When Fat is Phat and Hot Is Not.
Q: How much does every woman weigh?
A: Too much!
— Poffy The Cucumber.
There’s a horrible paradox eating at the heart of the movie, SHALLOW HAL.
Hal (Jack Black) only pursues hot women, unthinking of their other qualities; Tony Robbins (playing himself) bequeaths Hal with a power to “see” a woman’s inner beauty, after which Hal only pursues women whom most men would regard as physically hideous, yet whom he sees as visually enticing due to viewing their “inner” selves. Ultimately, he discovers the slender love of his life, Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow), is hippopotamine in reality (Gwyneth Paltrow in fatsuit). And everyone lives fatly ever after.
Writer-directors The Farrelly Brothers‘ intent was to impart the message that inner beauty should make outer beauty irrelevant. Who are they kidding? Firstly, we are anmials genetically geared to choose mates based on outer beauty, and secondly, the message is beamed through the prism of visual media and cannot depict inner beauty without representing it as outer beauty. Message negated.
Obesity, like cancer, or a thousand other nonessential genetic flaws in the human makeup, is not a trait to be embraced simply because the person who is affected by it happens to be of pleasant disposition. Lying to ourselves that inner beauty overshadows obesity or gross disabilities (as traits that one seeks out in a mate) does not curb the desire to seek out mates of healthier proportions and faculties, which is the right thing to do, from a species survival standpoint. If humans actually adhered to the impotent LIE of inner beauty, the species would soon be eradicated by the ecosystem (for producing offspring with congenital or hereditary disabilities that could not adapt to the environment or to threats).
Humans, like all organisms on earth, are designed to be weaned out of the pathway of Life if they don’t exist within certain survival parameters. Obesity pushes the species-survival envelope with a spaghetti-laden fork.
The argument for mating with obese organisms is moot anyway, as – again, like it or not – sexual desire is programmed to be triggered by visual stimulus. Add to this the assessment of perceived status and the mate’s potential to birth healthy and environmentally-sturdy offspring, and this counts out a vast majority of unhealthy, diseased or disabled organisms as potential mates.
We don’t make the rules – we follow them subconsciously, blindly. Though this may sound like a Player’s palliative to a Backseat-Betty, evolutionary theory bears out this statement with no less than 400-million years of a working model: planet Earth’s biology. It’s all about the peacock with the sexiest tail, the elk with the sturdiest antlers, the elephant with the biggest tusks… Good-looking people are geared to mate with good-looking people. Get used to it, or move to Arkansas.
Politically agreeing with this viewpoint or not is as irrelevant to the Earth’s future as the hubris which spawned the misguided notion that the human species actually has a stake in saving a planet which isn’t even in danger of destruction from that species. “Save The Planet” whitewash is to preserve a living condition that suits humans only. The Earth itself will continue its orbit of the Sun unabated, with or without useless human mites on its surface. It is in no danger of “going away” until the Sun goes supernova in four billion years. So put the picket sign down, stop wasting your time recycling and get naked with someone as soon as you can. Hey, I’m only paraphrasing the christian god who requisitioned, “Go forth and multiply!”
beauty is truth; truth, beauty – that is all ye need to FORGET…
In SHALLOW HAL, every character Hal encounters is bludgeoned into two stereotypical molds: all ugly and undesirable women are inherently GOOD (volunteers for children’s hospitals or animal shelters or looking after their sick grandmas) and anyone with less than 10% body fat HAS to be “ugly inside.” The clichés are so thick they cancel themselves out! For example, if you’re going to compliment ugly women by implying that their true beauty is internal, then why does the movie portray Hal’s perception of these ugly women as externally stunning? Because it is simply impossible for Beauty to be rendered as ugly, for then it wouldn’t be – Beauty.
You’re telling us she’s beautiful, then bringing in another person to represent that beauty onscreen. Milli Vanilli writ large.
And here’s a News Flash: Fat people can be bastards too! We’ve all met fat people who are ungenerous, duplicitous, unappreciative, conniving and insensitive; not to mention that (barring a hormone condition or disabling accident which causes sedentary existence) they all suffer from an abject lack of willpower: PUT THE FORK DOWN AND STEP AWAY FROM THE CAKE.
Hal visits a hospital where he perceives all the children as charming jujubes – since when is every sick child a paragon of innocence and purity? Where are all those smart-mouth, precociously-slappable BRATS who populate Disney movies and PG-13 films?
The Farrelly Brothers are renowned for humor considered “black,” their scripts steering into the curves with enough ferocity to carry off the tastelessness – but the humor in this movie would not have worked were it not for Black humor – JACK Black; enveloping himself in his screen persona so raunchily that his antics “outweigh” the thin concepts.
Black assumes the mantle of romantic leading man surprisingly effortlessly, his body type speaking more persuasively for the positivism of the film’s message than any of the extremities of type that the film subjects us to. Here is a man who is not obese, though not remotely inshape either, yet commands respect and inspires desire in the opposite sex through his overwhelming charisma, talent and financial status. A truly perfect casting choice as the proponent for the film’s message. Unfortunately, in casting Gwyneth Paltrow as his leading lady, the message of acceptance is diluted by having to put her in a fatsuit, instead of hiring an actress who was truly obese, that Hall didn’t need to see as slim.
One of Hal’s best moments is pegging Tony Robbins as “Banana-Hands,” but most of the humor is predicated on the improbable hypnotic state that Banana-Hands puts Hal under.
Though Black extends himself, he cannot staunch the film’s undercurrent; a snide wink to the hotties in the audience that if the fatties and quadriplegics onscreen are amenable to laughing at themselves then we can laugh AT them also – without them being the wiser.
I’ve read that the Farrellys are indeed philanthropists, involved with the mentally-handicapped, so obviously they did not create this movie solely to offend people. Nonetheless, it misses its intended mark as substantially as their other tasteless gems hit it (ME, MYSELF & IRENE, THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, et al).
In a scene where Hal dances with three women who are, in reality, hideous, they are portrayed as gorgeous – through his eyes – because they are supposedly “good” people. But then what are they doing in a flesh-bar? Aren’t anonymous sexual encounters with nameless strangers regarded as “bad”? And if the film is implying they’re only there to “dance,” it has insulted us doubly. Everyone over 20 knows that when chicks (hot or otherwise) claim they “just want to dance” it’s because at that juncture they haven’t yet come across anyone hot enough for carnal relations. Or they’re lying.
Now Hal wanted to bed them, and from their erotic gyrations, it was obvious that they wanted to be bedded (read as needed to be) – how then, in Good Christian idiom, can they be regarded as pure souls? – but the film side-steps this issue by utilizing Black in his described capacity – to overshadow motives with his freneticism, in this case, cajoling his clubbing partner (Jason Alexander) to partake of what he believes is going to be a heady three-piece score. This raises another point about Hal – though he may see the inner beauty of others, HE is still simply trying to get laid. The whole point of seeing other people’s inner beauty is a realization of your own. But that’s just Chick-Flick nonsense. Seeing Inner Beauty is merely just one line of many we employ to achieve our goal of Laying That Pipe.
Hal achieves the sexual conquest of Rosemary in a socially-acceptable time-frame, still perceiving her as the svelte Gwyneth Paltrow – which raises even more issues: when he is later un-hexed and perceives Rosemary in obese reality, how does he still retain his sexual fervor? This was no marriage situation where she gradually ballooned over the years, or bore a child and couldn’t lose the weight – her elephantine girth was thrust upon him instantaneously. No matter her inner beauty, if one is aroused by a certain body type and a wholly contrary type is suddenly presented, the autonomous response would be revulsion. Hal was never aroused by obesity before – why should he be now? And keep in mind that we’re talking obese, not simply fat. Fat is okay. Obese is not.
survival of the fattest, revilement of the fittest
Obesity is a medical condition considered unhealthy and potentially fatal in some cases, overstressing the body’s cardiovascular system, bone structure and – through sociological factors – even a person’s mental health.
An adult male is considered obese when his weight is 20% or more over the maximum desirable weight, in relation to his height; a woman is considered obese at 25% or more. Anyone more than 100 pounds overweight is considered “morbidly obese.” (As defined by the US National Library Of Medicine.)
Obese people will argue that The Media creates the ideal image of desirable height and weight – but medical science is not consulting The Media to delineate human health standards. An ideal healthy human actually looks a little overweight, because yes, the media images of Marky Mark in underpants and Claudia Schiffer in body-oil serve to perpetuate an extreme human condition, not the ideal one. Being a compulsive undereater or dieter is as bad as being a compulsive over-eater.
This article is not advocating hating obese people – like other races, creeds and nationalities, they should be judged on their individual personalities – but by the same token, their condition should not be advocated as a desirable one simply because they might be nice people.
But is Rosemary truly a “nice” person? She is morbidly obese simply through over-eating (not a glandular condition), which means she is battling deep-rooted psychological demons from the outset; issues of self-esteem, resentment, greed, weakness – how then could she be so “beautiful” inside?
SHALLOW HAL says this unhealthy condition is acceptable, simply because this woman has some kind of sophistic inner beauty. (Once again, my commentary is not directed at those who are merely overweight or who have been forced into wheelchairs due to accidents or who were born into thyroid conditions – it is aimed at that contingent in first-world societies who find themselves at 350 doughnut-consuming pounds and rationalize that they can regain their health once they switch to Diet-Coke and buy an exercise machine that ends up as a clothes rack.)
The fact that this film issues from the unctuous, superficial maw of the American Film Industry and not from a group endeavoring to promote equality amongst body types should give audiences some indication that no matter how profoundly the junkets tout SHALLOW HAL’s “message,” it is demonstrably false!
A newsflash for Fat Chicks: preferring an inshape woman to an obese one does not mean that we men are shallow! By god! – how these pc-junkies will twist the tables in their favor with insane rationalizing! So the MAN’S at fault if he prefers to bed someone who isn’t directly related to Jabba The Hutt? So men shouldn’t want a woman who works hard at keeping herself healthy and visually attractive? So only fat, ugly and deformed people have feelings worth sharing? (As Tom Leykis notes, only fat women have great personalities – because they have to!)
But let’s turn those tables again; up to this point, it is taken for granted that men need to change their perspective on women – but what’s good for the gander… Why is it that when we witness a supermodel on the arm of a fat or ugly guy, the guy is no Regular Joe, but a person of stellar social status and/or wealth?
SHALLOW HAL reveals itself as a Chick Flick through its protagonist being male. No one would dare try to pitch a film in which a woman has to find a man’s inner beauty (How gay is that?). Because that is NEVER what women are after. But – selfishly – it’s what women want men to be after! (Gene Simmons notes: When a guy lines up a date for a guy friend, the friend will ask, “What does she LOOK like?” When a woman lines up a date for her female friend, her friend will ask, “What does he DO?”)
It’s perfectly fine for a woman to nag, “Even if I’m fugly, you’ve got to accept me for who I am!” Yet these same women will not stand for a man demanding, “Even if I don’t make six figures, you’ve got to accept me!” (Paraphrasing Leykis again: Men end up with women they can afford.)
For those who argue that the rich Rosemary accepted Hal as her mate even though he was from a lower social caste, remember that SHE was the undesirable party, with low self-esteem, so any overtures from a better-looking male would be regarded as issuing from a higher status (the visually-pleasing plane of existence) and welcomed. Giving Rosemary the mind-set of a fat chick – in this movie’s parlance, “one who wishes to unselfishly help others” – also places her in the ranks of a low income earner, so her and Hal’s love may be regarded as Virgin Pure by the viewer. But in the event of a financial disaster, her wealthy parents could be turned to for financial aid. So the film wraps conveniently, with the characters knowing that even if their charitable vocational work fell flat, they would never want for anything.
So the Message has mitigating circumstances – that is, these two fat people love each other because they can – because they need not want for the resources to survive, though the script ostensibly places them in adversity. But it’s Hollywood Adversity: even their first meeting is in a chic clothing store, not Ross Dress For Less.
Now if Rosemary lived in a trailer park on government handouts and Hal was a grocery-bagger with a four-figure income, just watch the wackiness ensue as they argue bitterly over Rosemary’s hamburger binges busting their budget….
days of whine and roses
Despite the Disney mentality and the noble aspirations that the illusion of love may bring, money IS at the root of it all. Two people in dire need of money for survival will encounter more arguments and female nagging than a couple who are secure financially, who can concentrate on making this “love” thing work.
And there is a corollary to this observation. Once a woman secures a man, she only wants him to earn enough to keep her happy; if he starts to earn too much, or gain too much status, she knows that he will trade her in for a newer model – and I do mean “model.” But it is not one-sided – it is a savage spousal race, for most women are looking to “trade up” to a higher-status male as well, yet she wants to ensure she can make the leap before her partner. And he is trying to ensure that he can make the leap before her. No one is innocent. No one is to blame. It’s evolutionary strategy. Whether you believe it or not, I personally don’t care. Just note your partner’s agenda the next time you bicker over where the money went and where it should have gone.
how deep our shallowness
Virtually all humor is perceived as a result of cruelty. Laughing is a misdirection, a palliative, a human displacement gesture, spawned from the act of baring one’s teeth in threat, and then taking on subtler connotations due to our evolving intelligence and duplicitous nature. To laugh at ANYTHING means that there is inherent cruelty involved. To gear the laughter towards political landmines like obesity, the art is in duping the laughed-AT party into believing that the laughter is in some way BENEFITTING their cause. (It will bring you closer into the fold if you can laugh WITH us AT yourselves; by joking about your lardass, it will be perceived that you are like every other person who can take a joke about their baldness or their bignose or their badass white-fro…) But ultimately, the subliminal tone of these outings is cruel – because in order to laugh in the first place, the subject still has to be perceived as inherently undeserving of our compassion.
Take Frank Oz’s 1997 gay-friendly movie, IN AND OUT as an example: walking a fine line between laughing AT and WITH gay culture, it ultimately ends up laughing AT, due to the final scenes, where the viewer is misdirected into believing that a small-town community has been so indoctrinated to The Gay Way that it will now accept two men marrying each other. But no, we see that the setup has no punchline – and no punch – with the reveal that the wedding is merely for an old heterosexual couple. It matters not that the whole movie seemed to be defending gay culture, the fact that they couldn’t push ahead with an outré conclusion means that everything that came before this denouement meant nothing! The filmmakers’ hands were tied; they would never get release or distribution if they REALLY defended gay marriage. The grandest insult is thus towards gay culture itself. (Let them have their fun with their Know Thyself platitudes; when it comes to advocating marriage rights for them – well, there’s only so far we’ll go for them dirty faggots…)
Likewise, SHALLOW HAL’s grandest insult is ironically, and not surprisingly, aimed at fat people. When two mall-rats insult obese Rosemary and Hal defends her, “If you add up all the women you’ve gone with, they still wouldn’t equal Rosemary!” he is referring to the slim Rosemary HE sees, the metaphysically beautiful person that inhabits the physically fat beast – but in truth, the real Gwyneth Paltrow is unabashedly wallowing in the reality of that statement. And it’s got nothing to do with her metaphysical beauty – it’s plainly and simply her Smokin’ Bod! And she knows it. The Farrellys hired Gwyneth Paltrow to sell tickets by looking hot whilst pretending to be obese. Are we on the lip of outrage yet, fatties?
Rubbing Salt In: Gwyneth Paltrow has made no secret of her venturing out in public whilst wearing the fat suit and how soul-crushing the experience was – for her Big Fat Ego. Waah! – no one made eye contact with me when I was fat – waah! No one helped me with my bags – waah! When I was at the bar, no one talked to me… Oh, cry me a river! It’s fortunate for humanity that she performed this ground-breaking scientific experiment because up till now, no one on earth could’ve known that guys don’t hit on obese chicks! Thank you, Gwyneth Paltrow! Your specious research has proven to me that yes – blond, skinny, rich, famous chicks like you are, in fact, totally worthless whores.
To fully appreciate how shallow SHALLOW HAL is: try shuttling the internet for pictures of Gwyneth Paltrow in the fat suit – you will not find any. (Update Dec 2016: The picture of fat Gwyneth near the top of the page was acquired a painstaking year after posting the article. Social media has gone buck-wild enough that fat Gwyneth pics are now easily accessible, but it took a good decade to reach that stage.)
The high-browed egalitarian concept of this movie cannot exist under the bone-crushing weight of Reality and the “nobility” of the film-makers is demeaned by the species itself, who would rather be hot than not.
You wanna be noble? – be my guest! Take all these “beautiful” fat chicks off my hands and leave me with the “shallow” skinny ones.
Oh, the horror…