I was inspired by a post I read by out gay actor Wentworth Miller last month, in which he broke down the things that were going on in his personal life at the time a photo was snapped of him that showed some weight gain. The photo was later turned into a cruel meme. He revealed in his powerful letter that he had been suicidal at the time the photo was taken. It is a visceral, emotionally raw piece of writing, and it is well worth a read.
A few weeks later, I saw another fat-shaming meme, but this time aimed specifically at the gay community. It featured young heartthrob Taylor Lautner from the Twilight Series. It shows a young and very fit Taylor on one side under the heading “Single Gay”, then the post-weight-gain Taylor on the right under the heading “Taken Gay”. The implication, of course, is that people take care of themselves and look “good” when they are looking for a mate, but once they pair off, they let themselves go.
I reacted negatively to this meme, but I dismissed it as silly, and I saw it only in passing–none of my friends had posted it or shared it. Today, however, I ran into an updated version that an actual friend had shared on Facebook. The “Single Vs Taken” heading was gone, this time replaced by “When Twilight is finally over and so is your career”. In addition to the change in heading, an additional visual pun was added in the form of a fierce looking CGI wolf, compared to a very fat dog.
This led to an exchange where I expressed surprise that my friend was stooping to fat-shaming, and a discussion that led me to understand that my friend thought my objection was because I didn’t know that the guy in the pic was Taylor Lautner from Twilight. I had actually been sort of puzzling this over in my mind, but the discussion clarified it for me: Is it possible that some people understand why fat-shaming someone like Wentworth Miller is wrong (because he is a well-respected actor and writer/director, and a valued member of the gay community), but they dismiss it when it is someone like Taylor Lautner because he is less respected, due to his stature as an actor and/or his association with the much-scorned Twilight series? Perhaps because he is young? Twink-ish?
In the case of Wentworth Miller, he spoke up for himself. The Lad Bible, the website that actually produced the cruel meme, took it down and issued a formal apology to Mr. Miller. I was not able to find any reaction from Mr. Lautner regarding the meme in which he is featured. The second meme, which hinges on his career being “over”, is also inaccurate: Mr. Lautner reportedly gained the extra weight that is revealed in his recent photos for a role in a movie. Extreme weight gain and loss in the service of a role is the province of serious actors (see Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull, Tom Hanks in Castaway, or Christian Bale in The Machinist). Perhaps the weight gained by Mr. Lautner is his stab at being considered a serious actor. Yet, due to his association with something frivolous and even girly like Twilight, many of his fans (and detractors), assume that the fact that he has gained some weight means that he must now be unemployable.
My take on the whole thing is this: It is not OK to fat-shame someone, no matter who they are. Whether they are young or old, serious or goofy, Well-respected or maligned, fat-shaming is wrong. In every case.