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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Kevin Smith and the unbearable fatness of being


Having by now read all too many snarky -- not to mention pseudo-snarky -- stories detailing the saga of Kevin Smith getting bounced from a Southwest Airlines flight because he was, in large part, too overweight to comfortably fit into one seat, I'm still trying to make sense of it all. I mean, why did everyone, and I do mean everyone, find this an irresistible story? (For my money, the funniest material is in this CNN post, which has the best of Smith's many tweets, the one where he wrote: "I saw someone bigger than me on THAT flight! But I wasn't about to throw a fellow Fatty under the plane as I'm being profiled. But he & I made eye contact, & he was like 'Please don't tell....' ")

OK, OK, I know that when a fat guy gets tossed off an airplane and he's a big-shot movie director (and despite being such a big shot he's flying standby!), the whole incident strikes such a tragicomic chord that it's impossible to ignore. And obviously, it was Smith who gave everyone permission to be as unsympathetic as they wanted, since he broke the story, happily tweeting endlessly about his embarrassing predicament. When you tweet about your troubles, the media will always consider you fair game.

But I think that Smith got trounced so badly in the media not because he was fat, but because he was a fat guy. I'm sure there are exceptions, but I'd say that as a rule, fat lady celebs get far more sympathy than famous fat guys because they have already been held under the microscope every day of their lives in a culture that, in the most wildly unhealthy way possible, insists that its starlets and singers be as scrawny and undernourished as possible.

In fact, many observers believe that the once visibly hefty Candy Crowley only got her new gig as host of CNN's "State of the Union" after she dropped a bunch of pounds. Still, for the most part, our double standard about fatness is pretty clear. For years, Oprah's battles with her weight have made her an object  not of ridicule but of sympathy, with most women in America whole-heartedly identifying with her struggles to fit into those size 12 dresses. If nothing else, it made Oprah seem far more vulnerable and lovable than the average zillionaire tycooness. I guess you could argue that Kirstie Alley has also triumphed by embracing her fatness. In fact, she has a new A&E reality show coming up called "Big Life," which focuses on her weight loss struggles.

But no one cuts fat guys any slack. Brando was pilloried for years for letting his weight balloon out of control. When Russell Crowe showed up in his last film, "State of Play," looking like he'd just auditioned to play the whale in "Moby Dick," the critics were all over him, complaining about how bloated and dumpy the onetime sex symbol now looked. Now it's Kevin Smith's turn to be the jolly fat guy who's the butt of everyone's jokes. I'm a skinny guy myself, but I feel the fat man's pain. In America, fat guys get about as much sympathy as the pushy evangelical crusader who has to explain to his wife and kids how he ended up with a skinny mistress stashed on the other side of town. Just ask Smith -- you always have a lot of explaining to do.

Photo of Kevin Smith by Carlo Allegri / Associated Press

Comments () | Archives (27)

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Oh, pul-lease. Fat girls have it much worse than fat men. Fat girls are routinely demeaned in our culture, while men are allowed to gain weight - especially on TV.

Haven't you ever heard the old cliche "fat-husband-skinny-wife" in reference to countless TV commercials and sitcoms? Get real.

Or better yet, explain the ridiculous career of James Belushi, whose been cast alongside the likes of Courtney Thorne-Smith, amongst other slim beautiful women.

i couldn't disagree more- the level of scrutiny and judgement that women face with respect to their weight is beyond measure. for all the moments where oprah and kirstie seem "embraced" for their struggles in the midst of their relatable TV venues, there are COUNTLESS others (daily tabloids, blogs) where female celebrities are humiliated and criticized for putting on even the slightest amount of noticeable weight (i.e., jessica simpson)... or suspected of being pregnant (i.e., kate hudson)! red lines circling cellulite, ridiculous before-and- after side by sides that look virtually the same... these are regular features in tabloids that no doubt play a major part in driving their sales. the worst part of all of it is that the instant these so-called overweight women lose weight, they are accused of having an eating disorder and vilified all over again. a fat man (vs. woman) may be an easier target when it comes to kicking someone 0ff of a plane - but in my opinion, that is one humiliating instance that can never compare to the never-ending hell that women in hollywood face with the constant media scrutiny and its outrageous hypocrisy. male celebrities simply do not face this at the same level - perhaps the demand for this scrutiny is not as high (women love to hate on other women) - but whatever the case, in no way is it true that women get "cut slack" when it comes to weight - even if that happens, it is for a fleeting moment before they're crucified for succumbing to the vain, desperate beauty-standards set by the media itself.

Yeah but the thing is, in his story- on the NEXT flight he's sitting near a large lady. SHE gets bounced, in the same manner. BAM.

Kevin Smith is a bright happy successful man. I hope he is never compelled to apologize for who he is. Kirstie Alley always looked beautiful and so does Carnie Wilson. I'm overweight and I'm happier with myself than I ever was at 110 lbs. With 60% of the population overweight, Kevin you speak for many of us when you say kiss my f@t a$$.

Fat is a disease that kills both the fat person and also kills others through second hand fatness. Our society on longer tolerates the disease of cigarette smoking and alcohol addiction. So lets stop allowing fatness to kill. I propose fat prisons.

fat folk can buy another seat, i upgraded to business class and a 300 lb traveler was seated (sort of) next to me, would have better off in economy class

There are a lot of people missing the point entirely. This is not a case of "discrimination," fascism,""unAmericanism," or any of the other blather that is being thrown about in various forums regarding this perfectly reasonable stance taken by Southwest.

As a pilot, I appreciate the fact that this person is fat, weighs so much that he not only costs more to transport ( causes the aircraft to burn more fuel) than others, but creates a problem in factoring "weight and balance" for safe operation of the aircraft, as he falls outside the average size/weight used in those calculations. This is in addition to taking up more space and infringing on others' space.

If he's happy being fat, that's his right. But if he has to pay more for two seats, he should stop whining, shut up and pay, or leave the plane without blaming others. I won't criticize someone for being fat, but it's galling when that person blames others for the consequences of his being fat.

Kevin was probably encroaching on another passenger's space and that is why he was booted. I would complain if he tried to share my space also. It is just not about butt size but upper torso size too (at least for me it is).

I've flown to hundreds of films shoots all over the country on SWA. We've had huge cameras, lots of sound gear and a ton of gear to load in and the flight crews have been nothing less than heroic each time.

One fat director who has no social grace can't change my loyalty to Southwest. Oh, and thank god I never had to shoot an EPK on one of his sets (although it seems like craft services would be pretty good!).

I still think this is all a publicity stunt vis-a-vis his new release with Willis and Morgan. Just saying...

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