Ranked as the world’s fattest country for several years, it is shocking to realize that obesity continues to reside in clandestine conversations throughout the United States surfacing to a public debate at the pace of cicada emergences. With such poor discussion on a serious topic, it is a necessity to create something that will catch society’s attention not only in America, but globally as obesity is a problem faced by millions of people in every country. Let’s Get Fat is an American comedy that fights the social stigma surrounding overweight actresses in Hollywood and the general mistreatment of those struggling with weight problems. The film follows Michael, a narcissistic yet likeable beefcake vlogger, as he attempts to teach the overweight people in his online community how easy one can get into shape through example. His goal? To reach three hundred pounds then lose all non-essential weight within three months with rigorous exercise and strict dieting. During his anti-diet he meets Jen, a plus-sized model and part time actress who teaches him that it’s okay not to conform to society’s expectations of weight. It is rare that a comedy will offer a genuine message of support in this topic as most comedies use heavyset actors and actresses more as a source of humor, their weight often being the butt of many jokes. In this film, the weight of the actors would be used as an advantage and not as the source of fat jokes; it would play off the stereotypical overweight tropes being as how “weight has traditionally been comic fodder by those who wield it” much like Jim Belushi and Chris Farley (Shone). This film seeks to achieve the improbable and make a lasting impression through the use of humor. If this film is green lit, it would help bring about the normalizing of overweight body types, let others see things from a different perspective, and it could bring the obesity problem a bit closer to being resolved.
To begin, it is important to know the more intimate details of the story in order to better understand the concept of what this film is attempting to accomplish. As stated above, Michael is obsessed with sculpting the perfect body. Ever since he visited the Louvre as a young boy, he began having erotic dreams involving Michelangelo’s David and body oil. From then on, he knew he would become a body-builder, as that would make more sense than him being homosexual, such a manly man like himself. This, compounded with the death of his father at the hands of diabetes and a gunshot to the head, led him to strive for a healthier, thinner America. In order to fulfill this pubescent dream, he developed strength in his front core, his back core and his mind core. With this core strength, he took it upon himself to start a video blog titled Let’s Get Fat where he would teach those with belly rolls to become lean and mean much like a fighting machine. While on one of his many eating escapades at the Los Angeles county fair, in order to gain his three hundred pounds, by happenstance, he meets a fellow deep-fried food enthusiast and aspiring actress named Jen. As the conversation progresses, he discovers his infatuation with her and also that she is a part-time model for Torrid, a women’s plus-size clothing franchise. He is determinedly convinced that she should change her ways as he sees the potential in her to become fit and the necessary attractive level for her to become a well-known actress in the business. Meanwhile, Jen believes Michael is a better person as a big fat dynamo than his previously yoked out self. The reason she believes this is due to the fact that she comes from a family who struggled with bulimia, anorexia, and cankles. This childhood trauma is what led to her dislike of the stick figure body image perpetrated by Hollywood and drove her to want to be known as an atypical actress in the film world. Jen and Michael’s odd couple relationship is what attracts and polarizes the two throughout the film, and in the end, halfway through Michael’s weight loss, he comes to realize that body image is unique to every individual and should not be governed by any one person. With the love and support of Jen, he chooses to remain husky and model for Big & Tall, a life he finds much more rewarding and easy going, which also gives him the time to support Jen as she pursues her slowly progressing career in the film industry. In a sense, Let’s Get Fat is like Silver Linings Playbook meets Super Size Me with a touch of a bladder problem in that it feels so good to let it out.
Having a topic such as obesity and the relationship with beefcakes, it is only fitting that the primary setting for the film takes place in Venice Beach, also known as Muscle Beach. Secondary locations include Winter Haven, Florida as the backdrop for Michael’s childhood scenes, and also Beverly Hills as the locale for Jen’s upbringing. Now for the casting choices, Michael would best be played by Jim Carrey as he is a veteran comedic actor with instant box office draw. Carrey has the necessary acting range as we’ve seen in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone that he can believably pull off having a fit body, and also, he pairs well in romantic comedies as we’ve seen in Yes Man. As for the role of Jen, Melissa McCarthy would be the go-to choice for the part. She too has demonstrated her ability to use her weight as an advantage and has an instant likeability factor, the kind necessary for this peculiar rom com.
This film is a neo-traditional romantic comedy as it is not your typical boy meets girl routine. Instead of attempting to make one another fall in love with each other, Michael and Jen are constantly wanting to change each other’s appearance to suit their personal beliefs and imposing their worldview and norms rather than a relationship. Let’s Get Fat is a film that changes the discourse of the average romantic comedy due to its self-referential nature. Not only will it make the audience laugh, but it also carries a message that will stick with them after they’ve left the theater. This message is one of tolerance, acceptance, and the ability to see past one’s exterior and see the true self that lies beneath the façade that is one’s appearance. Specifically, this message is intended to help those struggling with body issues to feel okay with themselves and to realize that there are different body types and that no one specific shape is better than the other. This message is necessary and relevant in this modern age in order to offset the imposing nature of reality and daytime TV and its use of unrealistic images of the ideal body type especially for women, because “when idealized female images are exposed subtly…it gets under our skin without us realizing and we end up feeling bad about ourselves” (Krupnick). Going against the idealized female trope, the film will effectively cause society to reexamine the way they see themselves and how they relate to popular culture in the sense that it will help spread awareness of the stigma surrounding overweight actors in Hollywood and therefore be one step closer to rising above the powers that be much like the street toughs in West Side Story recognized the flaws in the judicial system and were therefore able to have power over it. By having stars like Melissa McCarthy challenge the stereotypes of overweight actresses, and calling attention to it in a self-referential way, the film industry “rife with painfully thin stick figures, are finally seeing women with some meat on their bones rising to the top once again” (Millea).
To normalize a body type that is deemed to be unnatural or unhealthy is difficult to say the least, but it can be done with positive reinforcement such as in this film. If given the go ahead to begin production, then positive social change can begin with the introduction of this neo-traditional romantic comedy. It takes the perspective of the opposing side, the minority, to truly know how it feels to be frowned upon and be given scorn by the majority of the country. Unfortunately, it is not the public’s fault for deeming overweight plus-sizes as being unhealthy, it is the media’s pernicious persistence of shoving the ideal body image through LED screens and printed signs across a wide array of formats. As Barker states, “Slenderness and a concern with dieting and self-monitoring are preoccupations of western media culture, with its interest in a tighter, smother, more constrained body profile” (Barker, 320). This need and desire for that perfect, tight, zero body fat figure is causing those without said characteristics to feel as if there is something deeply wrong with them. But by having one form of media that has wide commercial appeal and broad release such as this film, the minority will soon have a platform, and consequently, the ability to change what has long been the norm and bring about true social reform.
Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: SAGE, 2012. Print.
Krupnick, Ellie. “Women’s Self-Esteem Affected By Idealized Female Images… But Not In The Way You Think.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.
Millea, Holly. “Why Fat Is Back in Hollywood.” Details. Conde Naste, 13 July 2006. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.
Shone, Tom. “Is Obesity a Laughing Matter?” The Guardian. Guardian News, 28 June 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.