Where are the men?

So, grad school (specifically my Masculinity course) has me thinking.  It seems that women are the crux of the FA movement (I too am guilty of perpetuating that trend). This is understandable for reasons that would take another post to explain, but I think we all get the picture. But I/we should not forget that men are also subject to the same expectations and anti-fat rhetoric. It seems, according to the literature I’ve been reading day after day, that physicality has been a defining characteristic of manhood since the founding fathers. Some things never change.

Take sports for example. Athletes fair very well in the income hierarchy. We as a society, economically speaking, value the superb physical strength of athletes even more than teachers. But think about how much less women athletes get paid for the same thing. It just goes to show how significant these physical attributes are for men. Before anyone gets angry, I realize how much dedication and work it takes to be an athlete. I myself was an athlete at one time or another. I have a great amount of respect for people who exemplify the skill and dedication it takes to be the best. But I resent the fact that society places a higher worth on physical strength than the strength people have in between the ears.

The most depressing example of the kind of fat hatred that men must endure occurs in Hollywood. In movies, it’s like fat men are only qualified to play two roles. The first being the comedian. Don’t get me wrong. There are a number of respectable fat funnymen. But there should be just as many leading men. It’s like these men aren’t qualified to play serious roles. Secondly, fat men are relegated to the position of sidekick. Which in theory is a derivative of the comedian, because the sidekick provides comic relief. (Think Superbad, if anyone has seen it). 

I don’t think that anyone should be the subject of ridicule. And although the movie industry would never admit it, I believe that these men are cast for the apparent comedy of their looks as well as their acting ability. This is really unfortunate.

When am I going to get to see that leading man with a little meat on his bones (or a lot). I want a love interest I can wrap my arms all the way around. After all, when I fantasize about my completely fictional but nonetheless entertaining happy ending (Hollywood style), the man there with me is always a big, broad shouldered, no stranger to good home cooking, piece of…well you get the picture.

So, while there are some trailblazers changing what we see on television (Monique, pre slimfast Queen Latifah, and my personal favorite Nikki Blonsky, who is absolutely adorable),where are the leading men that break the trend? Have we really come that far?

20 Responses to “Where are the men?”

  1. 1 magdalen
    May 30, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    John Goodman!

  2. 2 vesta44
    May 30, 2008 at 9:43 pm

    I totally agree. Why can’t John Goodman be a leading man? I think the only fat leading man in a romantic movie that I ever saw was John Belushi in that one about the eagles (I can’t remember the name of it right off hand, but it was set in the Rocky Mountains, he was a reporter chasing a woman who was observing nesting eagles, or something like that). Dom Deluise was another I thought would have been good as a romantic leading man, and Marlon Brando, after he got fat, was still a great actor and could have been a romantic lead. I’m sure there are many more fat actors out there who would be great romantic leads if given half a chance, but they’re stuck playing sidekicks for laughs. It’s a crying shame, for sure.

  3. May 30, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    The Belushi film was Continental Divide.

    And would you count Seth Rogen or Jack Black among fat guys starring in rom-coms? That’s not much, but it’s something. There are no female equivalents of those allowed to be romantic leads on the big screen. Are even fat people supposed to be that skeeved out by their own kind that they don’t want to see fat people (especially women) in love on screen, ever?

  4. 4 Piffle
    May 30, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    Perry Mason/Ironsides had a respectable belly on him after a while (turned out the actor was gay too, cool). And the guy who played The Equalizer also wasn’t slim if not precisely fat either, if I remember correctly. Not that they were romantic leads, but they certainly weren’t funny guy sidekicks either.

    I think I may be showing my age a bit here, they are oldish shows; but hopefully others will remember them too.

    Another show I like is Criminal Minds, and while she isn’t front and center, their geek is a plump lady with a romantic interest and in the last one I saw she was shown coming out of a steamy shower with her boyfriend. Very refreshing! And I like her style too, they put her in wonderful colors and accessories.

  5. May 30, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    Piffle, I think back in the 1960s and 1970s actors and actresses were not uniformly expected to be HOTHOTHOT (meaning young, ultra-slim, hardbodied, perfect WASPy features, flawless thick hair, etc.). I keep thinking of Ed Asner as Lou Grant on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, who was certainly spoken of by several female characters on that show as being someone they’d “do,” and he had a considerable gut, slight palsy on one side of his face, bald head, etc. And would Mary and Rhoda and Phyllis be considered young ‘n’ hawt enough to have a series today?

  6. 6 nuckingfutz
    May 31, 2008 at 5:31 am

    Wait a minute… Raymond Burr was GAY? Oh, my mother’s heart is going to be SOO broken! (She’s always had a thing for him.)

    I totally agree with everything you said. I have another one to add to the list, though. Meatloaf. Okay, I’ll admit, I’ve always had a thing for him anyway, but I think he’s a really good actor too and I’d love to see him play something other than a comedic role (Fight Club) or a bad guy (51st State).

    I think, if anything, large men should have an easier time getting romantic/leading roles than women would. More women (at least in my personal experience) are willing to admit that they like a “big hunk of a man” than men would be. (Again, this is just my personal experience, I’m not trying to put words in anybody’s mouth.) It’s really sad that anybody – women OR men – should have to live up to some irrational media ideal, especially when it’s not what ‘real’ people (i.e. 90% of the world’s population) even WANT.

    Unfortunately it’s that 10% that have all the power and get to make all the rules.

  7. 7 BStu
    May 31, 2008 at 9:24 am

    I’d contend that while fat discrimination against men exists and can be very damaging, it isn’t the same thing that women face. It is easier for a fat men to surpass the limits society defines for him. Getting ahead “despite of” isn’t some major social victory, mind you, but it does mean that many fat men don’t suffer the full brunt of fat women and certainly don’t have the same threshold for discrimination. Indeed, there are a handful of fat leading men and while they’ve usually stuck to comedy many have had opportunities to branch out if they wanted to. And TV is perhaps more fat accepting than movies for men as enough shows have featured a fat husband/thin wife for it seem cliche. And its worth noting someone like John Goodman has long been acknowledged as a sex symbol. While some who acknowledge that do it with no shortage of condesending, its still there. No fat entertain has even gotten close. The mere notion of sexual attraction to a fat starlet is fetishized and marginalized. It helps that there are so startlingly few fat starlets in the first place and most are quickly urged to lose weight and nearly all quickly do so with predictably undependable results.

  8. May 31, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Well, Anthony Anderson is a regular on Law and Order now. He’s no Detective Green, mind you, but I think he does a pretty good job. 🙂

    Are even fat people supposed to be that skeeved out by their own kind that they don’t want to see fat people (especially women) in love on screen, ever?

    You know, Meowser, I’ve been wondering that exact same thing. But it seems to me that since fat folks can be shamed thin 🙄 if we keep them off the silver screen they’ll be more inclined to join their friendly local *insert name of diet center here*. Because their fat will keep them from finding love, naturally.


  9. 9 intellectualfeminist
    May 31, 2008 at 11:49 am

    I suppose my post is showing my young age because I didn’t even think about some of the older shows that I love to watch on Nick at Nite! Considering that information it’s even more depressing. It’s like we’ve gone backwards.

    BStu, as a woman, I realize that fat women endure a greater amount of discrimination than fat men. But I would say this is more about gender than about size. So, if it were possible to rid the situation of male privelege (which it isn’t) I’d say things were about equal.

  10. May 31, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    I have an adverse reaction to six packs on guys. I just hate them. And the lack of a stomach when it’s super tiny really bothers me. It just seems so wrong. But tell any guy that you don’t like six packs or a tummy and they look at you weird and assume you’re lying.

    I think I got a major crush on Daniel Craig as Bond because he was one of the rare shirtless guys in movies that isn’t ripped and super tiny. He’s by no means large but he’s got a nice stomach going on that doesn’t look like he’ll break in two.

  11. May 31, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    I’m trying to think of fat men in dramatic roles. John Goodman comes to mind, for a brief role as the Speaker of the House (and, what would you call it? interim president?) on The West Wing.

    … what else?

  12. 12 Joe
    May 31, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    I am a man and I am pretty sure why, but I don’t think you’ll like my anwser. First, men do accept their fat. A fat man rarely has a complex about his weight and is much more likely wo be happy with himself regardless of it. Many even view their size a manly since they believe that the foods thinner people and women eat are less manly and the fattening foods they eat (meat, beer, etc.) are manly where as vegatbles and such afe not. aslo larger sizer such as monster burgers and massive drinks are manly food as well. Second, I think that the FA arguments about food having nothing to do with fat and fat being genetic, incurable, not having to do with lifestyle really get nowhere with men. My fat friends and myself know we are fat. we don’t mind. we also believe that we are fat because we eat like men and don’t waste our time exercising. We believe that we could be thin if we wanted to but that it would involve living a lifestyle we don’t want to live. We are comfortable with ourselves and don’t need a community to reassure ourselve that we are ok. Also we believe theat we are not descriminated against. We don’t think that stories about people loosing weight constitutes fat hate and we bon’t mind the weight loss industry existing. I conclusion it think thet men like myself see FA as being FAR too extreme and many parts of it beigh outright loony. that combined with the fact that we allready accept ourselves and feel no need to force others to accept ourselvs makes FA almost irrelivant to us. There are VERY few men in FA and even fewer that are actually fat themselves. the only one I can think of is paul at big fat blog and he is not even really that fat. I actually think his motivation for FA comes from his wife.

  13. May 31, 2008 at 9:33 pm

    I always liked Dennis Franz. And I’d do James Gandolfini in a heartbeat. I think you make an excellent point, but the fact is, there are still way more fat men on TV than there are fat women, and that includes on the news. Especially the news. It’s nothing to see a chubby weather guy, but no one would tolerate a chubby weather gal. As BStu said, it is very common to see regular-guy-handsome fat guys (or even plain ones) with gorgeous skinny wives to a degree one does not generally see on a Saturday at the mall.

  14. 14 intellectualfeminist
    May 31, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    Ah Joe. While I do judge you for your failure to proofread I think you illustrate my sentiments on certain subjects quite well. First, yes we do live in a society that centers on gender, and therefore men and women will likely experience all things differently. As a student of gender studies I must say I have the ability to see gender in just about everything, but I have yet to see it in food. The idea of manly foods make me chuckle, a lot. So I suppose my appetite is transgendered because I an a vegan and a lover of beer all at the same time. Fantastic! I am not sure how or why you have managed to simplify the FA movement the way you have. Your propensity for generalization also amuses me to no end. I think the wide scope of the FA movement makes it the exact opposite of extreme, although I must admit the idea of referring to myself as an extreme blogger would be great. Lastly, I am not saying that television is void of fat men. My problem with the media at large is that it is not a reflection of actual society, which makes me question what our values really are. As women, we are constantly reminided of this. I just wanted people to know that men are not exempt from this concept. So, thank you Joe for appointing yourself the representative of men all over the world and pointing to the other side of this issue, but I think I’ll stick to my beliefs instead.

  15. 15 Christel
    June 1, 2008 at 3:59 am

    Interestingly I was first made aware of the FA movement by a man, Daniel Pinkwater.

  16. 16 boots
    June 2, 2008 at 8:14 am

    I can think of three reasons there are not as many men in FA:

    1. Men (especially young men) tend to lose weight faster than women, because they have more muscle mass. So, even if they’re not able to keep weight off, they still believe that weight loss diets work.

    2. In general, men don’t get weight-based discrimination until they get to a much higher BMI.

    3. This was discussed over on BFD I think–if one is looking to insult a woman, they call her fat (even if she’s not). If one is looking to insult a man, they call him gay. “Fat” just isn’t the go-to insult for men.

    That said, I love fat men, and it’s dismaying to see them play villains and cowards so often on TV and in movies.

  17. 17 Miriam Heddy
    June 2, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Intellectualfeminist wrote, “As a student of gender studies I must say I have the ability to see gender in just about everything, but I have yet to see it in food.”

    I’ll just rebut this and say that food is tremendously gendered. “HungryMan” frozen dinners, Campbell’s “Chunky Soup” which is sold to men by football players, and the use of the word “meat” to describe the penis are all ways in which food is gendered.

    An appetite for food and/or sex is an acceptable thing for men, whereas the female appetite is depicted as scary (hence we end up with the vagina dentata–a conflation of horror of female appetite).

    Historically, at least in the West, a man with a fat belly signified wealth. While that’s no longer strictly true, the association lingers.

    Now it’s true that fat men are often relegated to comedic roles, but not exclusively, and they are visible on television and in film, playing all sorts of roles, including men in power (executives, police officers, detectives, mob bosses, etc.) They aren’t often in lead roles, true, but it’s not inconceivable for that to happen, as Jack Black clearly demonstrates.

    Joe’s proofreading and erroneous generalizations about FA aside, he does have a point about the gendered nature of food and the way that men aren’t socially conditioned to revile their own bodies to the extent that women are.

  18. June 2, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    There are a few of us out here. Not many, but as long as the ‘hard heads’ endure there may be hope that this particular intersection can be crossed ; )

    Manly foods? Love chinese, both North Brooklyn and South Italy Italian, Sushi, Creole/Cajun, Texas BBQ, and even greek cuisine, but ‘Manly Foods’? ‘Fraid I’m not familiar with that one. As far as Fat Men having the luxury of writing off the ‘Obesity Crises’ as a non-issue? Yeah, maybe not so much.

    Most men don’t obsess bout diet, weights or exercise. For the most part, because we haven’t had to deal with the overt pressure to do so by the Media . Nobody lives in a bottle. The images presented have SOME effect on everyone, some more than others (Example; In reference to this post, if you’ve found yourself wondering why you don’t see more movies with non-standard Lead Actors [esp; fat ones], the Media HAS effected your thinking). Men, especially older men, have been socialized to ignore ‘looks’ in favor of ability or accomplishment. It’s not what we are or how we look that’s important it’s what we DO. But that is changing. In an age centric, looks driven society, how can it NOT? Anorexia and anorexic behaviors are up amongst teenaged boys. Cosmetic surgery for men is on the rise and the Diet Industry Wants YOU; The vast, virtually untapped, male market just siting out there. Is it any surprise that a lot more diet and exercise concerns are targeting their commercials towards men. And it seems only logical that they’d zero in on a young demographic but ‘Obesity Epidemic’ scare tactics are starting to effect the older generations too. Employers have always used weight and appearance in hiring practices to measure employability, now they’re beginning to consider BMI stats to evaluate employee expenses, and even performance. Remember: It’s not what we are for the older generation, it’s what we DO. Memo to ALL the Fat Men out there; If your not concerned about the ‘Obesity Crises’ rhetoric and what it can do YOU, your not really paying attention.

    As for Fat Folk in the Movies? Well, since my comment was getting a little longish, I decided to Blog it

  19. 19 intellectualfeminist
    June 3, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Thanks you Miriam for offering you insight on the subject. Much appreciated. I suppose I was thinking more along the lines of actual foods as opposed to packaging or advertising, but what you are saying makes a lot of sense and is absolutely right.

  20. 20 Barbara
    January 19, 2010 at 1:20 pm

    I think that, for me personally, it is not a question of whether fat men are allowed to play major roles on film or television…or even that fat men are more eagerly accepted than fat women in the media (that is a discussion for another day and time), it is simply a question of the lack of large men as not just a leading man but a love interest or I dare I say “heart throb”.

    Yes, there are large actors in prominent roles.

    Yes, there is just as much if more discrimination towards large women in the movies as well as everywhere else.

    BUT, I simply want to know why can’t the movie star I am supposed to lust after on screen be the type of man I would lust after in real life…a big handsome man? And why can’t that big handsome man get the girl in the end, no matter what size she may be? The world is full of big handsome men; a great number of which are married, in love, having great sex, and so on. Why won’t the cinematic arts mimic real life.

    So I echo the title of this piece, “Where are the men?” and add my own spin…”Where are the big strong sexy fat men?”

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