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New Study Calls Out Hollywood’s Offensive Fat Jokes

February 4, 2016

It’s probably certain that you can recall countless references to weight in the films you’ve watched over the years. But just how prevalent are these potentially offensive weight-related terms actually brought up in the movies? Well, recently researchers rolled up their sleeves and started counting.

The study was conducted by the for-profit organization Bulimia.com which seeks to educate and support those who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, as well as other types of eating disorders. The researchers looked at film scripts ranging from the years 1925 through 2015. Of the 1,223 scripts analyzed, they determined that 707 of them used descriptives like: fat, fatty, chunky, big boned (also big-boned), chubby, husky, obese, overweight, plump, portly, stout, or character names pertaining to weight like “Fat Jim.” That translates to about 58 percent of the scripts. But because the study didn’t count the number of non-verbal references attributed to weight, the report clarifies, “It’s likely that the total count is even higher.”

The worst offending films were listed as follows: Coming in at number one was the 2011 action-adventure Nicholas Cage film Drive Angry which mentioned the listed terms 31 times in 104 minutes. And runner up was Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me with 29 uses of such terminology.

When it came to genres, it should come as no surprise that comedies used the weight descriptives the most. After that, action movies, dramas, and crime films were listed.

And as far as particular actors whose characters use the terms, it was Bill Murray who came in first followed by Brian Cox, Tom Sizemore, and then Tom Cruise. Nicholas Cage, Bruce Willis, and Ewan McGregor were further down on the list. Female characters who most often uttered the size-related terminology included Marisa Tomei, Karen Allen, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Bulimia.com concluded the study by saying:

“Regardless of gender, weight, and body image, one thing is clear: The big screen simply serves to magnify the weighty conversations that occur in everyday life. It may be a common reality, and indeed we draw humor from it regularly, but it’s fundamentally tragic–not comical–that anyone would feel compelled to joke about their weight to dodge public scrutiny and derision. In many of these instances, people are clearly masking pain–pain that in some cases may spur development of disordered eating, potentially leading to conditions such as anorexia. Others may turn to compulsive exercise, and other purge behaviors associated with bulimia.”

Our bodies are beautiful works of art no matter what size and shape we come in, and hopefully everyone is busy enjoying his or her body each and every day. But nobody likes to be the butt of a joke. What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you believe Hollywood should make efforts to reduce the amount of fat humor and references to weight in films out of sensitivity to others? Would it have an effect on all the individuals suffering with painful body image issues and eating disorders? Or are you a firm believer in freedom of speech, and feel that people shouldn’t take such jokes so seriously? Please share.