Monday, September 12, 2011

Stern on Sidibe: Obesity, Discrimination and Political Incorrectness

"Am I pointing out something that no one else recognizes?"
Howard Stern came under fire not long ago for commenting on Academy Award nominated actress Gabourey Sidibe's morbid obesity. He commented that it is not healthy to be so overweight and that it greatly limits the opportunities of a talented young actress. For this, Stern was vilified by everyone from the NAAFA to daytime talk show touchy-feelies, criticized as heartless and cruel and more or less denounced as Satan incarnate.

Stern was not contrite and had the following to say:

It's easy to demonize me because I'm the guy who says what everyone is thinking. Everyone didn't sit there and say "She looks terrific." They sat at home watching the TV and said "My God, that poor girl, it's disturbing!"...Don't blame me for saying it. Name a movie where the lead woman was a morbidly obese person. And where that person went on to have a career?

Motivational speaker Susan Powter, former host of Stop the Insanity!, was one of the only people who came to Stern's defense. Powter argued Stern is one of the only people that does care and took the time to explicitly say what even Stern wouldn't, a resounding "Fuck you" to the NAAFA. Of equal emphasis was Powter's advice for Sidibe herself.

There is nothing empowering about internally suffocating...wake the fuck up, would you?...Howard Stern is right. Gabby, I'm right, you need to listen to this. [NAAFA], you are so completely wrong, so completely irresponsible, so completely not telling the truth in any way.

False Concern and Condescension
I find myself in agreement with Powter. While no one ever accused Stern of being the world's most tactful soul, his point is a cogent one—obesity is not beautiful. I am all for self acceptance, and more to the point, very critical of the size zero trend sweeping Hollywood starlets. In a way, Sidibe's success is a huge step towards substance (talent) over style (anorexic chic). But striking a blow in the name of anti-lookism only goes so far. It is okay to be overweight assuming you give a damn to do something about it. I am all for living in a pluralistic world. But when people start saying "Hey, just stay morbidly obese and die, it's what's inside that counts" that is when I raise a perturbed eyebrow. Their message is well intentioned but incredibly stupid.

There is nothing more empowering than self acceptance. Robert Wynia said it best, "Don't just sit back and feel pathetic. Love who you are." But is obesity an outward display of esteem for oneself? I don't think The View should preach self acceptance of morbid obesity any more than self acceptance of heroin addiction. "Love yourself enough to stop killing yourself" is the crux of Stern's argument. I abhor the false dichotomy of Goldberg et al.s "yeah, sister!"-ing; accepting one's faults as a human is not synonymous with abandoning all hope for wellness.

On a more venomous note, is it just me or is Whoopi Goldberg a complete dullard? For some reason I used to think this woman was intelligent but her contrarian predilection towards engaging in polemic apologetics for its own sake is rather off putting, to say the least. I am referring specifically to her insistence that Roman Polanski's drugging and sodomizing a 13 year old girl wasn't "rape-rape." Do we really want to live in a completely politically correct world? One where we can't call rapists rapists, obesity obesity and Goldberg a complete fucking idiot?

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