Fat Shaming in Entertainment

Last week, James Corden took the internet by storm after confronting Bill Maher’s comment that “fat shaming doesn’t need to end, it needs to make a comeback.” Corden took a deep dive into the complexities of obesity, integrating his own experience as well as research and fact-based arguments.  

James Corden is one of the first people living with obesity that we’ve seen utilize his platform to spread the complexities of obesity to the United States. Weight bias is the last socially acceptable form of bias. Anyone who makes comments similar to Bill Maher deserves the same level of condemnation from audiences that we’ve seen before. 

Kevin Hart was forced to step down after homophobic tweets. A new Saturday Night Live cast member, Shane Gillis, used racist, sexist and homophobic jokes in his material. Fans were outraged, he was fired. 

Meanwhile, Bill Maher made comments that were blatantly disrespectful to people who live with the weight of people’s comments, stares, laughs and ridicule daily. “Nobody comes out of the womb needing to buy two seats on the airplane. We have gone to a weird place where fat is good. It is pointing out fat that is unhealthy. That is what’s sad,” Maher said. 

No one called him out immediately. He slept soundly that night after work, he did not worry about being fired. 

However, James Corden’s response summed it up perfectly for those watching at home who Maher directly affected by his comments. “Fat-shaming never went away. Ask literally any fat person. We are reminded of it all the time,” Corden said. 

“Now there’s a common and insulting misconception that fat people are stupid and lazy and we’re not. We get it. We know that being overweight isn’t good for us and I’ve struggled my entire life to manage my weight,” Corden continued. 

The idea that making jokes about people who are experiencing overweight or obesity perpetuates weight bias. Weight bias goes far beyond a few jokes on mainstream television. Weight bias kills. 

Jenn Curran is a writer in Los Angeles. She started experiencing health problems during the second trimester of carrying her baby girl. Each time she complained, her doctors dismissed her. Her cancer went undiagnosed because doctors contributed her health issues to her weight.

Laura Fraser is a journalist and the author of several books. Her sister, Jan had cancer that was diagnosed far too late. The weight loss she experienced from the disease was praised, seen as a good thing. She died, on Christmas Eve, just six months after she was finally diagnosed. 

Although people living with overweight and obesity experience real health issues that go undiagnosed due to the weight bias nature of the world we live in, it also severely impacts their quality of life. Adolescents who are overweight and are aware of their additional weight are at higher risk for suicidal ideation. 

By condemning jokes and comments about every other identity people hold but not condemning fat jokes, we are communicating the idea that the absolute worst thing a person can be is fat. It’s acceptable to make fun of fat people, to stereotype them and to make them play certain roles in television shows and movies. 

Each time we don’t call out people and comments like Bill Maher’s, we tell another person with excess weight that they aren’t worth fighting for. 

“And this term fat shaming, we’ve come up with a name for it. Let’s be honest fat shaming is just bullying,” Corden also says in his segment. 

He’s right, it is bullying. It’s time to stop tolerating it. 

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