Bad Editing, Dancing Hippos, and Grown Men

First, this story from reader Jess appeared as a comment yesterday.  It’s relevant to today’s blog and it’s awesome so I wanted to make sure that everyone got a chance to read it:

I’m on my university’s dance team, and let me tell you, there are two big girls on the team and they kill the dances, every time. I am absolutely jealous of the way they move. And I’m not the only one, haha. They’re two of our best.

I remember one time we were performing at halftime at a football game…there were two or three girls behind us who noticed our matching clothes and asked who we were. We told them we were the dance team, exchanged some “How is it?” “Oh it’s fun” smalltalk, and then turned around to watch the game.

A few minutes later, we heard one of the girls who was sitting behind us begin to wonder under their breath about the two bigger girls on our team. Stuff like “I wonder why they let the two fat girls on the team?” “Maybe they just joined to lose weight.” “I wonder if they can do like, leaps and jumps and stuff?” Then, one of the dancers (a really loud, outgoing, no nonsense kind of personality), who was sitting right in front of them, turned right around and said,

“Our two fat girls challenge you to a dance off, after the game, behind the stadium.” And she was totally serious. The girls behind us went redfaced.

“Uh, no, no thanks.”

“Why not? They’re fat, right? So they can’t do leaps and turns and stuff. Doesn’t the fact that you’re thin mean you can automatically do a triple pirouette?”

The girls behind us sort of laughed in a confused, uncomfortable way. “We were just joking.”

“Well I’m not. Behind the stadium, after the game. We’ll grab some football players to be judges.”

“Uh, we don’t want to dance battle.”

Our dancer gave her a, quite frankly, terrifying look. “Damn right you don’t,” she said, and then turned around again.

See I told you – great story right?! It put me in a fantastic mood right up until I heard a story that made my blood boil.   I was talking to America the Beautiful 2 filmmaker Darryl Roberts, who is awesome.  He was telling me that one of the film’s editors really didn’t support the message that you could have health without being thin.  Darryl watched over him and even re-edited some of his work to make sure that the finished product reflected Darryl’s vision.  Now that the movie’s final cut has had several of its premieres, the editor called Darryl to say that he “got him”.  Darryl asked what he meant.

When I am first introduced in the movie, it’s with a clip of me dancing. This editor was apparently quite proud to tell Darryl that the background music for this part of the film is the music that the hippos dance to in Disney’s Fantasia.  See what he did there – he used music associated with hippos. You know, because I’m fat…and hippos…get it?

Now, let me make sure this is clear.  I’m not saying that the editors mean-spirited, emotionally immature, technologically advanced 8 year old kid decided to make a funny by comparing the fat woman to a hippo. This is a grown ass man, being paid to do a job.  And he thought that the best use of his paid time was researching, finding, and cutting music so that he could make fun of me – subtly.

Except that he failed – badly.  The dancing hippos in Fantasia are really graceful. They are shown as happy, confident, accomplished dancers and all of the alligators want to dance with them. How is that insulting? I guess I’m vaguely insulted that his effort on this was so weak.

Let’s do a quick comparison (I know it may be easy to get confused – I’m the one in red…)

This one is the hippo...
This one is me (with my awesome coach Rowdy)

As I drove back from Dallas I was trying to think of what I would say to this guy.  I got home and checked my e-mail and here’s what I decided:

In just the last 24 hours I’ve received e-mails from people telling me that my work:

  • inspired them to try Zumba workout classes that they were “too scared to try before”
  • inspired them to “concentrate on healthy eating and exercise and ignore the people who try to make me feel bad about myself”
  • helped them “reclaim their health”
  • helped them “spend 10 minutes not hating myself… it was the longest I’ve gone in over 10 years”
  • made them ” REALLY look forward to being that doctor who helps patients find the cause of their problems, not the cause of the doctor’s problem”
  • gave them “hope” and made them rethink “committing suicide because I just couldn’t take all the haters anymore”

So, Mr. Editor, what have you done?  Who have you inspired? You had the chance to be part of something that is making a tangible, positive change in the world and you squandered it to make a cheap, pathetic joke at my expense.  Are you proud of yourself?  In the last 24 hours – just like everyday – I’ve also received hatemail from people like you (only, you know, more clever and actually able to come up with something insulting) who thought it was hilarious to make fun of the fatty so that they could sit in a puddle of their own self-satisfaction and feel superior to somebody for a minute.  Please understand, I don’t do this work so that people like you realize the error of your ways (although it would be great if you did).  I’m here to support the people who your behavior drives to consider suicide. I don’t care nearly as much if you think that fat people deserve respect, as I care that fat people understand that they deserve respect.

You picked the wrong girl dude.  I get death threats weekly and they don’t even phase me, so if you want to insult me you’d better come at me with more than just some dancing Disney hippos.

If you want to rethink your strategy I would welcome you to the Health at Every Size®  movement where we concentrate on health instead of body size and support people in making their own choices, setting their own priorities, and getting good information – instead of making fun of them and deluding ourselves into believing that we’re helping them to hate themselves healthy.  I am absolutely prepared to accept your heartfelt apology and move forward as part of the same team.

If not, in the spirit of Jess’s dance team, I challenged you to a dance off.  Pick the time and the place and I’m there.  I even have a suggestion for a song.  There are no fat dancing animals but I like it all the same:

UPDATE:  In good news, we’re making some real progress on the issue of the National Eating Disorders Association’s harmful partnership with the STOP Obesity Alliance.  There are a couple of ways that it can go at this point but either way having the most signatures possible will be really important.   If you haven’t already, please consider signing the petition and passing it along to your network: I hope that have a more comprehensive update very soon!  EDIT:  We won! NEDA pulled the partnership off the website and stated that they have no ongoing relationship with the STOP Obesity Alliance.  We are making a difference!

41 thoughts on “Bad Editing, Dancing Hippos, and Grown Men

  1. My god what an unprofessional, childish brat! I wonder how long that editor would remain in the business if Darryl advertised how much hand holding and re-editing he had to do with this guy to keep his film to his vision? I mean, who would want to hire somebody that would deliberately try to destroy the vision of the director?

    It’s good for you that you are so strong mentally that you can realize and remember during an incident like this one how much good you are doing for people. If only I believed that editor read your blog, but I don’t think he does. I think he’s a coward who’s afraid to open his mind and be proven wrong about his preconcieved notions. Maybe you should mail him a hardcopy of your post!

  2. I so agree. I wonder why that editor was either hired or kept for this film. This film should be -and was, in spite of his mean-spirited efforts, or lack- a celebratory moment for you and for the HAES movement.

    I hope there will be more, but that this editor will not be the one involved in them.

    1. Hi Frannie,

      I believe that he was a referral at the last minute – it’s cool to have editors who give you different points of view, it helps the filmmaker shape the story. Darryl didn’t know until just now about what he had done.


      1. Is there some kind of editor’s union or group where Darryl can complain about this guy? Or a director’s group? I mean, it sounds like he’s a freelancer, surely there has to be some way that he can be reprimanded for this.

        Because fat hate or not, the bottom line is that he fucked with the director’s work. He tried to change the final product to match HIS vision and that is not his job. At least, not to the extent that he did it. If he’s done it here, he has probably done it before and will probably do it again.

        Other directors need to be warned about this guy.

  3. I absolutely LOVED the dancing hippos in Disney’s Fantasia! They were big, beautiful, and graceful. They flirted with the alligators and the alligators thought the hippos were sexy. The hippos had it going ON. They were sexy thangs and they knew it. 😀

    1. Thank you for saying that! I was just remembering back in oh, ’82 or ’83 (when miniskirts came back, and I was about 60 lbs lighter than I am now) I bought a pattern and made a miniskirt. After about a day and a half of effort, I put it on and immediately saw myself as one of the hippos dancing! I also felt immodest, but the hippos were the first thing that came to mind. That skirt never again saw the light of day and ended up in the Salvation Army or something.

      Your comment makes me appreciate FA more! Wish I had found it then. I may even have rocked that skirt!


  4. I’m sure Le Douchebag will not have the cojones to take you up on your challenge because I’m sure he can’t dance. What a dink!
    I always loved the dancing hippos. I first saw Fantasia as a six year old kid, before my head was filled with all the negative messages. Dancing hippos–why the hell not!
    Another film you might like is The Point. It’s an odd little cartoon film. At one point in the story the main character, who has been exiled from the kingdom, meets three happy fat ladies who dance and he remarks to the character who is trying to teach him an important lesson how much he liked them and how happy they were.
    What you are doing is wonderful, by the way. More than wonderful, really. It is amazing.

  5. Here’s the thang! People are scared to death of something that is new and something that they can’t control. I’m sorry, but the fat movement is similar to the civil rights movement. You are totally the Rosa Parks ((Did I get the name right??)) for not going to the back of the fat bus.

    Naw, you are the Martin Luther King, Jr of the fat movement! You provide a great energetic platform of not only a great example, but an informed and welcome to anyone who has their head outta their ass enough to see that people are people.

    I wish I had your energy, and the time to put into dance! I am however, making changes that “I can live with” as per my MD to feel better. She is one who has her eyes open! She just says to add activity and healthy food, and not to sweat the pounds as much as how I feel and my energy level! I love my MD!

    You are an inspiration and your blogs are hilarious. Sometimes I get fired up over the crazy things that people say, guess I’m lucky that all I get are disgusted stares and glares from the jerks of the world!

    In the words of the French nudist from the movie “Along Came Polly” – “Be the hippo.”

    1. All we need is a “I Have a Dream” speech. I know I have a dream that I will be accepted and respected and not have to watch scores of dieting commercials, and on and on.

  6. That is so unprofessional of him. Honestly, you aren’t a hippo. You’re are around 284 still, right? That’s not even that big in my opinion, so I don’t understand how he’s acting like you are ginormous. Even if you were a lot bigger, that still gives him no right to behave that way while doing his job, especially for a film like *this.*

    1. There’s no reason to insult Ragen by claiming 284 isn’t big. A similar comment made it to her hate page. I really think saying things like ‘284 isn’t fat’ doesn’t help the HAES movement AT ALL because it is big and it’s fine to say it is.

      1. I didn’t mean to insult her. I’ve been coming here for a couple years now and I’ve always been supportive of Ragen. Yes she is large and I have no problem admitting that so don’t think that I am trying to pay her some kind of compliment by lying and saying “Well you’re not that fat”….that’s not what I was aiming for. I guess what I mean to say is that the editor seems to have acted as if she is the largest person on earth. She’s not.

    2. I’ve noticed that the vast majority of fat people will be told “Well, you’re not really fat” or “You’re not that big”, no matter what size they are. It seems like a particularly strange thing to assert on a fat acceptance blog, where the person you’re talking to identifies as fat and proud.

      I’m glad you agree that there’s no body size that justifies this behavior.

  7. This reminds me of a great comeback in an episode of Castle (ABC show starring Nathan Fillion as a mystery writer who is shadowing a NYPD homicide cop as part of his research). Someone disparagingly called Castle “Nancy Drew,” and he replied, “Is that supposed to be an insult? Because she solved every one of her cases.”

    I love your message and your passion for it, Ragen. You’ve made me rethink so many of my assumptions.

    1. Similarly, apparently some guy on Twitter tried to insult somebody else by referring to his target as a “Christopher Street boy”. In a video response, Jay Smooth pointed out that “when you call that guy a ‘Christopher Street Boy’ and you think it’s a clever way to call him soft and wimpy, you’re actually talking about people who are famous for winning a bar fight against a gang of cops.”

      (Jay’s video response can be seen here.)

  8. Unprofessional doesn’t begin to describe this sort of behavior. And if word starts getting out that he goes beyond giving advice straight to undercutting the director’s message, he may well never work in the industry again.

    As for the dancing hippos in Fantasia, they’re my favorite bit other than the Night on Bald Mountain sequence. So there. And the last time I checked, the Dance of the Hours from Un Ballo in Maschera isn’t specifically connected to weight. It’s just a ballet in an opera. Epic Phail as an insult.

    1. I loved the Night on Bald Mountain too, though as a good little Catholic kid, the Devil scared the living hell out of me, so to speak. However, it also cemented my love for horror and the macabre. Well, that along with reading Edgar Allan Poe–which I really did when I was six. Precocious AND weird–it’s quite a combination.

      1. You mean I wasn’t the only six-year-old reading Poe? Damn! Another bit of uniqueness stripped away!

        Meh, nice to finally have a companion in that particular bit of oddness.

        Mom adored Poe and got me hooked early. It’s the sort of thing that led to me reading War and Peace for the first time when I was fourteen. Yup, precocious AND weird here, too. And absolutely no regrets on that score.

      2. My father had a degree in English literature and something called American studies. He was a professor of liberal arts at the Colorado School of Mines. He is the one that started me reading early. Don’t think he expected me to get into Poe that soon, but I did. I really enjoy horror but I prefer the cerebral kind to the slasher stuff.

  9. I actually feel most for the maker of the film. I don’t know if I’m just jaded, or simply too used to people being childish and brutish and what-not, but I’ve come to expect that sort of behavior from people when it comes to fat people – it just doesn’t surprise me anymore. In terms of the maker of the film,however, he paid the editor his good, hard-earned money to help him create a vision of something he felt was important to communicate to the world. The editor, instead of doing the best job he could possibly do and taking pride in helping someone forward their vision, basically attempted to kick the filmmaker out at the knees. That’s just sad and I hope the editor feels shame. I doubt he does, though.

  10. “This editor was apparently quite proud to tell Darryl that the background music for this part of the film is the music that the hippos dance to in Disney’s Fantasia. See what he did there – he used music associated with hippos. You know, because I’m fat…and hippos…get it?”

    Not only is that mean-spirited and juvenile, it’s also appallingly stupid.

    Disney is *notoriously* litigious and in possession of pretty much unlimited funds. I’d suggest recutting that scene with different music, lest everyone involved in the editing and production process end up in some *seriously* hot water.

    1. No, Disney does not own the music, just the images of the hippos and their alligator partners. The music used is a classical piece that is pretty much free for everyone these days. So there is no need to change the music in the movie.

      1. That’s what I get for not looking something up before posting. I’m not that familiar with “Fantasia”, so… yeah. My bad!

  11. If I were Mr. Roberts I would be infurated. This editor was paid to do a job in a specified manner not “get” his employer. I’m glad that the editor’s little joke backfired so wonderfully. I remember seeing the hippos in Fantasia as a little girl. I was happy that they were pretty and graceful because they were big like me.

    I remember also at Valentine’s day getting all the whale, pig and hippo cards because the other kids thought that was funny. It hurt. It was meant to. This is the sort of juvenile foolishness that Mr. Roberts’ editor was trying to pull. The kids in my childhood at least had the excuse that they were children. This editor has none as he was supposedly an adult.

    1. “I remember also at Valentine’s day getting all the whale, pig and hippo cards because the other kids thought that was funny. It hurt. It was meant to.”

      I’m so sorry. *hugs*

      I was/am not a big person, but I was bullied all through school. Over thirty years later, and I’m still not really over it. *hugs again*

      1. I was bullied all through school too. I guess it’s “fortunate” that I didn’t put on weight until I was an adult because it would have been twice as bad had I been fat on top of being a freakazoid reject. It still affects me all these years later.
        This is why I’m really glad that there are programs to end bullying, particularly against gay kids or those perceived as gay. (I was one of the “perceived as,” and I actually didn’t care. I thought most of the boys at my school were douchenozzles anyway.) But it’s still open season on fat kids.

    2. Thank you for the hugs. 🙂 🙂 🙂

      Being bullied as a child by my peers as well as having pediatricians lecture me and actually yell at me is part of why I’m so concerned about fat children. It must be far worse today for kids no matter what size. The pressure to get thin or stay thin must be horrific.

      1. You’re welcome! 😀

        I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be a fat kid in school today. With the media constantly yammering on about the obesity epidemic, the bullies practically have carte blanche to do their worst to the fat kids. :*(

  12. That guy…wow..that was just pathetic. Funny you should mention dancing hippos, being a Belly Dancer I LOVE the “Big and Chunky” song form Madagascar 2 Sung by Will-I-am as “Moto Moto” and my Fiance has already said that he will get up on stage with me. Here is a link to the song so you can see how a duet to this would be awesome.

    So I will actually PURPOSEFULLY be dressing as a hippo as a fat woman and Belly dancer and go on stage not to make fun of myself, but to say ” Yeah I’m Fat, but That doesn’t really mean anything” like you said in one of your previous blogs. Taking back the word Fat gives it less power.
    On a side note I performed last night with some of the best dancers in the southeastern US and I ROCKED it, I seriously doubt people were like ” Oh it’s the fat part of the show” not when you do a full on back bend with extension. I know a lot of THIN dancers that can’t pull that off.
    And rock on to the gal in the dance troupe for just tellin’ it like it is. We should all take from that example. The ones that don’t think we are strong as athletes in our chosen fields because our bodies are different, they need to learn by example and when they see that we are just as good if not better maybe they will rethink their OWN Health and Happiness and that if they are just trying to be thin are they REALLY happy when they could do the same thing at the proper size for their OWN bodies and still be good at what they do 🙂

  13. Hi, for the record I weigh 330 lbs and have always dated women my own size for the most part.

    I have been able to date wonderful women “above my station” for years,

    So all you guys who only like barbies…thanks…..

  14. Yeaaaaaahhhhh, Girl!

    I love (LOVE) that the dance team member stood up for her teammate–how awesome is she?!?

    And how *pathetic* is that editor?
    Are we five years old?

    What a loser.

    Way to not let the bastards get you down, Ragen. 🙂

  15. I just wanted to add my $0.03 (yup, 3, not 2):
    Firstly, I’m right there with you, Ragen. I love those graceful hippos, as do millions of others. They are one of the highlights of “Fantasia,” and I wouldn’t mind at all being compared to them (especially given my years of ballet training; those hippos can move!).

    Secondly, thank you for sharing Jess’s story, as well as all the stories that you continue to share. I am one of those fat girls who struggles with trying to love herself every time I look in a mirror, and your blog’s 10 minutes of solace really is a cool drink of water in a desert of hate and self-loathing. Your work is important and helps people every day, and I hope that you know this and continue to not let the bastards (and the seriously misinformed) get you down!

    Thirdly, thank you for the link, I just signed the petition. Keep fighting the good fight, and thanks again for all that you do!

  16. Thanks to Already Pretty for linking up to your site, because… I know it’s sudden… but I think I love you. That page of hate-mail is freakin’ hilarious. Your responses are wonderful.

    As for this movie, what a jack-ass. It’s amazing to me that someone has so much hate inside them that they need to put it onto others so often. Does it make them feel better? I’m gonna guess not.

  17. Of all the childish, unprofessional behaviours I have ever seen. I’d be publishing said editor’s name and trading details everywhere so that no decent film-maker would hire his unprofessional arse.

  18. You know once in elementary school we were playing a form of tag called Ditch It, and I charged this one guy to tag him and he layed into me and bowled me over. Knocked the wind out of me and I passed out . And while unconscious, I saw… you guessed it, those beautiful dancing hippos! 😉

    So anytime ya need a friendly alligator to get you through the pillars…

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