Pretty Little Lies: Why I Loved the Fat Lady Episode of ‘Louie’
A lot of people had Thoughts and Feelings about the “So Did the Fat Lady” episode of Louie. Here’s the part that made me fist-pump the air and exclaim “yes!”.
You know what the meanest thing is you can say to a fat girl? “You’re not fat.” I mean, come on, buddy. It just sucks. It really really sucks. You have no idea. And the worst part is, I’m not even supposed to do this. Tell anyone how bad it sucks, because it’s too much for people. I mean, you, you can talk into the microphone and say you can’t get a date, you’re overweight. It’s adorable. But if I say it, they call the suicide hotline on me.
I mean, can I just say it? I’m fat. It sucks to be a fat girl. Can people just let me say it? It sucks. It really sucks. And I’m going to go ahead and say it. It’s your fault.
Look, I really like you, you’re truly a good guy, I think. I’m so sorry. I’m picking you. On behalf of all the fat girls, I’m making you represent all the guys. Why do you hate us so much? What is is about the basics of human happiness, feeling attractive, feeling loved, having guys chase after us, that’s just not in the cards for us? Nope. Not for us.
How is that fair? And why am I supposed to just accept it?
(transcript via, emphasis mine)
The actress in the episode, Sarah Baker, did a rather brilliant interview. Time and NPR both had similar takes, with the former seeing the episode as privilege-checking done without using those words and the latter praising Louis CK for facing his own hypocrisy.
On the other hand, Melissa over at Shakesville, in characteristically thoughtful fashion, covered the issues she had with the monologue. Melissa’s criticism reveals one of the reasons I liked the episode more than some other fat women might have, a reason I did not initially consider: region.
It’s continually amazing to me how comedians (and other people in the entertainment industry) are obsessed with documenting how fat the entire US outside of NY and LA are, but can’t wrap their heads around the idea that fat women are loved and get laid.
I can personally attest to the LA part of that statement. When I am at my home base of Southern California, I rarely feel attractive even though I know that people are attracted to me. Here, I rarely have been pursued in the way I see my thinner counterparts being wooed. This is true even within subcultures that are supposed to be body-positive, like the queer and kink scene(s); LA manages to make fat-haters of nearly everyone. On the other hand, when I have traveled to other parts of North America, I have been actively sought in a way that, at first, confused me, then delighted me. The contrast is so noticeable that I have begun to look forward to trips to places outside of SoCal as the guaranteed self-esteem boosters they have proven to be.
As someone incredibly tired of the pervasive denialism that derails conversations about fatphobia, I liked seeing the speech at the end of the episode. It’s utterly exhausting to live in a society where you are both seen as part of an epidemic, as sub-human, as inherently unattractive and disgusting, and yet aren’t supposed to acknowledge any of that. It was a relief, to me, to see someone who clearly thinks highly of herself — and who never once references dieting or weight loss, not even indirectly — give voice to the frustrations that have defined so much of my life as a woman in a sexist, fat-hating society.
This isn’t to say that everything about the episode delighted me. There are definite issues with privilege: Louis CK has the exact sort of platform generally denied to fat women despite the fact that he is also fat. That he would have to lend his platform in order to have a fat woman speak — and not even in her own words — is a set-up that indicates the very problem he’s trying to address. Episode specifics bothered me as well. I didn’t like the fact that Vanessa gave Louie the hockey tickets. I hated the bit about how she was desperate for hand-holding and the fact that Louie both hung out with her and took her hand seemingly out of pity. And I straight-up loathed her laughter at his awful titular “So Did the Fat Lady” joke (a fat version of the “cool girl“, anyone?).
What I did like was seeing a bad fatty positively represented on mainstream-enough television: a fat woman who doesn’t mention wanting or trying to lose weight, who loves herself without losing sight of the BS society puts her through. She, like me, doesn’t hate herself. Rather, she’s aware of how much others hate her and isn’t afraid of pointing out, instead of quietly submitting to the pretty lies that people tell about the lack of lookism, sexism, and fatphobia in society.