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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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Are you kidding about females getting more sympathy?! Have you not picked up a tabloid with Kirsti Allie, Oprah, any other overweight celebrity? Women I scrutinized far more than men in the media. Wake up!

From Upper Class to Business Class to No Class and now Fat Class. Keep these Big Mac stuffers off airplanes. They are gross, to big for the aisles and a menace. I'd say send them by Amtrak but they are too fat to climb the stairs to get to the upper levels of the coach or sleeping cars. The only place for these types are cruise ships and Vegas where they can hit the 24 hour buffets! They are worse than smokers and their "fatness" will bankrupt the US health system.

Really? You think celebrity fat women get the kid glove treatment for being female?

Two words: Kirstie Alley. And Carnie Wilson before her. In fact, ET had Carnie Wilson on tonight as a guest commenter about the KS brouhaha. Predictably, Wilson was all about the big persons' rights.

The reason Smith is being dragged all over the media is b/c he's fanning the flames himself, tweeting at the start of it, going on talk shows, and basically being a self-parody. A year or so ago, he said his weight was so out of control, he'd broken a toilet. Look at any recent pictures of him, and it's easy to see he would probably spill out of an airline seat. Two seats is probably better for him, for now, and that's SW Airlines' policy.

I like the guy's work, I'd say I'm a fan - but as someone who's been squished on a cross-country flight by a neighboring passenger who exceeded their own seat - I can tell you I wouldn't want to sit next to KS on a plane. Or Kirstie Alley, for that matter..

You really should listen to episode 106 of Kevin Smith's "smodcast" podcast.

After the initial eviction from the first plane, Smith boarded a second Southwest flight; where he watches a fat woman receive completely unecessary humiliating treatment from a flight attendent... another woman.

What’s wrong with everybody. Kevin Smith is great and he knows how to play ball. Clerks, Mallrats, and then Fanboys was set for release in Iceland last February. Kevin needs a branding booster shot. So who is going to be surprise when Silent Bob turned Screaming Scott announces his latest film “Stews” fractionally based on the media bomb that he created.

You are clever Bob.

Sure, everyone's made the obligatory fat jokes and equally-obligatory poor rich celebrity comments, but I believe this story resonated because people are tired of being treated so poorly by the airlines. This wasn't Paris Hilton having a fit that her ferret wasn't welcomed; it was a schlubby guy like most of us, trying to get home. And his weight - did he fit, was he too fat? - was irrelevant. It was the fact that he was taken off a plane, humiliated, lied to and then treated by airline staff as if they broke the handle on his suitcase. We've all been there, sadly, and Smith not only articulated our frustrations, he provoked the airline. I blog for and if I can timidly self-promote for a moment, my new column tackles the non-weight angle of this story:

I detest that d-bag Kevin Smith. I don't care if he's fat or not. He comes off as the comic book guy from the Simpsons. And not in a good way either.

The arguments defending this guy break down into two categories

1. Airlines treat passengers poorly: seats are too small; they nickle and dime us to death thus Kevin Smith has struck a blow for all passengers, and

2. Fat people are discriminated against because of their size. Fat people need to be accommodated.

All the medical excuses and claims of discrimination being thrown around by defenders of the obese are just so much self pitying, self indulgent bogus nonsense. For at least the last two decades the nation has been getting fatter and fatter. Why? Because we eat too much food and we sit on our behinds! Why should private businesses accommodate the obese? I don't care what percentage of the nation is fat, it is not an airlines obligation to subsidize the transport of your slothful, slovenly lard asses around the world. Nor is it the responsibility of the person sitting next to your rotundity to fork over a portion of his or her seat to make you and your excess calories comfortable.

I've got a suggestion for all the folks blabbering about how happy they are being fat, or how sad they are that the world won't reconfigure every public space to make life easier for them. Consume fewer calories and become more active. Don't stick food in your mouth when you are not hungry and when you are hungry stop eating when you cease to be hungry anymore. YOU ARE NOT DISABLED! You aren't blind, deaf, or missing limbs. Your situation is not analogous to discrimination against racial minorities, or women, or gay people. You are ,with a few exceptions, to eager to eat every time you sense boredom, anxiety, or disappointment.

There is no cause to ridicule fat people publicly. But unless a person has a valid medical excuse for their excess weight, he or she has no cause to expect accommodation. And let's be clear, we're not talking about someone with a bit of a beer gut or women with curves.

I rarely fly Southwest, but they did the right thing and I hope they keep doing it.

Fat people in general do not get all that much sympathy.
And most of them deserve little. The small percentage that have a gland
problem or got into an accident so they put on lots of weight, those people
I have sympathy for. The ones eating multi-thousand calorie meals, not so much.

Kevin Smith is an intelligent, articulate, funny guy with a forum.
He has many fans, myself included, and many detractors of which sometimes
I'm one. Not all his work is great, but who's is?

Unless this is a very small plane I have sincere doubts that his weight was
enough to cause a problem. You have people walking around the plane all
the time, not to mention luggage storage areas that have packages of varying
weight, etc. Now if you were have a bunch of people sit only on one side of
the plane, yeah, that would likely cause an issue.

My only question would be whether or not he was bleeding into someone
else s space. I've sat on a plane next to a guy sausaged into a seat and its not
fun. I don't care if you did manage to get the arm rests down if you have parts
of yourself pillowing out above and below it into my space which I paid for.

If the seat was empty, they should have shut up instead of trying to get
another buck out of him.

This discussion is way off point. I am a frequent Southwest traveler. I love the no thrills service in exchange for being low price. Southwest is always on time as well. Not to go geek with the physics, but there is a substantial cost in flying people like Kevin Smith. It takes a lot more jet fuel to haul obese people. I work in aviation and the way airlines and the FAA calculate the fuel consumption is 180 lbs per person on average. This include bags and small children. Yes, mass (weight) on planes consumes fuel, and the average person does give it a thought. Mass in takeoff and inertia in flight consume fuel on a large scale. Imagine throwing a 4 ounce baseball 600 mph versus the energy required to throw the baseball 95 mph in a baseball game.

Smith made a life style choice to be morbidly obese is his alone. I am not here to judge. Southwest have been sued over this very issue over years ago and won. Southwest will work with people like Smith if he contacts in advance. SW will have an arm between seats and charge for two seats. Is it fair? Yes, just like we don't have to take in second smoke. Why should we absorb the cost of obese people flying in our ticket prices. I frankly think SW are the fair ones to the rest of us.

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