Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Anorexia Pride?

Bizarro appears before you today courtesy of Contraceptive Lingerie.

When this cartoon appeared in the paper I got an email from a reader asking me why I don't like fat people. I get this kind of mail every time I do a joke about weight, usually from a person who claims that they eat right and exercise but are simply genetically predisposed to be large.

I am well aware that this kind of person exists and on the rare occasion when I make a fat joke, I am not poking fun at those kinds of people. In this case, however, I am not poking fun at fat people of any sort. This is simply a bit of word play: What kind of food would they serve in Heaven? Soul food, of course. If a soul eats too much of it...

So my sincere apologies to any readers who thought this was a cheap shot at large people. It was not, but I can see how it could be interpreted that way.

One objection I have to the "I eat right and exercise but I'm genetically disadvantaged" position is that obesity, especially among children, is epidemic in the U.S. and the "genetic defense" is far too often used completely erroneously. For the vast majority of people, eating right and exercising are plenty enough to keep them within the realm of what was a normal-sized American 40 years ago. But these days, a "normal-sized" person in the U.S. is someone who is under six feet tall and for whom anything smaller than an XL T-shirt is too tight. It's very difficult to even find a Medium T-shirt being sold at a public event where shirts are for sale. Vendors bring L, XL, XXL, and XXXL, because that's what sells. (And the majority of these shirts are not being sold to young men who are going for the baggy fashion thing.) This sea change in a couple of generation's time isn't a medical mystery. The simple fact is that as a society, Americans are sedentary, eat garbage, and way too much of it.

Class picture, 1970........ Class picture, 2008

The complaints many have about the fashion industry selling rail-thin girls as an ideal are warranted, to be sure. Being underweight is as dangerous as obesity. But I believe the movement to accept obesity as a natural or healthy state for more than a tiny percentage of the population is equally wrong. The added stress this puts on our already crumbling health care system is reason enough to fight this epidemic, especially among children. I'm not advocating discrimination against overweight people any more than I advocate discrimination against LGBTs or Muslims. But to my mind, being proud of obesity isn't much different from being proud of anorexia. It's just a more mainstream condition.

Just my two-cents worth, as usual. Sorry if I offended anyone and hope you got a smile out of the cartoon.


E said...

Right on, Dan. I had a friend from Denmark visit and he could not believe how many obese people he saw--and this was when I was still living in a California college town.

The bottom line is that a lot of folks are no longer capable or willing to be accountable for their own actions and I fear it's getting worse. Living in OK has been a tad shocking at times; the overall public health here is simply appalling.

Speaking of too much soul food, have you seen Aretha Franklin lately? Good grief.

birdfeed said...

I love you man, you pretty much speak for me on a daily basis.
These are my thoughts exactly.

Unknown said...

I completely agree with everything you said. The vast majority of people who are overweight are capable of becoming less overweight than they currently are. No, it isn't easy, but it's possible. And yes, you should be proud and self-confident no matter what shape you are, but you should also recognize that improvement is not only possible, it's good for you. Having self-confidence doesn't mean you overlook your faults and failures, it simply means that you accept them and work to fix them without getting depressed over it.

Anonymous said...

I just had to comment because I posted a rant on my blog about this very subject the other day. I agree with you wholeheartedly and it's a shame that the climate we're in makes us feel that we need to apologize for such things.

C'mon folks, there's the real world and there's the cartoon world. Sheesh!

BTW, I thought the cartoon was great!



PS...I am going to update my post and add a link to yours.

ojeano said...

Don't back off the joke: it's good. Eating lots of fatty food brings about premature death, and lots of pain in the meantime.

I understand addiction is a horrible thing, but pretending it doesn't exist is not helping.

Fat people are just gonna have to take their lumps. Please.

Prospero said...

Not offended, but interested. Knowing you are a thin guy, you should know that the genetic predisposition thing is true. As a "larger" guy, I can attest that I am built exactly like my maternal Grandfather and mother, while my sister is built like our paternal Grandfather and father. We grew up eating the same foods in the same and have always been this way.

Claire said...

Well-said, Dan! If you and your parents and grandparents are all larger people, that's one thing, but that still isn't an excuse not to take care of your body any more than it is to only eat crap because you're genetically predisposed to having a really fast metabolism. Thanks for the insight and the great comics as always.

Shawn said...

yeah you are riding the line here. Your cartoon implies that the overweight character is answering the question "Why are you so fat?" What person would like being put in a position of having to defend themselves? But your character answers in fine form with good humor. So it is redeemed.

I think what most overweight people hate is the shaming part. Society implicitly shames them by constantly reminding them that they are not acceptable the way they are. So in that context, your cartoon just carries on in that tradition, however mildly. And I could tell that you didn't mean any harm from it. I'm just sayin'.

When an overweight person is portrayed by one or more of their many other attributes, and not by solely by their size -- that's when it's respectfully done.

Btw, loved the weight loss long johns.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of t-shirts, did you ever notice that you can find a 6X in Harley shops? How do they ever stay on those bikes? Hmmmm good cartoon to bring up more controversy! Love your iPhone App!

RaleighRob said...

Totally agree with you here! Great post, and great comic too!

Oh--You think it's hard to find shirts in Medium? Try Small!! And I mean a real small, not what they sell at Target or Old Navy where it's really a medium in disguise.
Thank god my town's about to get an H&M...the Europeans are the only ones who actually know what a Small is, anymore.

tommy said...

You may want to check your direct links to images before posting, because I don't think the "L, XL, XXL, and XXXL" link was meant to show a crotch shot with "403 forbidden" written on the panties. The joys of hot-linking. :)

I don't always get the word jokes (English not being my first language), but I thought this was funny.

June said...

You are right again, Dan, even if some might think you insensitive and socially incorrect. I'm a former 268 pounder (my all time prime). Then I discovered the secret--I ate too much for my metabolism. Duh. I now weigh a bit over half that and that is an incredible life expanding (instead of butt expanding) condition. The other part of the secret is I quit eating meat, fried foods, and haven't drank a soda for 40 years.

E said...

Both the Mrs. and I have problems finding off-the-rack clothes that fit properly. I've learned that a good tailor is *key* to clothes that fit properly.

As far as t-shirts go, I always have to get a men's small, and I've even resorted to boys' XL for a couple of sports t-shirts. The American Apparel t-shirts are perfect, BTW, if you're in the market for a shirt for slender guys.

WalterSchmalter said...

I'm thin, but my soul is fat. In heaven I'll probably die of congestive heart failure and be sent back to Earth.

Anonymous said...

There's no reason to defend fat people. Some folks just like to eat (and some like to smoke, others drink, some chew on a cigar 'cause they think its 'classy'... o sorry about the last one)

Anonymous said...

they should do a study take away the tv remote and the microwave people would be thinner .

Oskar said...

Speaking as a larger guy (large, not morbidly obese), the issue isn't as simple as you make it out to be.

I was the kind of kid that didn't have a whole lot of friends when I was growing up (not because I was a depressed loner, but because I'm just a little more introverted than the norm), so I wasn't out playing sports every day. I wasn't any good at it, and I didn't like it. I preferred staying in and reading and being by myself. That lead me to be larger than average, but I don't think it was such a bad bargain. I became very smart, I got in to great schools, and I studied a lot and got myself a well-paying job that I love. And you know what, if I could do it again, I probably would do the same thing.

Not to say I haven't struggled with my weight; I have, I think every large person has. I would diet really hard, lose a lot of weight, and it made me miserable (I was hungry all the time, and it never came naturally to me), and I would just regain it again. After going through that many times, I realized that it didn't make me either happier or healthier. I realized that the only way I could accomplish both those things was to accept that I am a large guy, and I'm always going to be one, and to work on my health within those parameters. So when you say that it's wrong to accept obesity as a normal state is wrong, I disagree. I think that for many people like me, learning to accept who you are is actually the only way to get healthy.

I don't really buy the genetic predisposition either. I think it's much more about behaviors you learn as a child regarding health, but that doesn't mean it's any easier to "fix". That shit sticks with you.

That's not to say that Americas culture of eating garbage and watching TV isn't terrible, clearly it is. But it's extremely aggravating to hear a naturally thin guy like yourself lecture us big guys on obesity. Because frankly, you don't know what the hell you are talking about.

Jeff Pollet said...

Love your cartoons, love the art. Will keep reading this blog no matter how many hairbrained opinions you opine; hey, some of your hairbrained opinions are also *my* hairbrained opinions (atheism, for instance).

And yet, you're as woefully under-informed on this topic as you are on the dangers of second-hand smoke. Obesity is a hugely complex topic. Just to start all y'all off, you might check out the fact that weight gain isn't just (partly) genetic--it's also recently discovered that it's epigenetic, which can help explain some of the progression toward fatness in the US and elsewhere:

Overweight mothers give birth to offspring who become even heavier, resulting in amplification of obesity across generations, said Baylor College of Medicine researchers in Houston who found that chemical changes in the ways genes are expressed – a phenomenon called epigenetics -- could affect successive generations of mice.

But that's just the tip of the complexity iceberg.

There are lots of reasons to exercise and eat healthily--doesn't mean anybody needs to morally disparage fat folks (the whole "they're just weak-willed!" train of thoughts through the comments is pretty sickening), and this includes fat folks in the picture you linked to, who are simply asking that their rights be upheld.

Also, the whole thing about "I'm not making fun of the healthy fat people, just the unhealthy ones," is pretty silly--if you drew a racist cartoon about an african-american person, and you said, "Hey! I'm not talking about *most* black people, just those fried-chicken-and-watermelon-eating ones!" you'd hardly think that was defensible, right?

Unknown said...

I had the distinct pleasure of managing a convenience store in the late 1990s. When I quit we sold fountain soft drinks in Small, Medium and Large. Three years later I returned for a visit and found that the Small & Medium had been retired. The Large was now the Small. Medium and Large were humongous. An XL cup was added to the mix which was downright swimmingpoolish.

Humans naturally reach for medium. It makes us feel moderate in our choices.

Television programs like the biggest loser, Hummers, and supersize offerings at fast-food restaurants are succeeding in expanding the extremes. It gives us something to point to and say, "Well at least I am not THAT big."

You are reintroducing sanity into my day with your fatoons. As an act of civil disobedience I vow to cut out these fatoons when they appear and past them on the next soda machine and Hummer I see.

Hulabaloo to you.

qka said...

This cartoon by another artist has forever changed how I look at soda pop: