What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Nicole Arbour, the actress/alleged comedian who proves that not every Canadian is a nice person after all, has been fired from an upcoming movie job she landed prior to the outrage over her "Dear Fat People" video.
I'm not going to link to her video because online clicks are currency and also it's been pretty ubiquitous. If you haven't seen it by now, all you're missing is six or so minutes of old-school fat hate (and a weird diss of The Walking Dead), the kind of thing fat folks have been hearing for years and years and years, plus a little dollop of racism and homophobia. There are probably things more played out than the tired jokes in this video, but Arbour tried like hell to dress them up in a pretty blonde lady package and resell them.
While a lot of people will buy that box of stale and boring cookies, a gratifying number of people seem to be realizing that Arbour's expiration date has come and gone.
Yes, I'm a fat lady making cookie jokes. Stay with me.
I'm not generally one for schadenfreude; if absolutely nothing else, taking pleasure in someone else's comeuppance feels entirely too much like tempting fate. I mean, we all suck sometimes because that's part of being human. And we all face plant over it and hope that no one sees us and laughs at us.
But all of that aside, when I tell you that Arbour losing this movie job is particularly delicious, well. It's particularly delicious, with all the guilt that saying so makes me feel.
Because Arbour was hired as a choreographer. On a movie that Pat Mills, the director, describes thusly:
“It’s a body-positive teen dance movie set in a retirement home,” Mills says of the plot. “It’s about a 16-year-old girl who dreams of being a cheerleader, but she is constantly bullied for being fat. She learns that she doesn’t have to change anything about herself to be awesome because she already is.”
Arbour, who even describes herself as a "motivator" on her YouTube About page, got a job doing choreography on a movie with a fat teenaged protagonist who wants to be a cheerleader and then she released a fat-hating video that the movie's director saw and hated. There's something elegant in that, something that makes me believe that there is actually a little bit of balance that exists in the universe when it comes to bullies who show their asses online.
The movie in question is "Don't Talk To Irene," a new film by Mills. The screenplay recently won Best Comedy Screenplay at the Austin Film Festival and some other people we're all supposed to be impressed by also think it's funny as hell. (OK, Kirsten Smith of "Legally Blonde" and "10 Things I Hate About You" fame is pretty impressive, I have to admit.)
The aforementioned fat teenaged protagonist is suspended on the first day of school because jerks are jerks. Irene just wants to be a cheerleader but instead she's faced with two weeks of community service at the local retirement home. In grand teen movie fashion, our heroine decides to become a choreographer and train a group of seniors so they can audition to be on her favorite reality show.
The meta is so thick with this one, right?
An online buddy said this movie sounds like Strictly Ballroom meets Cocoon, but without any cocoons and no ballrooms. There's also probably not any aliens. But I never want to write off any possibilities; I want to believe.
In any event, I love dance movies (especially Strictly Ballroom) and I love old people. And I love directors who take a stand against bullying. It's a trifecta.
I have already set aside a big empty mason jar that I can fill with pennies to give Mills once "Don't Talk To Irene" eventually hits the theaters. I'll buy as many tickets as can be purchased with the spare change I collect between now and then. Start a jar with me and then we can all go. And get butter on our popcorn.
Honestly, I've been reluctant to talk about Arbour. I don't think she deserves the attention; she's gotten way more air time than her particular brand of hatefulness deserves. But also, every time her video comes up, fat people watch it and wind up hurting for it.
She's accomplished exactly what she set out to do, whether or not she sat down and maliciously planned it out, which is to injure fat people and make their lives harder.
Because I'm sort of semi-professionally fat, I did sit down and watch part of her video. And, then I fast-forwarded. And then I fast-forwarded some more. Watching it gave me the same sort of second-hand embarrassment I experience with most Ben Stiller movies only without any of the actual humor involved.
At a certain point, I felt really bad for how hard Arbour was TRYING to shock people with her refusal to give in to political correctness or whatever language she's been using to justify not giving two shits about other people.
And also because I am sort of semi-professionally fat, I've seen a lot of this stuff and am pretty inured to it. But I also see why a lot of fat people are coming away from this video with increased feelings of shame and self-loathing.
My fat friends - my friends of any size who struggle with body image -- let me tell you, please: You do not owe anyone, especially someone like Arbour, the investment of your time and suffering. You do not have to punish yourself by watching this video or others like it. You are worth more kindness to yourself than that.
It's pretty tempting to wallow around in laughing at the price Arbour has had to pay for her casual disregard of fat people's humanity. But I can't actually let myself do it beyond pointing out the heaping helping of irony she's been served up. (I really want to make a joke here about Canadian irony because of Alanis Morissette but if you get the joke then you have already gotten the joke.)
Because I do actually acknowledge Arbour's humanity, whether she'd do me the favor in return or not. I'm angry that she has hurt people. And I'm glad that she's experiencing consequences for that. I think they are appropriate consequences.
But I am also keeping in mind what Lindy West wrote for the Guardian recently.
I fight for you even when you are cruel, even when you are making money off the back of fat people’s pain, even when you refuse to fight for me. Because I know that it is hard to have a body, that insecurities make us mean, and that male approval can be a comfortable harbour while it lasts.
But you will eventually be kicked out of the club, and when that happens, you may find yourself grateful to those of us who have built a new one. Safe journey.
Nicole Arbour probably doesn't want to sit next to me. She doesn't want to belong to any club of which Lindy West or I are members. I know a fair number of you reading this probably feel the same.
But what Lindy says is true. It's hard to have a body and some people deal with that by making it harder for other people to have bodies. I am going to keep working against that because I believe in the radical alternative. I believe that there are better ways to protest the damn system that encourages us to tear ourselves and other people apart.
Dear Fat People -- and everyone else, too -- be in this club with me, this club where your body has worth just because it is your body. Be in this club with me. We'll go outside and then we'll go see that movie and we'll treat each other like human beings. I'll bring the cookies.