Friday, February 19, 2010

Sarah Silverman: Making Fun of Fat Women Isn't Funny

So, Sarah Silverman was interview on CNN the other day and they asked her what category of jokes strikes her as offensive and unfair. She said:

"I don't really care for like fat jokes about women, specifically," she said.

"Because I feel that we live in a society where fat men deserve love, and fat women do not deserve love -- at least in white America. And so I feel like that's an ugly thing, and it doesn't make me laugh."

One thing that hit me about her answer was that she was trying to be culturally aware and own that she speaks for "white America" and not "American comedy" in general. This is good, to be aware that just because you are part of a dominate group, that's groups aesthetics and assumptions are not universal. Yet, I also think that when I see most fat jokes aimed toward women, they are women of color and that's not particularly funny either. If Tyler Perry or Edie Murphy is dressing like an fat black woman and making fun of her specifically because of some kind of fat black woman, ball busting stereotype (thinking back to Eddie Murphy's farting fat family in The Nutty Professor that was pretty unfunny and hateful), that's not funny--to the fat men and women, but especially the women.

I think that you rarely see depictions of fat white women as gross or crude; usually they are the best friend--often perky, like Gilmore Girls' Sookie. Gilmore Girls actually gave Sookie in the course of the show a husband and she went on to have three kids (all pregnancies depicted in the course of the seven year show). She had a rich life. This is rare for fat women on TV. Some of the WB's earlier fair showed positive black women of size and Monique has been both funny and fat, but that's because the jokes weren't on her, she made them. Among white-focused TV (read, mainstream) you have fat husbands and skinny wives, with the exception of Roseanne.

I think that Sarah is right, that fat jokes aimed at women in particular are not funny, but I don't think that its just a white community thing. Its especially unfunny when a skinny person dresses up like a fat person (see Perry and Murphy) and then depicts said fat person, man or woman, as an out of control slob and glutton. Tom Cruise also did this in Tropic Thunder.

When a fat person, however, puts it out there, particularly like Monique in a thoughtful, but funny way and talks about weight and body image, that's a whole different bag of party tricks (and certainly not what Silverman is referring to). Fat-drag is just mean spiritedness dressed up. So, reader, what are your thoughts on the matter?


  1. Well I think in black comedy, the super negative jokes are on skinny women. Any skinny women in black comedy is a 'crack head' . They don't even get a chance to have an eating disorder. Automatically the joke if you are skinny and black you are a crack head.

    Secondly, I belive the fat black women drag is mostly to desexualize the character.

    Only John Travolta in the newest Hairspray got a romantic drag scene.

  2. Desexualize the woman character? Or, the male-actor? Or, both in some way?

  3. Well many times the overweight fat women being protrayed is a mother- no- sexy figure

    Tyler Perry- Madea
    Martin Lawrence- Big Mama of Big Mama's House
    Eddie Murphy - mother Norbit
    John Goodman - Linda Tripp

    Most of the oversexed drag queens where on the thiner side
    Marin Lawerence - Sha Na Na
    Jamie Fox - Wanda

    The only big and sexy - Eddie Murphy Rasputia