I just saw Ted and I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that one of the characters is an overweight child that features fairly prominently and who is mocked consistently for his size.
I always wonder about these kind of roles, and why actors agree to parts that deliberately exploit their physical appearance for laughs. I’m not talking about actors like John Candy or Jorge Garcia whose characters are fat, but this is not their only characteristic. I’m talking about the smaller roles; the actor who will be credited as “Fat Guy No. 3.” in a Farrelly Brothers film. These kind of bit-parts exist only as a visible gag, platform for the leading actor to deliver a punchline or just to be hilarious by virtue of being fat. Hilarious. In some cases, filmmakers don’t even bother to add comedy, the mere presence of a fat person is side-splitting enough to carry a whole scene, or even a whole movie.
Fat suits aside, why do genuinely overweight actors choose roles that cause them to be the subject of ridicule and is it fair to belittle them on screen, even if they’re willing?
I found myself wondering how Seth McFarlane, as a director and actor, was able to stand there and verbally abuse an overweight child. No matter how willing and prepared the kid may have been for it, it can’t be psychologically sound to hear yourself called “Tubby McFatFuck” take after take. Nor should that kid think that being dangerously overweight is acceptable or a source of amusement.
I know I’m probably sounding like a conservative nut or an over-anxious parent here, but I assure you I am neither. But I did suffer from bad acne as a teenager and I can’t imagine I ever would have leaped at the chance to star opposite a CG teddy bear and have him point out how hideous my face is to an audience of millions of people.
For a society that is so weight-obsessed, we’re all far too quick to laugh when someone is unable to control their weight. We have become far too flippant with obesity-based humour. Actors like Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence have dedicated entire movies to this lame joke and it has become so common-denominator that we don’t even notice it anymore.
I know that obesity is just another fact of life and I’m not against the idea of it being used as a source of comedy. If a grown adult wants to subject themselves to humiliation in front of rolling cameras, they’re entitled to, but I don’t think its fair to subject a child to these kind of cheap jokes, just for the sake of a few laughs.