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Watch ‘Dear Fat People’ If You’re Feeling Nostalgic For Some Old Fat Jokes

Watch ‘Dear Fat People’ If You’re Feeling Nostalgic For Some Old Fat Jokes

Image via YouTube: Nicole Arbour

I’ve been avoiding watching the Dear Fat People video made by Canadian YouTuber Nicole Arbour. When the articles denouncing Arbour’s fat shaming became the inescapable “Uptown Funk” of headlines, it felt a bit like catching wind of a hate crime that happened just a few blocks from home: I wanted to watch it and read all about it, but I wasn’t sure if satisfying my curiosity was worth enduring the uninvited chill of proximity. I’m not fat anymore, no longer the obese woman whose slow walking becomes an obstacle for pedestrians or whose conspicuously sweaty forehead in the middle of winter inspires revulsion, but I think I’ll always identify as the fat girl feeling embarrassed at the McDonald’s drive thru that I was for most of my life. Based on sight, BMI, or vegetable intake—the infallible empirical markers we use to determine the who’s who of fatness—I may not be the intended target for the mean jokes anymore, but they still inspire the same painful wince of lived experience.

It was just after Arbour announced that “fat shaming is not a thing” in her video when I realized that I’ve actually met Arbour before. I ran into her once at the Border’s parking lot as a guy in a black Honda Civic who casually called me a fat bitch because I had the audacity to get to the third parking spot before him and decide to actually park in it, despite clearly needing a brisk parking lot hike to melt away all my fat. I saw her at a restaurant as a middle aged woman who looked at me like a fly rubbing my grubby legs in her soup when I kindly asked her to scoot in her chair so I could get through to the restroom. I saw her disgust camouflaged as boredom in the eyes of so many guys who only met my gaze in public out of societal guy guilt, despite being terrified I might misconstrue the courtesy of eye contact as romantic interest. Arbour may be a comedian, an up-and-coming YouTuber, a controversial viral sensation, or a boob contourer par excellence, but fundamentally she’s broken record performing the same old “omg ew fat ppl” shtick we’ve all already heard before.

Arbour is performing the familiar hackneyed fat shaming choreography as if it’s something new she just discovered, like a girl at a bar demanding the DJ play her new favorite jam “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” because even though it was released in 2007, she just heard it for the first time on Spotify the other day and that means we all have to endure her supermanning that ho when we’ve all happily moved on with our lives. In between profanity that feels like attention-seeking Tourette’s and numerous not-so-subtle attempts to emulate fellow YouTube star Jenna Marbles, Arbour’s monologue is a laundry list of every “I know you are, but what am I?” example of fat shaming commentary that exists. A quip about how fat people should park further away from the door in the parking lot to burn calories? Check. An anecdote about sitting next to an overweight person on an airplane? Check. A reminder that all weight-related insults are really just meant as wake-up calls to alert fat people of their infirmity and remind them that they should really do something about their fatness before they, like, die? Check and check.

In all honesty, I’m glad Arbour’s video is getting attention, and not just because the video’s content and Arbour’s formulaic traffic-earning tactics are total garbage; I’m glad Dear Fat People has sparked conversation because it’s made me realize that fat shaming has actually come a long way since the predictable parking lot and airplane routine. Fat shaming is still very much “a thing,” despite Arbour’s insistence of the contrary, but at least it’s become more sophisticated, more nuanced, more subliminal. Our thinking has shifted from, “What do we do about fat people roaming parking lots?” to “How do we represent people of all sizes in the media?” We still have a long way to go, but it’s encouraging to see that more and more people recognize that Arbour’s “comedy” is nothing but self-righteous bullying. More importantly, despite Arbour’s defense of her video, it’s reassuring that Dear Fat People inspired a conversation focused on fat shaming, not playing devil’s advocate to legitimize Arbour’s pugnacious pontifications about obesity.

Cheers to you, Ms. Arbour, and thank you for reminding me that even though there may not always be hope for you (or those like you), there’s still hope for the rest of us. While you’re busy holding someone’s fat in place on your next flight, the rest of us will be over here holding out hope for a society where we can talk about health and obesity without being judgmental and unkind and enjoy comedy that’s clever and fresh without relying on the lowest common denominator fat jokes.

Katie Hoffman

Katie Hoffman is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago. She enjoys leftovers, lunges, and laughs.

8 Comments

  1. George September 9, 2015

    Great post, Katie, and very well said. Like you, I avoided reading beyond the headlines this was generating until I saw the link in your blog. It’s not that I didn’t want to be personally offended by reading, because I’m not overweight. It’s because I didn’t believe she would offer anything that hasn’t been said before by ignorant individuals who think they’re being funny or helpful. The truth is she’s not funny at all and from what I’ve read this is not helping a sagging career. If you have to resort to videos like this and appearances on naked news, that should tell you all you need to know about her level of talent.
    So instead she creates a video which she hopes will generate some form of notoriety at the expense of other people, regardless of her claims of exclusion, and tries to sell it off as some comedic public service message.
    Thank you for an intelligent and common sense response to something and someone that will never gave those same words associated with them.

  2. Peggy Dustin September 9, 2015

    Is she supposed to be funny? She’s not funny. She’s just on an ugly, vulgar rant. Yeah, she’s a bully. I hate the mentality of the self-righteous who believe that if you don’t think like me then it is certainly justifiable to bully you until you do. Also, why do people think it is acceptable and funny to use the “F” bomb? It’s not. It just makes them look like trash, poorly mannered, immature and rough. I mean she appears quite attractive until she opens her mouth. Ok, I gotta stop cause now I’m going on a rant.

  3. Building The Confidence September 9, 2015

    I never thought she was funny. She just came across as annoying and trying too hard. The only reasons that I don’t hate her is because I know it will do me no good to have anger against her and also she opened up the door to a conversation. Many of my favorite youtubers spoke out against her and I really appreciate it.

    Cielo || Building The Confidence

  4. A.J. Goode September 12, 2015

    Okay, I am one of those fat people she was mocking in her video — part of the 35% of all Americans who are obese. I avoided watching the video because I heard it was offensive and I was ready to be upset about it. But then I finally decided I should watch it and form my own opinion . . . .and, well, it’s not as bad as I expected.

    I can’t say I’m offended by it, but I probably won’t ever watch any of her other youtube performances. She’s just a very pretty, very skinny girl who can’t comprehend what life is like for those of us who aren’t skinny and pretty. She’s yet another ignorant person who thinks that obesity is a choice, that it’s all about saying NO to “coke and fries” as she puts it. I see her as a sort of Marie Antoinette type, except in this case she’s saying “let them SKIP the cake!”

    Thanks for another insightful post!

  5. bensbitterblog September 14, 2015

    What’s sad is that this will probably make her career better, despite the horribly out of date and honestly not really funny bit she did. Despite that I think you have always looked at issues from both sides and I really appreciate your look at both sides.

  6. Gigi Wolf September 17, 2015

    I remember some remark a comic made about who’s really the last bastion of hate remarks. Maybe it was Ann Coulter. Each group thinks they are the last bastion, and in truth, people will be hateful about whatever they can get away with. As I get older, jokes about women have become fewer, but jokes about ‘old’ people have increased, This usually means women more often than not. The ignorant go after women’s looks and driving, despite the fact that senior drivers have fewer accidents than other groups, as evidenced by lower insurance rates.

    Oh, well. I try to take the path of ‘you are to be pitied, rather than condemned’, like Frasier and Niles’ ongoing self comfort that ‘it’s their loss’ if they weren’t dated or invited to something. People like this so-called comedienne lie awake at night, sweat pooling on their pillows, mortally afraid they will wake up in the morning dead and unremarked; or worse; ignored, fat, old, maybe even brunette!

    And for those who advocate that anyone over 50 shouldn’t be allowed to drive, I want to be the one that gets to yank their license on that birthday. I will be part of a government program giving old people something productive to do. I’ll yank them as they’re trying to drive to their birthday celebration across town.

    1. Katie Hoffman September 18, 2015

      HA! Agreed, on all counts!

  7. kelsdemelz November 2, 2015

    could not agree with this post more! you go girl

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