*Blog originally posted June 16, 2014.
FYI: This video does contain adult humor! It originally aired on Comedy Central, so if that’s not your thing, just be forewarned.
Amy Schumer offers a hilarious take on the way we, as a culture, assign food moral value. Women identified folks in particular are expected to feel repentant for what they’ve eaten, and even the fact that they’ve eaten.
In this video, a group of friends spill confessions of meals and snacks alongside other ethically questionable behaviors that were often harmful to others- behaviors like cyberbullying, animal abuse, and recreating trauma- followed by, “I am so bad.” The friends all ignore the behavioral side to these confessions and absolve each other of the guilt of having eaten: “You can afford it!” “You don’t look fat at all.” “You always look great.”
Yeah, things are less funny if you explain them, but we want to pull apart a little bit about what makes this video so spot on. First, people are absolutely made to feel guilty about eating, especially certain foods and especially if the act of eating was enjoyable. We love that this video shows the ridiculousness of assigning moral value to something that is necessary for your survival. It isn’t “bad” to like and eat food, anymore than it is “bad” to like and drink water, like and breathe air, like and partake in sleep. We need those things to live! The absurdity of our cultural guilt is brought up by the juxtaposition of food confessions with confessions that actually raise some serious ethical questions.
Second, when the friends breeze past those ethical questions to reassure the confessor that their eating behavior was morally acceptable, they bring up other dangerous cultural assumptions that have become normalized. Most of the responses focus on body shape and size- the characters are giving each other permission to eat because they are all perceived as having thin bodies. In the eating disorder world, we know that health cannot be seen and that body shape and size does not tell you 1) a person’s health 2) how or what they eat or 3) whether or not they have a healthy relationship with food. Of course, this isn’t the message given by most media. So many factors affect body shape and size beyond eating behaviors! The compliments they give to grant each other permission to eat also show how ingrained a thin ideal can become in our minds. No confession addresses weight or looks- they all address food and eating behavior, but most of the responses are assuring that the speaker adheres to current beauty standards- “You’re stick thin.” “Your thigh gap is, like, the envy of every thigh gap.” Being stick thin and having a thigh gap were certainly not always considered part of having an ideal body and are not directly linked to food consumption at all. They also assure each other that the food is morally ok because of its content- “Those are like air.” “No, I think that’s, like, negative calories.” Food with more substance is seen as food one needs to especially earn, but foods that might be marketed as “guilt free” (all food should be guilt free!) due to their caloric content are “good” and don’t warrant confessions.
Lastly, the video brings to light the danger of this type of fat talk. Although the friends are intending to give compliments, by bringing discussion of food to assurances about each other’s bodies- and assurances that their bodies fit certain ideals- they are just perpetuating the root causes of why they feel the need to confess in the first place. This side of fat talk can be harder to see and harder to stop, because intentions are meant well. But telling someone, “It’s ok that you ate, you are obviously thin” just reinforces the notion that you have to be thin to be worthy or food and enjoyment of food and the notion that a body with fat in undesirable. I think the makers of this satire were aware of this, especially with comments like the joke about a thigh gap- are there better and worse thigh gaps? That line definitely earned a chuckle.
So, here’s to media calling out the problems and dangers in some of our deeply rooted cultural ideals and assumptions- and all done with a smirk and a giggle.
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