Fatty Bechdel Test

We know that Hollywood, Bollywood, and other major producers of film and television routinely disinclude people of size.

I was watching the latest Bechdel Test update from Feminist Frequency when I thought –

– why isn’t there a Fatty Bechdel Test?

For those who don’t know, the Bechdel Test was named for Alison Bechdel, who drew the strip that popularized it. In order for a film/show/book to pass the test, it must meet the following criteria:

  1. There are at least two women, who have names
  2. The women speak about something other than a man (or men).

If you’ve never tried it out, you’ll be amazed at how few films pass this test.

Why couldn’t we have a Fatty Bechdel Test, testing movies/shows/books for representing fat (or even non-thin) people as people and not just a trope?

One reason might be that a Fatty Bechdel Test is unnecessary. It’s glaringly obvious there’s a problem with representing all but the thinnest people in most mainstream media. Sadly, it’s also obvious that while I think the lack of representation of women in movies and television is acknowledged and respected by most intellectuals and media critics, those same intellectuals and critics don’t necessarily think it’s a problem that, while fat(ter) people make up more than 60% of many Western movie-making populations, we are virtually invisible in movies and on television. I’ve heard more than one apologist sputter, “Well, films/magazines/shows are aspirational!” — like fat people are some gutter to climb out on a quest to reach the thin person on the glowy altar.

Despite all that…I’m wondering what a Fatty Bechdel Test might look like.

I’m not sure if the “more than two people of X category who talk to each other about something other than Y” would work, because that’s not really how people of size are marginalized in films. I might amend the test as follows:

Fatty Bechdel Test 

  1. There is a fat person in the film with a name, who speaks.
  2. This person’s size is never brought up, as such OR is if brought up is mentioned in a neutral/positive way at least once.

What do you think? Do you have a better suggestion, or an additional point? Also, which films pass this test?

Unpacking the Fat: People Like Me

1. People like me get thrown off flights, especially if they’re too full, and asked to pay double for the privilege of waiting for the next one.

2. People like me can’t shop in most malls. We get strange looks and downright condescension if we go into certain stores.

3. I can’t turn on the TV and expect to see someone like me, in general. If I do, then that person is almost always being portrayed as something broken to be fixed, or otherwise in a negative light.

4. When I see people like me talked about in the news, it’s about how horrible people like me are, and what is the best way to get rid of people like me.

5. If I go to an adoption agency I will be told that people like me shouldn’t be parents.

6. If I go to an infertility clinic I will be told that people like me shouldn’t be parents.

7. If my child is someone like me (which they have a good chance of being) I will be told I shouldn’t be a parent. My child might even get taken away from me.

8. I can’t open a magazine and expect to see people like me. However I can expect to see ad after ad for products on how to prevent becoming like me, or how to ‘fix’ someone like me.

9. If I ride the subway/bus, I get dirty looks. People don’t think someone like me deserves to sit. If I stand, they tell me that I’m in the way of everyone else.

10. If I take a walk down the street in a populated area I can expect to be told how horrible I am from passing cars, pedestrians, people in shops — anyone I meet. I might even get things thrown at me, like garbage.

11. If I go to the gym I can expect to get talked down to, and treated like the reason I’m there is to ‘fix’ myself from being so broken and horrible.

12. If I drive my car instead of walk it’s taken as proof of why people like me are horrible. If I don’t go to a public gym it’s taken as proof of why people like me are so horrible.

13. There is big money for people who are trying to eliminate  people like me. They especially want to eliminate children who are like me. Most other people, even some people like me, think this is a wonderful thing. They hail an ‘enlightened’ future world that no longer has people like me in it.

14. People like me are blamed for the broken healthcare system.

15. People like me are blamed for global warming.

16. People like me are told that we can’t do certain things, and when we do, we’re told that we’re the exception that proves the rule.

17. I pay three times as much as what other people do for clothes, and it’s often much worse quality, style, fit, and selection. Clothes for people like me are segregated in stores and online, if they are available at all.

18. With some regularity the media debates on morning and news shows if people like me should exist, and how best to get rid of us if not.

19. People like me aren’t in trendy establishments. We are either barred from going, or the place can’t accommodate us, or we get condescended to and pressured to leave as soon as we walk through the door.

20. I can wear the same style and cut of clothing as someone who is not like me, and told that while it is perfectly decent on her, it is indecent on me.

21. People like me are told that we shouldn’t leave the house because of how awful we are, but that we are so awful because we never leave the house.

22. People like me are denied life-saving surgeries and the opportunity to donate organs unless we change.

23. My friends and family think it’s their duty to tell me how horrible I am, and how I should change.

24. People like me are told that we are stupid, lazy, immoral, and broken with regularity. I can expect to hear this several times a day.

25. People like me are never the heroes of books or movies. We are usually cast as the villain.

26. People like me have a harder time getting hired. Employers believe that people like me aren’t good representatives of their company, regardless of our skills, work ethic, experience, or talent. People like me are much less likely to appear in employee circulars and marketing materials. There are even workplace groups and contests where people like me are rewarded for altering themselves, and people who aren’t like me are rewarded for not being like me.

27. People like me are told that we aren’t as intelligent as other people. We are told that it is impossible for us to be economists, health care workers, or honest debaters.

28. People like me are told that we are the worst witnesses to our own experience. We are called liars if we relay experiences that do not hold true to what mainstream culture says about people like me. People who call us liars aren’t just our enemies – they are doctors, nurses, teachers, and our own family.

29. For people like me, social events like family gatherings and class reunions are often battlefields.

30. There is a whole month of the year dedicated to eliminating or preventing people like me. It’s called “Resolution Season” and is widely viewed as a positive and constructive, rather than negative and destructive, phenomenon. During this time of the year it’s nearly impossible to watch television, open a newspaper/magazine, read online media, or walk down a city street without being reminded that people like me are undesirable.

31. Many Western countries have publicly funded campaigns which claim people like me are a problem to be rid of.

32. The very existence of people like me is called one of the top problems of our modern age.

DISCLAIMER: Not complete, nor in any particular order. A list like this is always a work in progress. I might edit to add more later. Feel free to add your own in the comments, and I might add them to the list. Thanks to the authors of the many privilege-unpacking lists I’ve seen in my time.

EDIT (2/9/12): Added #26 – #31.