I haven’t posted in a while because sometimes the feeling that “I’ve said this already. 100 different ways. 1,000 different times. Yet, the Fat-Hate continues” gets overwhelming. That makes it a bit difficult to want to dredge up the same arguments, yet again, to point out the disturbing news on Fat Children being pulled from loving homes or more Fat Actresses joining the Jenny Craig / Weight Watchers band wagons or more studies on HAES being brushed under the media rug in favor of highlighting older and less well-done studies claiming to prove that the Calories In/Out crap really works. Even the more positive bits on HAES joining the ADA panels or Fatshion making waves elicits at times no more than a shrug and apathetic acknowledgment that “Yay. We’ve made another wee baby step. Now what sort of huge leap backwards remains to come next?”
That whiny bit of pessimism is my way of explaining the two weeks sans-posting. Now that THAT is out-of-the-way, here’s the good news and insight into why I’m AM posting now.
I’ve found myself doing 3 belly dance classes a week now and have been working nightly on increasing my flexibility (with the aim of at least improving if not accomplishing a full kneeling lay-back). This has improved my sense of calm and serenity quite a bit lately. That, and getting used to the CPAP machine I’m now using for a mild case of sleep apnea and we have a much more grounded, centered and, in general, happier April D. In fact, here’s a pic of said happy woman all dressed up for a tribal dance performance this past weekend:
All Autumn-Themed and Ready to Dance
With this better mind-set of late I’ve found myself more willing to write again and after reading this book I found myself wanting to address the ways that small references that perpetuate Fat Hatred in favor of Thin Reverence (in the guise of Hating the Unhealthy/Loving the Healthy (which is its own problem for another post) serve only to reinforce a culture wherein the ideas of Fat Shaming for Your Own Good can be so blithely proposed. These small “snowflakes” that crop up in not only the mainstream media but EVERYWHERE are how we create a “blizzard” that surrounds us daily; constantly pushing against us to coldly inform us (over and over) that Fat is Bad. Things like this are why such concepts are so deeply ingrained (or, perhaps, a reflection of just how ingrained they are with the added benefit of perpetuation and reinforcing this concept at the same time by its very existence).
This is a Kinda Book Review/Mostly Rant (Why does Fat (sorry, “Unhealthy”) Hate/Thin (sorry, “Healthy”) Reverence need to find its way into every book?!):
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline: It is the future. OASIS is the virtual reality whose details at time surpass the real world; so much so that many people find themselves choosing to spend more and more of their lives living through their online avatars. You access this OASIS by means of a visual device and gloves/keyboard at minimum; but to get really fancy you can get an entire suit/chair set up. That’s where our character finds himself making the following statements:
“I spent the vast majority of my time sitting in my haptic chair, getting almost no exercise at all. I also had a habit of overeating when I was depressed or frustrated, which was most of the time. As a result, I’d gradually started to put on some extra pounds. I wasn’t in the best of shape to begin with, so I quickly reached a point where I could no longer fit comfortably in my haptic chair or squeeze in to my XL haptic suit. Soon, I would need to buy a new rig, with components from the Husky line.
I knew that if I didn’t get my weight under control, I would probably die of sloth before I found the egg. I couldn’t let that happen. So I made a snap decision and enabled the voluntary OASIS fitness lockout software on my rig. I’d regretted it almost immediately…”
From this point the text briefly talks about how this computerized system of virtual reality, within which the character needs access in order to function (his job is there, his friends, everything) becomes a dedicated and brutal calorie counter which denies access to the virtual world unless its demands are met. Like an electronic WW counselor tied-to-your-daily-life/nanny-cam device which didn’t let you work or play until the right caloric balance of in and out has been achieved. And then….
“This was some sadistic software. But it worked. The pounds began to melt off, and after a few months, I was in near-perfect health. For the first time in my life I had a flat stomach, and muscles. I also had twice the energy, and I got sick a lot less frequently. When the two months ended and I was finally given the option to disable the fitness lockout, I decided to keep it in place. Now, exercising was a part of my daily ritual.”
Um…can anyone else say: “Fantasy of Being Thin”? In a VERY stereotypical, oft-wished-for but never lasting Jenny Craig/Weight Watchers-esque new Host of the Month excited little bundle the author of this book has managed to slot into the story a needless and yet fully complete weight-loss dream fantasy.
You’ve got the whole story arc there. How Fatness (or Fatter-ness) is acquired simply by not moving and overeating (because we’re emotional wrecks, of course). How then with simply the right (harsh-mistress of) motivation we’re able to snap into Healthy Habits that make us Thin, Beautiful, Lean, Muscular and…uh…Healthier too. How, we then come to realize that we come to LIKE these things and thus the activities that led to them too. Ahhh, magical transformation complete!
Can’t you just hear that montage music as the character works off all those “excess pounds” thanks to the “motivation” of the allure of the virtual world. This is “Hate Them for their Own Good” wrapped in one tidy package: if we TRICKED fatties into HAVING to work out/eat less/better than OF COURSE they’d be slim/trim/HAPPY from it! We must SAVE THEM FROM THEMSELVES!
I mean…come ON! Why does any book, certainly a sci-fi one that actually allows for an overweight main character to exist in the first place, feel they HAVE to cram this shit in there? WHY?! The need to include this small and yet direct jab at how fatties would be thin if we just had the right motivation is just juvenile and insulting. Also, talk about a trope played to death (and yet STILL not proven to be at all effective in creating the sort of long-term body-shape changes that are so glowingly advertised.)
What is the point of such an addition to an otherwise decent story? Yes. You’ve succinctly boiled down the world’s fantasy scheme for making the entire human race thin. It doesn’t work that way, but huzzah and congrats. Here’s your confetti and cookie: you’ve latched onto the entire Fat-to-Thin story-arc trope and found a way to stuff it into your book. I’m sure you feel rather proud of how you solved global obesity with two short pages of science fiction. Thanks for your stunning contribution to humanity.
Yet, without giving away the entire plot or the key twists, there are also some neutral/positive body moments in there as well where a fat character is a sympathetic good guy and appreciated for contributions made, rather than seen as solely a body. Well, mostly.
At any rate. This was a book that I’d probably give a solid 3.5. Unnecessary fat-bashing and trope-inclusion; complete disregard (even in passing mention) for how anyone could access this OASIS if they were not able to see (not sure why this bothered me so much but it felt like a glaring omission after a while that there was so much focus on the visual stimulus… yet no mention at ALL of how those who were not sighted could fit into this world. Not even a token line to the effect that sightedness was a privileged class or anything); over-indulgence of the 80’s theme in some rather long sections that could, quite honestly, be largely skipped. But it has a cast of characters who do grow a bit and a fairly interesting plot concept; albeit a rather predictable outcome.
Has anyone else read this and have thoughts to add? Was this section on Solving Fatness meant to be a throw-away bit to draw readers into the fantasy-style of the world the author was hoping to create (thus becoming just a passage included because of the immersion of such ideas in our very culture, serving to reinforce them)? Was it just another way to make sure fat-bashing didn’t go unheard for even the short length of one 300 page novel (an intended inclusion meant to remind the readers (who may, themselves, be fat) that with hard work and the right motivation Fatness should not exist)? What is your take on it?