Friday, June 14, 2013


I recently went with a friend to see "Weird Al" Yankovic perform a concert.  It was a great evening—we ran a couple of errands, had dinner together, and then attended the concert.  Aside from the fact that I forgot to bring earplugs (I have sensitive hearing, so the volume level that night was not comfortable), I really enjoyed myself; he has a tremendous amount of energy for performing, and he really seemed to be having fun up there on the stage.  It helped, too, that I've loved his music since I was a kid—twenty years ago, one of my friends introduced me to his music, and he's been one of my favourite singers ever since.  My friend really enjoyed the concert, too; he's been a fan for longer than I have.  (Of course, it helps that he's about thirteen years older than I am; I wasn't born until 1982, so if I was even alive when Weird Al's music really started to become popular, I was probably still listening to Fred PennerRaffi, and Sharon, Lois & Bram at the time.)

The last song before the encore, though, was one that I was hoping that he would not perform, and I was rather disappointed when he did.  Given the title of this post, you can probably guess which song I mean.  While I'm not as easily triggered as I used to be, I was distinctly uncomfortable—not least because the intro to the music video was played on an onstage screen just before they started the song.  I also saw and heard a lot of people singing along with him, as some people had been doing throughout the whole evening.  I was certainly grateful that my friend and I had opted to have dinner before we went to the show; even if I'd been in a state of feeling-dizzy-because-I-haven't-had-anything-but-water-in-over-sixteen-hours hungry (and yes, I still do that to myself from time to time, though not as frequently as I once did), I couldn't have eaten a bite.  I was feeling better by the time the encore was over with, but I was also still feeling incredibly self-conscious and uncomfortable.

It was the only song that Weird Al and his band had performed during the whole concert that I didn't applaud.  Convention aside, I just couldn't bring myself to do so.  The lyrics consist of little but a combination of derogatory stereotypes and some of the most horribly vicious and excessively mean-spirited insults I've ever heard directed against fat people.  (And on an unrelated, but perhaps even more important, note, the line "I've got more chins than Chinatown" strikes me as being more than a little racist.)  And regardless of whether the song is meant as a bit of harmless fun, I've experienced serious insults, and even a few episodes of physical violence, as a result of other people's hatred for fat bodies for as long as I can remember.  This stuff is not harmless.  Joking that fat people take up seven rows when we go out to see movies, cause enough impact on the Earth that it measures on the Richter scale when we walk to the mailbox, are the only ones who get a tan when we visit the beach, are having twenty-thirds when normal people are having seconds at mealtime, or really sit around the house when we sit around the house—those are real insults that really get used to hurt people IN REAL LIFE.  And they're not automatically harmless, innocent, or funny just because it's Weird Al who's still singing them in this song after twenty-five years.  I doubt that I was the only member of the audience who felt that way; I noticed that there were a number of other fat people in the audience that night, and more than a few were larger than I am.

As for my friend—who is tall and very thin—I have no idea what he was thinking, as the matter never came up in conversation afterward, but I noticed that he didn't applaud after that song either.  I'm not automatically interpreting this as a show of support, but it's worth noting that he does know about the issues that I have that cause me to starve myself, and he knows that I can be triggered when I unexpectedly encounter this level of hate for fat people.  It's entirely possible that he found the song distasteful for his own reasons.  Nonetheless, I appreciated it.

So.  Recap: even fat jokes sung by Weird Al are hurtful and unfunny, and although it didn't even come close to ruining my evening (it would've taken a lot more than that to do so), it made me very uncomfortable and self-conscious—and while I could possibly have been the only one who felt that way, I consider it to be unlikely.