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Fat Pig

I spent last night reading a play called Fat Pig by Neil LaBute. I love reading plays because I can just zoom through them. Only twenty minutes and I’m already on page 40! Awesome! (Shut up, you speed readers.) I like Kurt Vonnegut novels for the same reason. They have short chapters. It’s positive reinforcement, plain and simple, just like how losing lots of weight during the first couple weeks of South Beach or Atkins makes you want to keep going.

I heard about this play on somebody’s blog, though I cannot recall whose. Sorry! I read too many blogs. It’s an addiction really. I’m surprised some tabloid news program hasn’t done an expose on people addicted to blogs yet. Maybe it’s just not as glamorous as kids addicted to violent, sexy video games. The b-roll footage of someone reading a computer screen would be pretty dull. “I read too much.” Wow, that’s just terrible.

The play is about a regular-sized guy who starts dating a fat girl, but feels very insecure about it especially after his co-workers find out. I’d recommend it, though the end is depressing. I suppose most good plays end sadly. I don’t recall a song and dance routine at the end of Death of a Salesman or Our Town.

It’s good to see a work of art that addresses fat prejudice, a topic which is still pretty much as taboo as talking about class differences or how much money someone makes. Beyond just the fat discrimination, the play explores how people would like to stand up for what they believe in, but usually just travel the path of least resistance.

It’s also good to see a confident, self-assured, fat character in literature. In this play, the fat girl, Helen, is actually the most likable character. Fat people are usually the villains or goofy sidekicks or losers. I read a romance novel a month or two ago that particularly bugged me on this point. There was one character who was the annoying, spoiled brat of the heroine’s no-good fiancé. She was also fat. The author kept harping on this point, like the fact that this girl was fat was just as bad as the fact that she lied, cheated and stole.

Now, I do not have exact demographics on the people who buy romance novels. However, I would not be surprised if a lot of them were overweight women. I also know from looking at the back jacket cover on a couple of romance novels that a lot of romance authors are overweight women. Why would someone insult their target audience and colleagues in such a way?! Grrrr. I had to wonder if this author even realized how offensive she was being. Perhaps the idea that being fat is a very, very bad thing was so beat into her head that she didn’t even question her attitude.

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12 Comments

Kirsten • January 31, 2006 at 6:47 pm

Well, Mo definitely wrote about it on Big Fat Deal, and I know you read that one (thanks for the bugmenot tip – alas, it is blocked by my work computer…) But it may have been mentioned elsewhere.

I like reading plays myself, although I tend to pick comedies…

Love’s Labour’s Lost has a sad (or downbeat, anyway) conclusion AND a jolly song to send you away in a good mood. The perfect balance! (Though when I saw it on stage, before I’d read it, I was extremely puzzled.)

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PastaQueen • January 31, 2006 at 9:16 pm

Kirsten, it must have been Big Fat Deal then! Thanks. One of the best things about having a blog is you can just ask a question and eventually someone knows the answer.

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hilly • January 31, 2006 at 10:33 pm

Gah, wasn’t there a movie with Ricki Lake and Craig Sheffer that had almost the same prefac????

Hold while I go to imdb.com….

Oh yeah….Babycakes.

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little miss ess • February 1, 2006 at 8:58 am

Now you’ve made me want to read this. I was tempted to see it last year when it was playing here in NYC, but never did.

I wonder if the author of that romance novel with the nasty portrayal of the fat character was a self-hating overweight woman?

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I Can't Fit • February 1, 2006 at 10:08 am

Or maybe the author felt so disgusted with her ownself for being fat that she took it out on her readers.

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Anna • February 1, 2006 at 2:43 pm

This is currently playing in DC and there’s an interesting interview with the woman who plays the lead role in the Post.

Enjoy!

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PastaQueen • February 2, 2006 at 12:35 pm

Anna – Thanks for the link! That was a good article.

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M, the fat girl • February 2, 2006 at 10:26 pm

I have mixed feelings about Fat Pig. On the one hand, a lot of people really do feel that way about fat people, obviously, and I like to see that stuff addressed in the open. I also, like the reader above, missed the play when it was playing in NYC, but I heard wonderful things about Ashlee Atkinson, who played the role there, and I heard that the character is presented dynamically and sexually—things that fat people and especially fat characters are often denied. That sounded pretty cool to me.

But I have seen (and not seen but read or read about) lots of LaBute’s other work, and he’s interested in the meanest things that people think and say and do. It’s a form of highlighting, sort of. And obviously this stuff really happens, and men who go crazy over fat girls in private will slag the same girls to their friends, and “sweathogging” exists, and I once knew a girl whose boyfriend wouldn’t introduce her to his friends because she was “too fat,” and I’m rambling, but the point is…all this stuff happens. But my other point is that it’s not the only thing that happens, and I think that LaBute’s oeuvre loses track of that sometimes.

Sometimes I wonder if my (“normal-sized”—I prefer “unfat”) boyfriend is ashamed of my fatness, and then again, sometimes I wonder why I wonder that. It’s certainly not because of anything he says about me. It’s that sometimes I have a sort of conviction that he must be ashamed, because he is normal and I am not.

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PastaQueen • February 3, 2006 at 11:58 am

M – I haven’t read/seen any other LaBute’s plays, but I agree that he highlights the meanest qualities in the lead male’s friends. There is one point in the play where they send a picture of the fat girl to everyone in the office as a joke and I kept wondering “Aren’t there any fat people in this office? Surely the sedentary lifestyle of cubicle work has produced some other fatties who should be offended by this.”

I don’t really have a problem with it in the play though because it’s used to explore the theme of how people are treated based on their looks. Character traits are frequently exaggerated in literature to make a point. So while I would assume people in general aren’t as nasty as the ‘friends’ in this play, I excused it since it exacerbates the main characters crisis and forces us as the audience to think about it too. I would assume it also makes for some very interesting conversations after the play too, which I think is a sign of a good work of theatre, it doesn’t end when the curtain goes down.

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Mia • February 15, 2007 at 3:27 pm

Ahh, me again, sorry but I’m hooked.

I haven’t read ahead but I’ll forget. One great book I read that was super fast reading was Good In Bed, by Jennifer Weiner. I found it very inspiring.

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Ashley • December 15, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Funny that you mentioned there not being a song a dance routine in “Our Town,” because it was recently turned into an opera by Ned Rorum. Not sure if I spelled that right…anywho, I was in the premier…it was interesting, to say the least. Lots of singing about death, so I guess it’s perfect for opera!

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Zilontub • May 22, 2009 at 12:36 am

I read the play too, it was a bit too sweet for me but still It is true, and most people dont notice that there is a clear prejudice and recuring theme in fiction concerning fat characters, they have to be broken, or just be a villian and that is just wrong. over the years i have been looking for fiction, movies and stuff with fat people in them portrayed in a good light and the the truth hurts, i did liked “The hanging garden” as a movie but it is very hard to find. Maybe at amazon? I did came upon a very nice novel called Sodom’s x a song for the end by K.R.COLUMBUS nice sci-fi apocaliptic novel with religios overtones. Mind you it has more than 4 fat characters in it and they are all unique including a girl. It can be found here….

http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/sodoms-x–a-song-for-the-end-/7182389

Apart from that it is very hard to find anything that isnt self help or just a joke.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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