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This Little Piggy

March 27, 2011

I don’t generally follow celebrity news, finding it all rather silly and self-absorbed. (Then again, maybe that’s the point.) But occasionally something will catch my eye. This past week, it was reading about how George Lopez insulted is ex-wife, Kirstie Alley, by comparing her to a pig.

This caught my attention because it’s a painfully good example of the way heavy people are often treated. Worse is that much of the time, such behavior seems to be considered acceptable, even if not actively encouraged. Some people have this strange notion that the extra layers of fat provide protective insulation against the pain of insults. But in my experience, that has never been the case. More often it seems the inverse is true. The extra weight makes you even more vulnerable, not less so.

And I don’t think anyone will deny that Alley carries some extra weight, being more generously proportioned than in her early days of Cheers and Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. She’s even had a show about it (Fat Actress) and been a spokeswoman for Jenny Craig. It also seems quite clear that the break-up of her marriage to Lopez was acrimonious. Neither of these facts excuses Lopez’s behavior.

He claims that his joke didn’t have any malice to it, but people do not, generally speaking, compare anyone to pigs or other such animals out of the goodness of their hearts. For instance, in the movie The Social Network, when Mark Zuckerberg’s girlfriend broke up with him, he also compared her to farm animals, but at least he didn’t try to pretend there was no cruelty or hurt behind it.

For myself, I still remember being called a “cow” and “porky” when I was younger. The fact that I carry that memory twenty years later speaks volumes. Bad as that was, though, it is also true that teens tend to be a cruel lot and will happily attack any possible vulnerability. The hope is that they will outgrow such behavior.

For some reason, though, in relation to weight, many adults still act as adolescents. Lopez is merely a representative of those who consider it okay to insult and demean and belittle people who are heavy. The only difference is that his behavior is more scrutinized due to celebrity status. The only good part about the incident is that it was publicized as something negative. I can only hope that others begin to see it that way, and that it will lead to fewer insults of those who are overweight.

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