This past week, public figures have been fighting back at the media for constantly making a mockery of them. The media and popular culture mocking is hardly anything new but thanks to social media, celebrities are calling out offensive jokes, rather than silently allowing it. There are obviously more areas in society where jokes just shouldn’t be made but if I was going to go into all of them this post would turn into a book! Instead I have delved into two of the main jokes that have made headlines recently.
The sexist one
The new Netflix series Ginny & Georgia made headlines this week for all the wrong reasons, after being called out by Taylor Swift for making a joke referencing the fact that she has dated a lot of men. To give credit to Taylor, the joke really isn’t funny. It also shows the double standards of the streaming service; just over a year after the award winning Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, in which Swift details the affects of constantly being berated by the public and media about her dating history.
It might have been funny if men were equally made the brunt of the joke about who they had dated. Take Harry Styles, who has also dated a lot – often women much older than him – yet I couldn’t find anything that made a joke about his dating history. Nor, is he shamed for having dated so much. Rather, he is praised. It’s still the same old, same old – if you are a male, you are a player; a woman who has an extensive dating history is labelled a slut.
Taylor has endured years of jokes at the expense of her dating history. It’s the same tired trope where women are defined by their romantic relationships rather than their successes. Why not make a joke about the fact that she released not one, but two of the biggest albums of 2020? It would be more funny and at least show that some work has gone into coming up with the joke. The issue with media scrutinising women about who they date is that it advocates the wrong set of values for young girls and teaches them that dating multiple people is shameful. At least now there are women in the spotlight who refuse to be shamed into silence.
The fat one
Most recently Actor, Jonah Hill clapped back at The Daily Mail who have spent years making jokes out of his body. He highlighted that whilst he may now be happy in his body, there are millions of people struggling with their body image.
Why has it ever been deemed funny to make jokes at the expense of someone’s body? In TV and film being fat is constantly the butt of the joke. There are countless sitcoms where actors are shoved into fat suits for flashbacks – Monica from Friends and Schmidt from New Girl being prime examples – because being fat is apparently hilarious. Most often being fat is signified as losing control and emotional eating, which, by the way is a recognised eating disorder (another issue that is disgustingly mocked in popular culture).
As recently as 2018 Netflix released Insatiable, a show about a teen who has undergone dramatic weight loss after being bullied for years for being overweight. Roxane Gay perfectly describes in her essay for Refinery 29 why the show is insulting and deeply problematic. I haven’t watched the show. Nor do I want to give any time to a show that is fat phobic and makes jokes out of mental illness and sexual assault.
I rack my brain for a day to come up with a series or film on Netflix that has a big bodied person as a lead, that doesn’t use their fatness as the centre of their character and allows them to take up space. I came up with one film! Dumplin’ – released the same year as Insatiable, make of that what you will – which is one of my favourite uplifting/feel good films. It’s depressing that in 2021, I can’t come up with more than one, there should be thousands.
In 2019, Hulu released Shrill. The premise – “A woman seeks out ways to change her life without changing her body“. Hooray, finally a show with a fat lead, where the character isn’t solely defined by their weight. Less Insatiable, more Shrill please.
Imagine a world where the media made room for bigger bodies. Where fat people were represented and uplifted. Where there were fat leads and their stories weren’t centred around their fatness. Not only would fat people feel represented, there would be decreased eating disorders, huge boosts in confidence and more people like Jonah Hill, walking around with their tops off – Now that’s I world I would love to live in.