No one in his right mind would call Janeane Garofalo fat. No one, that is, except the agents, casting directors, and other assorted weight nazis who've sworn to protect America from the sight of a woman without visible hip bones.
Sure, Hollywood thinks we're ready to see a leading lady to come out of the closet, but not out of a bakery. It seems our society is not advanced enough to accept a brilliant comic mind and a killer smile when they come in a bonus package with 30 extra pounds. So Garofalo keeps trying to starve away those 30 pounds, an endeavor she calls "selling out." Here is how she tells the saga, beginning with the filming of The Truth About Cats & Dogs:
"I was whisked into the makeup chair where people talk about you like you're not sitting there. I heard, 'Can we possibly contour her face, narrow it down, and for God's sake take away the double chin?' ... Of course, I'm used to hearing, 'Why don't we put her behind a desk,' or my personal favorite, 'My God, we'll have to go to a special place to get the pants handmade!' ... I lost the weight because I'd go in and do a killer movie audition and the casting people would say, 'We love you, Janeane. We want you. We think you're hilarious. But maybe we were thinking about a different kind of girl.' It was as if they said it nicer, it wouldn't hurt me as much, which is a big lie." (Chicago Sun Times, April 28, 1996)
"It's criminal to be a fat woman in this society, and it offends me. I'm sorry, but I can't relate to Friends. I think it's an above-average sitcom, but it's all about hair, clothes, and Aniston's nipples. You look at a Sharon Stone or an Uma Thurman and you feel inadequate. You can't help it. ... I starved myself down 30 pounds, and I hated it. It lasted about a second and a half. It's just not me. I didn't want to be another actress who doesn't eat." (Swing, October 1996)
"I'm still sellin' out, baby. Except, I'm like, I'm up and I'm down - I can go up and down 15 pounds in a minute and a half. ... But, no, I feel like a sellout when I do struggle with my weight - I've talked about this before - because there's no nobility in losing weight. ... And I'm not trying to deny anybody their runner's high, and their endorphins, and their feeling fit, and seizing the day, I don't deny anyone that. ... But I just feel that, I think a lot of it is, you trick yourself into thinking "I feel better" and blahblahblah, but what you probably feel best about is the positive reinforcement that people around you give you, since people worship being lean so much. ...
"You know what would be great? If people took that much time to work on their personality skills. Or their intelligence. ... People don't pay attention to the mind. ... Most people are quite content to let their personality, and being an interesting person, fall by the wayside in pursuit of a weight goal. And also, you'll always find, what brings a personality down so fast is vanity. ... I cannot stand that kind of vanity that comes from being lean. I really hate it, in myself and in other people. And your personality gets worse, I think, as your weight declines. You become less special. You become less inclined to use your personality to connect with people. You know? The aesthetic speaks before your mind." (The Late Late Show, April 7, 1997)
No, Janeane Garofalo isn't fat. But she's brainy and funny and cooler than Kerouac and wonderfully insightful, and we love her anyway. And we're not alone. Once she starts writing her own films, instead of trying to fit into other peoples', Hollywood may be in for a rude awakening. Ten years from now, I wouldn't be surprised if Uma Thurman got into the makeup chair and heard, "Somebody call Industrial Light and Magic - there's got to be a way to cover up those ribs!"
Pagemaster Karl J. Niedershuh