Anyone who has known me for any length of time, knows that I am an avid movie connoisseur; from Orson Welles to 70s TV movies, I gobble them up gleefully. So when I was perusing-my local video store for something tasty, I was struck once again by the frustration that the leading men seem to me about as dry as week-old rye toast. In my mind, I began substituting handsome men of girth, for the Fords and Geres of the industry. William Hurt morphed into Gerard Depardieux, in “Accidental Tourist,” and leggy Geena Davis had to win him over. A portly William Conrad sprawled prone upon a desk; temporary victim of power and office lust, in “Disclosure;” and Highlander, Chris Lambert, offered up his sword to a ravenous Akebono, as black hair streamed down around a full, contorted face, whilst battling evil. I must have had a big smile on my face, and it took a while to blink myself back to reality. As usual, I ended up picking out something old and familiar; having given up on romance, for the time being.
Being one who cares about human equality, it bothers me the way the fat man is portrayed in books, film and television. At best, they are used as symbols of human or societal weakness, and other times, mere comic relief. If there is ever a party of campers lost in the woods, you can be sure it will be the fat fellow who will meet with some horrific demise.. .or he might just deteriorate by degrees, like Piggy in Lord of the Flies. When fat men take the role of powerful, rich men, they are often devious, greedy and ruthless. If the poor devil is foolish enough to fall in love with a pretty young woman, he will either be ridiculed, humiliated, and/or killed off (John Candy comes to mind in “The Clown Murders” 1976) It seems, just as sure as the laws of music and mathematics, the shoe must drop on our fat hero to in some way have things come out even.. .to put things “right.” Once in a while, the fat man will get the woman, as did Candy in “Only the Lonely;” but what a strange woman she is! Would the storyline have turned out the same, had the actress been a perky Sandra Bullock, or Melanie Griffith?
This is no new information for BHM and those of us who support them, and yet I think the vast majority of our society doesn’t give it much thought; and having these archetypes filter into the subconscious, ignorant to their validity or lack of, is insidious. Films are our modern-day myth; good or bad, they can form lasting impressions that may confirm and reinforce certain attitudes and beliefs we already harbor. And besides the obvious, serious reasons why fat men need be portrayed with dignity and an intact sexuality, dam it, we admirers want to have our tastes acknowledged, just like everyone else!
Lots of noise had to occur, before women and blacks made strides in the television and film industries. Black people had to form their own production companies at one time, so they could portray their story with authenticity. It just seems to me, money-driven as the film industry is, that the only way to evoke change in the role of fat men in film, is to follow in the steps of those that have fought similar battles, and won. We need more marches; more dialogue in every aspect of the media and in everyday conversation; more articles by frustrated persons like myself; a BHM magazine of their own, perhaps modeling the latest business suits and casual wear; letters, lots of them, to magazine and respectable talk shows like 20/20 and Oprah, and as much NOISE as we can possibly muster! Because the only way more men of size will come into serious roles in the movies, is if there is demand for them.
Any new idea is always met with shock or at least surprise, and I get enough of that when I tell people of Dimensions, and my own preference for fat men. But most of those I’ve told, have gotten used to the idea quite fast, and I assume that it would be the same for society as a whole. I manage a harbor shop, so I see lots of people every day, and whenever a window arrives for me to discuss this subject, I do. If everyone who reads this, will do the same, perhaps we can raise some major awareness about the fact that fat men can be sexy, and are seen by many women as such. I dated a beautiful (inside and out) radio DJ for some time, and there were a couple of times when groups of girls flirted with him, as we walked side by side. I believe that seeing another woman find him desirable, in their minds gave them permission to do the same. People’s attitudes do change!
I take full responsibility for being a dreamer. Maybe my vision of one day walking into the video store, and seeing row upon row of drama and love stories featuring romantic male leads in an array of body-types, is a distant star to reach for. But I have seen other, just as unheard of changes take place in my lifetime, and it seems that whenever a ceiling looms above, fixed and limiting, someone (or ones) comes along to raise it a little higher. Let’s all take a starring role of our own, to be a part of history in lifting yet another one!