Fat shaming does not make good comedy material
Youtube comedian Nicole Arbour gained sweeping notoriety by posting “Dear Fat People”, a quick-paced edited rant with her tossing out considerate, compassionate advice that includes “you’re too fat, you should stop eating.”
We get the joke, Nicole. It just wasn’t funny.
Thank goodness that she felt validated by the Freedom of Speech to post a video to rant about fat people, get her views exposed and allow us to make sense of it and critique it.
“Fat-shaming is not a thing, Fat people made that up. It’s the race card with no race,” she said.
Her general punchline? Fat people are hilarious because they’re unhealthy, not pleasing to her eye and discrimination against them is justified.
Amid mass backlash, she adamantly defended herself on The View.
I wish I could just ignore it and stop feeding into her publicity, but here is something that calls for curiosity: why does she feel she has the validation that this style of humor is tolerable?
Let’s say her vent was out of tough love for the welfare of humanity. Her intent would not reduce the damage or the condescending delivery. Her claims do not respect agencies of people over their bodies. There’s zero compassion. She obsesses over the physical factor and ends up disregarding the mental health factor, namely, the suicidal and eating disorders that can emerge from denigrating someone’s weight, as PsychologyToday points out.
Let’s say that Arbour was being 100 percent comedic.
“Pretty much everyone in the (comedy) business knows that you’re not allowed to punch down. You punch up,” said UH alumnus Liam Stonewall, who studied satire in grad school.
“In a society that favors one particular form of beauty and discriminate larger people, (Arbour is) punching down.”
In her eagerness for edgy humor, she narrowed comedy down to a cheap invective against a less privileged group. Self-deprecation of herself does not exempt the damage. No matter the intent, the damage is done. Her work is one of those examples where “you can’t take a joke” can be a mantra for invalidating opinions rather than stating a case.
It’s hard to declare that feelings were hurt without getting accused of downplaying how freedom of speech should sanction satire that allowed us media like South Park. But to ask audience to always accept the joke sets an unfair standard set upon audience of the media. It stifles dialogue about about the effects of comedy.
We are so caught up in asking how far can comedy go that we can forget to ask what effects can comedy have.
Arbour claimed that the topic was voted on by her Youtube viewers. Maybe some people who do fit Arbour’s rant description would not mind, but that does not automatically negate those who are not OK with it.
If Arbour never meant a word of it, it comes down to her not being good at what she does. We get the joke, Nicole. That’s why it doesn’t warrant any laughs. People and comedy deserve better.
Opinion columnist Carol Cao is a creative writing and media production senior and may be reached at [email protected]