Thursday, June 19, 2008

Obese Torso: The Obesity Epidemic as Social Protest

Today's Mental Image from a couple of days ago was OBESE TORSO. Ortho's comment was: "The new revolutionary aesthetic!"

This plucked a synaptic cord for me. I realized that we've got this "obesity epidemic" narrative all wrong. It is not lack of self-control or laziness or moral failure or even genetic predisposition. The obesity epidemic in America is actually a subconscious socio-political protest against consumerism and the force feeding of the supermodel image over the past few decades through all forms of media. I hadn't thought of it this way before, but this makes sense; in fact, it is brilliant. Obesity is heroic self sacrifice, giving oneself up for the good of fellow human beings. It is a slower, more patient form of lying down in front of a tank or burning oneself to death in public. We don't realize it yet as a culture, and we certainly don't accept it yet, but the obese are saving our self-image. I think we owe the obese (anyone with an extra ten or more pounds) an apology, and perhaps an ovation, for their courage to challenge the Barbie doll body type to the very deadly end. Obesity is the "new revolutionary aesthetic", indeed. Unfortunately, once mainstream culture catches on to the obesity movement, the obese will be herded into fenced-off areas just like every other protest group.

Viva la Obesity Revolución!


Update: I knew I couldn't be the first one to recognize the theoretical framework underneath the brazenly large American physique. Ortho, whose comment inspired this post, actually posted about the Fat Man Rebellion almost a year ago. I sense scholarly essays and articles on the increasingly rotund horizon.


Ortho said...

I like the ideas embedded in this post. Maybe you could pursue them further in a short article.

My post on the subject may help to act as another inspirational springboard:

Interestingly, the post gets a lot of google hits from people searching for "chubs" and "naked fat men." It seems the revolutionary vanguard is already active in cyberspace.

Josh Maday said...

Hey, Ortho, thanks for the link. I just read your post about the Fat Man Revolutionaries. This is amazing. I knew I wasn't the first one to think of this, but it's crazy how much my post echoes yours, and I'd never read yours until now. Ha! Awesome. Just awesome.

Hey, maybe we could collaborate a la Deleuze & Guattari. We could call it A Thousand Fat Joes. Eh? I imagine we'll have to do rock, paper, scissor to see who has to be Guattari.

Ortho said...

This might be a big project for the both of us.

Your proposed title flows nicely.

We will have to flip a coin, a virtual coin, to determine who gets to be Guattari.

Adam R. said...

Do it.

Helen Cerys said...

Thought you might be amused to find out that I found your blog whilst doing some research for an essay on 'The Revolutionary Potential of the Obese Body'.
ie. I thought of a ridiculous way of presenting Deleuze and Guattari's concepts as I really cannot stand them.

Im gutted I cant just call my essay 'A Thousand Fat Joes' now!

Josh Maday said...

I'm glad you found my blog, Helen; and I'm excited about your essay. You can absolutely title your essay "A Thousand Fat Joes", that would be great! I would really like to read your essay when you finish. If you don't mind (and if you remember), please email me a copy: joshmaday [at]

Helen Cerys said...

No problems Josh, I will have it finished by the start of January. Unfortunately, I have to follow the set question for the topic, Ill see if I can sneak in a 'A Thousand Fat Joes' reference somewhere!

Josh Maday said...

Thanks, Helen. I'm very excited to read this essay. I wish you the best with your work on it. Sorry to pry, but is the essay for a class or a publication of some sort? Just curious. Can't wait!

Helen Cerys said...

Im studying for a Masters in Critical Theory and the essay will be for my Deleuze module. It's doubtful that id get published as a lowly masters student, but it's helping me prepare for my PhD which will be in a similar area of research. So who knows, maybe one day my ideas will eventually be published!

Josh Maday said...

That sounds excellent, Helen. I wish there were more outlets for work like you're doing, sort of like literary magazines for theory/ideas (that don't require a PhD to be qualified to think/write about something). Good luck with the Masters and the PhD. I hope to see your work published, too!

Hey, do you have any idea why philosophy texts are so bloody expensive? I've been wanting to get a book by Leslie Hill about Blanchot, Bataille, and Klossowski, but I've not seen it for less than $170 anywhere. Demand? Maybe they're categorized as textbooks and therefore carry the massive price tag, too? Sorry to whine. Just curious if you have any ideas.

Helen Cerys said...

Im in the UK, just checked and it's £65.55. The equivalent to about $120? Maybe try buying it from the UK site and getting it shipped over, if that's possible. £65.55 is still very expensive though! Im guessing youre paying extra for the cardboard in the hardback?!

Josh Maday said...

Thanks for checking, Helen. Yeah, $120 is a bit steep. Another book I'd been wanting, Fragmentary Futures by Daniel Watt, was going for up to $500 at one point, and now I see that it is available through Amazon UK for $40 or so. I found that it's also available at for download ($13) and as a print on demand title for $24. I'm not sure, maybe these books are prices with university libraries in mind. That's some expensive cardboard!