bobs about Fury Road in the media for some time, and while I was thrilled to see that Tom Hardy was cast as Max (he’s wonderful in everything), I am not really much of an action movie fan, so I wasn’t all that interested.  But I’d seen some good press about it a while ago, some friends had really raved it was going to be great so I thought I might go and see it in the cinema, because it’s good to support the Australian film industry, but thought if I missed it, I wouldn’t be that bothered.

But then the “Men’s Rights Activists” started whining about it being “feminist propaganda” and I was INSTANTLY thinking “Oh sign me up for this one then!”  Anything that pisses off the MRA’s can have my money, just for shits and giggles.

Before I go on, there is a lot of talk from all perspectives about Fury Road being a “feminist movie”.  Now personally, I don’t believe there really is such thing as a “feminist movie”, short of perhaps a biopic about famous feminists or a story about the history of feminism.  What most people really mean when they suggest a film is a “feminist movie” is that it either approaches the story from a woman’s perspective, or that it simply treats women as human beings with agency over themselves.  I know, doesn’t take much to get that “feminist” label, does it?

What Mad Max: Fury Road is however, is 120 minutes of strap yourself in, hang on tight and try to remember to breathe occasionally top shelf cinema.  Right from the beginning you are thrown in to some intense action and it barely lets up for the entire movie.  I cannot remember the last time I saw a film that had me white knuckle, breath-holding, “Holy shit!” uttering engaged from beginning to end.

Now I must say, I am not normally an action movie fan.  Mostly I find them boring, because while there are lots of jaw dropping stunts and big explosions, they usually lack good narrative and engaging characters.  I need to be attached to at least one character and to feel like I’m being taken along in a story to be engaged in a film.  Fury Road has got it all.  Wild car chases, fire, big explosions, creepy villains, a flame-throwing guitar player strapped to a huge mobile stack of speakers, dust, desert, and punch ups… but it also has tenderness, courage, intelligence, kindness and a whole lot of heart.

Max is not a testosterone fueled hero.  He is a man suffering obvious PTSD who is facing his greatest fear – of being captured and used as a living “blood bag”.  His terror at being captured by Immortan Joe’s war boys is palpable.  You feel his frantic attempts to free himself from the chains and mask the war boys have put him in.   His only goal is to escape.  It is not revenge, it is not a lust for blood, it is simply escape.  Max isn’t even the protagonist of this film, even though it bears his name.

The true protagonist is the wonderfully named Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron).  We don’t know all that much about her.  She drives one of Immortan Joe’s (Hugh Keays-Byrne, who was in the original Mad Max film) war rigs (a big bloody truck).  She has a prosthetic arm.  She is marked with Joe’s brand, as are his war boys, a group of men bred and brainwashed as a kind of cannon fodder.  We soon learn that she is liberating Joe’s five “war brides” – beautiful, fertile young women he has been keeping as his own personal sex slaves and breeding stock.  Later we learn a little more about where she is from, but we never find out how she lost her arm, how she came to be part of Joe’s army.  We can only guess at these things.

Personally I wondered if she may have either been one of his war brides once, or if she had once had the threat of being a war bride, but losing her arm had saved her from that fate?

Furiosa is badass.  At no point are we led to believe that she is any less capable than Max – in fact, thanks to a scene where he fails to shoot The Bullet Farmer (Richard Carter) twice, and she takes the final, and successful, shot using Max as a rifle stand, we know that she is more capable at some things than Max is.  Charlize Theron puts in a hell of a performance, fighting, driving, crawling all over a moving rig, shooting and generally just kicking arse, while also managing to convey a hell of a lot of emotion, and mostly wordlessly.  We see her anger, her fear, her pain, her frustration, her worry clearly on her face.  She cares about the war brides, and she cares about the Vuvalini, her own people, when they enter the story.  At no point is she exacting revenge with her violence, merely seeking liberation for herself and the war brides.  There is one moment that she comes close, but the war brides remind her of her promise to never to kill unnecessarily.

Which brings me to the war brides.  These five beautiful women (played by Zoe Kravitz, Rose Huntington-Whitely, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee and Courtney Eaton) are the embodiment of perfection in this post apocalyptic world, sex slaves of Immortan Joe who has been keeping them in a kind of pampered captivity.  These are five slim, beautiful young women who have been kept as pristine and special as any creature can be in this world.  They are frightened and traumatised.  However, not one of these young women could be called weak.  Joe’s favourite, The Splendid Angharad (Huntington-Whitely) uses her pregnant body as a human shield, they are all handy with a weapon, and willingly fight and work to ensure their freedom.

mad-max-fury-road
I also need to mention here that quite a few people who have already written about this film have raised that it’s very much a white person’s film, and yes, it is predominantly white, but many have dismissed the ethnic backgrounds of Zoe Kravitz, Courtney Eaton and Megan Gale.  There has been a lot of assumption that all of the women in this film are white… they are not.  I also feel that whiteness has been used well – the evil villains could not get any whiter than they are in this film!  The old white men are the bad guys (and they are truly repulsive, Keays-Byrne, Carter and John Howard as The People Eater – those nipple rings! – are all MEGA gross and creepy) using violent young white men as their henchmen.  Would have been good to have some more people of colour on the good guys side to bolster that colonialist metaphor though.

One of the things I loved most about Fury Road was the complete lack of sexual/romantic connection Max has with any of the women.  He respects them.  He helps to protect them.  He even shows tenderness to Furiosa when she is wounded, but it is in no way because of a romantic or sexual connection.  He has spent the past days fighting by her side, and he clearly has respect for her and shows that in his gentleness in treating her wounds.  She is not displayed as sexual, but as strong and brave.  None of the women are subjected to the male gaze from Max or even from Nux (war boy turned rescuer, played by Nicholas Hoult, who manages to STILL look gorgeous while rail thin, bald, scarred and ultra-pallid).  We as the audience are not invited to look at the women sexually except in the context of their vulnerability to the villain, but we don’t see them through his eyes, but we see them through Max’s.  Even though there is a tenderness between Nux and Capable (Keough), it is an emotional tenderness, not sexual.

Ss-mad-max-fury-road-118

Even though Megan Gale as The Valkyrie (holy shit what an amazon that woman is!) has a nude scene, which at first I felt uncomfortable with, I realised that it was right to use her nakedness as “bait” – the Vuvalini only know that one of Imperon Joe’s war rigs is heading towards them – they have no way of knowing that it is Furiosa – what better way to bait Joe and his minions than with a “trapped”, beautiful, naked, young woman to distract them while the Vuvalini can ambush them.  Incidentally, the Vuvalini are mostly badass biker grannies from what is left of a matriarchal society, the one which Furiosa originates from.  She and The Valkyrie are the only young women of the Vuvalini left.

592554-09848d98-f9d0-11e4-abad-a935b3e0d5c5

Badass biker grannies.  I mean do you need anything more to entice you to see this movie?  Plus, the only fat women in the film have a pivotal role in saving the day right at the end, which is pretty bloody awesome.

Look, this is an amazing film.  Yes it’s a rollicking great action ride that takes you along with it and leaves you breathless by the end.  But it’s also a beautifully shot film with tonnes of nuance from it’s cast.  It’s a story of hope,  freedom and the strength of women.  Go see it.