Waking a Sleeping Giant?

—September 8, 2015

Comedian Nicole Arbour can be considered this past weekend’s Internet provocateur, as her YouTube video “Dear Fat People” roiled the wrath of America’s plus-sized population. Nicole’s video had received more than a half-million views before being shut down on Sunday morning. In response, Arbour Tweeted that she must be “the first comedian in the history of @YouTube to be #censored.” YouTube reinstated the channel later that afternoon, stating that the suspension had been a mistake. The video reportedly had more than 18 million views by Monday.

In her video, Nicole starts of by saying that fat-shaming was made up by fat people, and that “If we offend you so much that you lose weight, I’m OK with that.” She goes on to say, it’s the “race card with no race. There’s a race card, there’s a disability card [and] there’s even a gay card, because gay people are discriminated against, wrongfully so. The gay card is covered in glitter.”

During the six-minute video rant, Nicole continuously encourages the “35 percent of North Americans who are obese” to lose weight with the use of comedic on liners such as, “Obesity is a disease? Yeah, but so is being a shopaholic, but I don’t get a fucking parking pass.”

Perhaps her most controversial–and no-doubt potentially offensive to those of the wider dimension spectrum–comments involve her descriptions of sharing a flight with the “fatest, most obese–I’m talkin’ TLC Special fat” family. Nicole notes that she had dutifully waited in the security line for more than an hour, and yet the fat family was ushered to the front of the line because their knees were hurting because of their weight. She takes further issue with the special treatment they are provided  when transported by golf cart to the boarding gate, and describes them as smelling like sausages, and sweating Crisco oil. Then she finds herself sitting on the plane aside the fat child of the family and describes having to physical push his fat out of her lap.

All-righty, then….  No doubt that this video fat shames. And no doubt that this video can be considered offensive, especially to the millions of North Americans who might be considered over-girthed. But it’s also comedy. Good comedy pushes boundaries, and perhaps as many people found it hilarious as those who found it offensive.

Nicole Arbour obviously knew all this when she made the video, as when she announces its title, “Dear Fat People,” she immediately exclaims how “some people are already really mad at this video,” followed by, “what are you going to do, fat people? What are you going to do? What, are you going to chase me? Really?… I can get away from you by walking at a reasonable pace.”

Well, Nicole might be able to walk away from the angry mob of proportionally challenged; however, she can’t escape their Internet counter-attack. Dozens of YouTube response videos excoriating the comedian and her video have been posted, led by TLC channel’s My Big Fat Fabulous Life star Whitney Way Thore, who calls the Arbour video “heinous,” among other things. “Fat-shaming is a thing; it’s a really big thing, no pun intended,” Thore says. “It is the really nasty spawn of a larger parent problem called body-shaming, which I’m fairly certain everyone on the planet, especially women, has experienced.”

And now the media is wading into the fray and examining fat-shaming and all sorts of day-to-day problems, including discrimination, that are faced by those in the plus-size club. There’s no such thing as “bad publicity,” so this will undoubtedly help Nicole’s career, as well as Thore’s.

The question is, though, has Nicole awakened a sleeping giant? Will the ensuing backlash lead to calls for the government to get involved and protect the dignity of the millions fighting the battle of the bulge? Will the corpulent become the newest marginalized group to seek out hate speech protection and claim that their civil rights are being infringed?

If you thought the Gay Pride movement was big, keep an eye on the Fat Power movement, cause it could become gargantuan.

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