In case you haven't heard, I've started doing a series of person *essays on the excellent show Dietland from AMC instead of recapping each episode. This is the second, wherein I tackle Dietland S1:E07 "Monster High". Let us go then, you and I!
*more like "essay" ifyouknowwhatImean
Just in case you've missed my other Dietland-related content, here it is!
And the first essay: https://gingesbecray.com/personal-essay-dietland-s1e05-plum-tuckered/
On to the show! "Monster High" is an excellent episode because there is not one easy answer presented. Our protagonist is Plum (Alicia) Kettle (Joy Nash), who's going through a massive change of life in the form of a diet-culture-related meltdown. The episode ends with a full-body shot of Plum naked in all her glory; let's talk about everything in between.
In case you didn't know, (HOW DID YOU NOT KNOW?) Dietland the series by AMC is based on the excellent book of the same name by Sarai Walker. I loved the book, seriously, sent it to everyone I hold in warm regard. There are some significant deviations from the book in the series and for once I think that's a good thing.
On Dietland, Plum has dragged herself from the basement of iniquity (all PornHub all the time), emerging free of the scales on her eyes and ready to live her life in the body she no longer hates.
Or well, not yet exactly. Plum has a lot of anger and we should go over that. Plum's guru at Calliope House Verena Baptist (Robin Wiegert) has previously suggested that a lot of the anger Plum carries is directed at herself, but we're seeing a LOT of crapping on other people. Let's talk about leaving diet culture!
Y'see...diet culture is EVERYWHERE. It's practically in the air we breathe, it's steeped in our culture so deeply that we have created entire evolutionary theories about it. To understand why any one/culture would do that, we have to look at the point of our society, which is money.
Who has it, who doesn't, who's gonna: where the money at? Cui bono?
A goodly amount of commercialization that is directed at women is appearance related. Sure, there's quite a bit focused on telling us we're under/over parenting, but even that is meant to be done while perky and conventionally attractive.
So this product, that product all these products are aimed at making us better, but that only works if we believe there's something wrong in the first place. Who remembers when Dove made us fear our armpits? I do!! Did you know we're supposed to have light, smooth armpits? Getthefuckouttaheyah.
I could rant on about all the "beauty" products out there that exist solely to make you think your body is not already beautiful, but I'm one voice and society's rampant obsession with consumerism is much, much louder. So listen to yourself: do you really think $82 cellulite-removing cream a) is a good deal since cellulite cannot be removed and b) a worthwhile use of your money while there are new books being written EVERY DAY just dying to be bought? Or movies, or knitting wool or whatever your jam is, just think!
Stepping outside of that, seeing it for the commercialized industry that self-hatred has become is one of the hardest things you can do, emotionally. And that's just one step!
The worst part of fat-phobia that some people may not understand is the underlying belief that we are somehow less than human. It's not about being the ideal size, exactly, it's that we're not even considered the same creature. Would that man have hit Plum if he thought of her as a woman?
Fat people are encouraged to buy our humanity with acts of contrition: dieting / restrictive clothing that is also non-revealing / be nicer / sound nicer / submission / more submission. You know why we allow it, for the most part? Because we have internalized fat-phobia, it is as much a part of us as our predilection for overall shorts and age-inappropriate pigtails.
Watch Hannah Gadsby's "Nannette" if you can, it deals with this so perfectly and altering.
Of course we hate fat people, everyone hates fat people and what they represent, so of course we hate ourselves. Do you think homophobic gay people WANT to be homophobic gay people?
Let me tell you about my journey away from self-loathing.
I am a bit of a late bloomer to the hardcore dieting industry, I was pretty much a free-range fatty in my twenties until some alarming health problems cropped up towards the end. I should qualify that statement with "alarming-sounding" because statistics are just numbers until they are YOU and I tend to process information through my feelings first. I cannot recommend this method.
Anyway, I was in my late twenties and I had an extremely bad back, wicked heartburn and an occasional dip into lymphoedema. What I did NOT have was diabetes, although every.single.doctor I've ever had insists on testing me for it. Just fat: not diabetic, fanks. You really can't tell by looking, people.
So it was time, yes? Medical conditions, reduced life expectancy (stats again), any moment I was going to fall apart. So I listened to Sex and the City and went to an organization that rhymes with Smeight Smatchers. It's probably similar to Waist Watchers in Dietland!
This wasn't an overnight decision, I spent one year researching everything I could find out about weight loss, weight loss surgery and for balance: fat acceptance. Turns out I didn't even qualify for even the most dangerous form of WLS due to my weight, but neither did I find my fit in the fat acceptance movement.
Everyone knows how that story ends, because I talk too much and anyway, my weight loss journey isn't the story here. What I've been struggling with now is finally making my way back around to fat acceptance. The Smeight Smatchers route is society, basically, and fat acceptance is anarchy. How does one choose anarchy and remain comfortable?
As Verena says: none of this is about our comfort.
You can't grow without pain, because change is pain: doing something different than we have always done will always use different muscles, challenge established ways of thinking, bruise our neural pathways (probably not a thing). So you're changing things! You're thinking new thoughts, you're stepping away from socially acceptable ways of feeling about yourself and how you do things, yay!
But pain. A lot of pain. Think about how universal diet culture is, especially for women. I know it exists for dudes too, and I'm not downplaying that but right now I am talking about the ladies BECAUSE THIS IS MY ESSAY, DAMNIT. Women bond through diet culture, we talk about what we ate / plan to eat / wish we could eat / would never eat and how much or how little we exercise. Oh and wine / coffee, but that's someone else's paper.
Separating from diet culture (or not drinking for that matter) is like saying you will never be superficially social with other women again. I've lost count of how many pre-school get-togethers I've spent staring fixedly at a wall so that I didn't have to unwillingly join a conversation about a new cleanse or the evils of sugar. One time, I even forgot other basic rules of engagement and accepted a compliment without a) immediately protesting and pointing out a flaw or b) volleying a compliment back. I just said thank you and we both stood there without knowing where to look. I have always used self-deprecating humour but like Hannah Gadsby says in her special "Nanette" (WE JUST TALKED ABOUT IT, YOU WATCHED, RIGHT?) as I age I am reluctant to put myself down just to exist in a conversation.
Giving up on diet culture also feels like giving up hope in the beginning. We're so used to spending time and energy counting calories and meal planning and counting steps and dipping our forks in salad dressing that not only do we have extra time (for BOOKS! See above), we've lost the structure of What We Do. You see: when I followed the Smeight Smatchwers plan and others later on there was a goal, and an end and I got stickers, keychain charms and praise and it was AWESOME!
Until it didn't work, of course, because we all know diets don't work, right? We're all on that page? There has been so much research on this that I feel everyone must know that diets don't work, right? They work for a short period of time, then people regain whatever weight lost with a few more pounds and alarmingly: less muscle. Every time you weight cycle, you are putting your heart and muscles at risk. But there's that tantalizing payoff, just in the distance...
So hope is gone, change is painful and we're socially alienated because NO I DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT YOUR CLEANSE, RHONDA. What else?
There's also anger. So much anger at society for selling us this useless bill of goods that thin=happy and equal amounts of anger at ourselves for buying into this shite for so long and wasting so.much.time. This does not disappear overnight. Neither does the knee-jerk self-loathing of one's own parts. I signed up for a belly dancing class once to rebuild my relationship with my body in a positive way but had to fight past the horror of "dancing" in a room filled with floor length mirrors. So there's baggage.
But after all of that! There's a new type of hope, too, one not predicated on following the rules of the Most that don't work for the All - there's a freedom in not looking and being like everyone else. We are at our strongest and most interesting when we're ourselves, not Not Chrissy Teigen, you know? I mean, Chrissy Teigen is the shite, but people are so much more vital and live fuller lives when they are themselves. Like, themselves really hard.
We end this episode of Dietland with a glorious Plum, nekkid on the bed. And not the least bit coy, laying down on one hip and giving us the full monty for our viewing pleasure. I cannot overstate the importance of this type of representation. She's beautiful, but I won't get creepy, I'll just say I stopped and almost cried it was such an amazing sight. You NEVER see fat people naked unless they're being cut up for some post-mortem fat shaming . Or being made fun of, mostly being made fun of, except for a wonderful little movie called Zuckerbaby which I cannot recommend enough. I am so grateful for Dietland on my screen, these are exciting times, people!
Until next time, my friends, ciao!