Everyone Should Have Expected What Happened Next

facepalmYou’ve seen them.  Videos with clickbait titles that say things like “Nobody expected what happened next!”  or “Everyone was shocked by what happened next” when the only thing that happened is that a person who doesn’t meet people’s stereotypes of beauty is talented.  This hit home for me again when someone shared a video of one of my favorite dancers  on Facebook with the comment “Nobody expected what happened next – People didn’t expect much when he walked out, but what happened next shocked everyone!”

Not so much. John and Stephanie are champion dancers, known for being really entertaining. Everyone there who knew them was pretty sure this was going to be amazing. Anyone who didn’t know John, and didn’t expect much because John is fat, is a size bigot who has some issues to work out.

This is super frustrating not just because of the suggestion that a talented fat person is somehow shocking, but because it re-writes an experience that wasn’t full of fat bigotry into one that was chock full of it.

Actual situation:  a multiple time world champion swing dancer takes the floor, everyone is excited to watch him dance because he and his partner are known to be fabulous and entertaining dancers, they are awesome, everyone cheers.

Re-telling:  It’s the middle of the highest division in the competition.  Some fat guy walks out, of course everyone knows that fat people can’t be good dancers so we all assume it must be the drunk beer delivery guy who just stumbled out onto the dance floor because.. no…wait…he’s actually a dancer.  Holy crap, he’s a good dancer. NO FREAKING WAY!  People faint from shock. A truly benevolent person writes it up and posts a video that focuses not on his dancing but on fat bigots’ reactions to it.

Bonus bullshit:  Anyone who complains about this has to deal with people saying “why can’t you just be grateful that they are posting the video?”  Oh, I don’t know, maybe because it’s stereotyping, weight-based bigotry and total bullshit?! But I don’t know, I’m just spitballing here.

Yes, in this society we very often choose our singers, actors, dancers etc. based on their ability to meet a stereotype of beauty first and the ability to sing, act, or dance, a distant second.  Thus, unsurprisingly, almost every singer/actor/dancer is thin and stereotypically beautiful. But we take it to the next level when we allow ourselves to assume that those who are not stereotypically beautiful are not talented.

There are more and more reality shows where people can get 45 seconds to display their talent.  When a fat person risks the stigma, shame and bullying that so often come from just existing in public and go onto one of these shows  and turn out to be good at what they do I think we could live without a million YouTube videos and Facebook posts discussing how absolutely shocking, shocking I tell you, it is that they have talent.

I would like to see a bunch of posts about how shocked people are that they allowed themselves to be lulled into the view that someone who doesn’t fit the cultural stereotype of beauty is without talent.  I would like to see a bunch of comments about how absolutely ridiculous it is that every time a talented fat person gets in the public eye we have to endure people wringing their hands and shrieking about how they are “bad role models” who, they claim even more ridiculously,promote obesity (like people will hear them sing and think – I wish I could sing like that, I guess the first step is to get fat…)

This all leaves me to wonder, how many amazingly talented people are we missing out on as a society?  How many horrible actors and actresses do we suffer through because the industry chooses them for their ability to fit a narrow stereotype of beauty before their ability to act? If we chose singers based on their ability to sing first would auto-tune even exist?

We’re so conditioned to think that talent only comes in a stereotypically beautifully package that we lose it when Susan Boyle stands up and belts out I Dreamed a Dream.  I don’t mean to shock anyone here, but how someone looks has literally nothing to do with their chances of being a good singer, or actress, or dancer, or anything else.  I think it would be just fantastic if we chose people based on their talent and not on their ability to walk a red carpet in a sample size dress, and even more fantastic if we were more shocked at our society’s prejudice than a fat person’s talent.

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24 thoughts on “Everyone Should Have Expected What Happened Next

  1. Thanks, I had seen the video but was afraid it was a fat hating thing so I didn’t watch it. When I watched it from your link, it was great. Unfortunately it had an ad for belly reduction.

  2. I love you for this post more than usual. I too have been feeling this way about click bait and how often in these videos they are all amazed at the good voice simply because the person is, in their eyes, not beautiful.

    I was not amazed at Susan Boyle’s ability to sing–she has a beautiful voice and I recognize that this is possible with a percentage of the population. I was amazed when I realized she had gone all her life undiscovered–because she is not stereotypically beautiful. If she had been born stereotypically beautiful there is a good chance that 20 years earlier someone would have told her that she had a voice good enough to be a star.

  3. I have honestly not noticed this how offensive this was before.. although I am generally “offended” by all clickbait, so perhaps I didn’t think to put this sort of thing in a different category. However, I HAVE been noticing the “this will blow away all your stereotypes about (blank)” or “This photo collection shatters stereotypes about (blank)!” Of course after reading this post, both acknowledge that there are stereotypes, but one is doing it in a really back-handed way. Of course, most of the “articles” talking about “blowing away stereotypes” are usually talking about a disease of some sort (I feel like I’ve seen a lot about Down Syndrome lately). You wouldn’t see something that said “You’ll be blown away by what these people with Down Syndrome can do!!” nor would you see “This photo collection shatters stereotypes about fat people!” … But that’s because in one case, part of the reason it’s so “mind-blowing” to see a fat person doing something amazing is exactly because of the stereotypes. One method says “Yep, you have that stereotype, and so do we, which is why we think you’ll be blown away by this ONE PERSON who is an exception to the mold.” Whereas if someone with a disease/disability of some sort does something against the stereotype, then it’s seen as BLOWING AWAY THE STEREOTYPE, FOREVER.

    Still processing all of this! Thanks, Ragen, for pointing this out.

  4. Think a fat person can’t be talented? I have two words for you: Luciano Pavorati.

    Want three more? ‘Mama’ Cass Eliot.

    I’ve got some others, as well: John Candy, Marilyn Horne, Meat Loaf, Dorothy L. Sayers, Gabourey Sidibe, Rebel Wilson, Jessye Norman, Katie Brand… and that’s just a random smattering of artistically talented fat people I thought of in about half a minute off the top of my head in no particular order. Many of them are currently making their livings as artists.

    So what in the hell is so gab-smacking about a fat person being able to sing, dance, play an instrument, compose music, write a book, act, paint… or anything they like?

    It’s only surprising if people firmly believe that fat somehow cancels out any possibility of talent.

    1. Yes. But I think in “their” minds, these fat ppl are the exception, so it’s ok to take notice.

      Also, Pavarotti was Italian, and became famous there before anyone else took notice.

  5. I don’t even think he’s “fat!” 🙂 Overweight, yes.
    But you know what? Watch his footwork. Watch his infectious smile. He’s VERY talented!
    I hate those clickbaits too. And, also, ever watch American Idol, America’s Got Talent, etc.? The audience and judges laugh when someone overweight, or aged, or not as attractive as others, etc. step on stage, and then their jaws drop open when the person is talented. WHY?
    Thanks for this post!

    1. I totally agree with you about the judges and audience on those shows, I also hate how self-congratulatory they are when they finally get over their own prejudices.

      As far as whether or not John is fat, I don’t know what definitions you are using here, but I would respectfully request that you examine the way that you use terms. First of all, I would ask that you consider that “overweight” implies that there is some weight that someone should be and that they weigh more than that – it implies that there is something wrong with their body, and I personally find it judgmental, body shaming, and offensive.

      Second, even if “fat” and “overweight” are too different categories, responding to criticism that somebody is fat by saying that they aren’t fat but that they are [something else – overweight, chubby,not that fat etc.] is problematic because it suggests that fat is something that people shouldn’t want to be – especially for those who may be fatter than the person being discussed. Full explanation at https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/shes-not-that-fat/



      1. Totally agree. I hate all of those words. What I was trying to say, and not saying it well, is that imho he’s not fat. Yes, he is larger than some people, and probably larger than some random standard of what an “ideal” man “should” look like. Who decides that, anyway? Thanks for calling me out on my usage of both terms.

  6. I get so tired of seeing how shocked everyone is when someone who does not fit into their narrow world view, is talented. Thank you for this beautiful reminder that we need to let all those who do this know we are not going to stand for it.

  7. John and Stephanie are so good! 😀 How sad that anyone would doubt their ability or right to be such wonderful dancers…

  8. I think those ‘clickbait’ titles actually reinforce the stereotype. I mean, if you didn’t think it was astonishing that X type of person could do Y thing before, now the idea that it should be astonishing has been put into the back of your head.

    I also hate the ‘look how brave this person is’ because it is usually about someone disabled who is simply living their lives, they just happen to have a disability.

    Of course, anyone who doesn’t fit a stereotype but does a thing in public anyway is kind of brave because they will likely have to put up with sh*t like this.

  9. Well, I am a singer and I had a label turn me down and pick up another singer. The exec told me that I had more talent and that he would have signed me on the spot if I weighed 30 pounds less.

  10. Usually I see the clickbait crap of “doctors hate this guy”, “weightloss secrets if you follow this 1 weird old tip”, or “5 foods to never eat” (with picture of rotting banana). I never hit these, cuz I know it’s junk.

    1. I clicked on one of those “three foods to never eat” things, and waited for THIRTY MINUTES of “ZOMG! Obesity Epidemic! Fat KIIIILLLLSSSSS!” before I gave up, and figured they were never going to actually mention the specific foods. They mentioned that there WERE specific foods, and how shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you! that these food had not yet been banned by the government, but you should absolutely never, ever, EVER, in a million, billion, Qaudrilioliolion years eat these three horrible, no good, very bad, foods, that will make you FAAAAAATTTTTTT, AND KILL YOU WITHIN MINUTES!

      I’m assuming one of them is a banana.

      Guess what I still eat.

      I also read a 10 Foods to Avoid list (it was a slideshow of only 11 slides, so I figured it would get right to the point). Cucumbers, apparently, are horrible and bad for you because, “They actually do have calories. Eat a zucchini, instead.”

  11. All the yes to this: “How many horrible actors and actresses do we suffer through because the industry chooses them for their ability to fit a narrow stereotype of beauty before their ability to act?” I think this about all the time when I’m watching horrid acting.

    And then add to that the fact that characters who are written/drawn to be fat/unattractive in books/comics are pretty much always recast with thin/attractive actors/actresses (actresses especially) for television/movies… it burns my biscuits!

    1. I was just telling my Mother about an instance of this. In “The Inheritance,” the male lead was described as homely, with a very plain face, and they had a discussion about how it’s more important to be a good person than a physically attractive one. Then, the guy shows up, and he’s played by Thomas Gibson: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0004959/?ref_=nv_sr_1


      Sorry, I have no idea how to imbed a link in a comment.

  12. Hmm – I’m fat (not just a little bit fat, not cute, not chubby, not round-ish but, you know – inescapably fat fat), and if I thought getting fatter would facilitate me singing well, I’d be more than happy to go for fat-fat-fat. Actually I’m fine with that anyway.

    1. The difference between “fat acceptance” and “promoting obesity” is the same difference between “I’m fine with that,” and “I want to be fat, and will do whatever it takes to get that way.”

      And I have yet to see/hear about a fat celebrity/talented person actually telling people to do whatever it takes to a get fat.

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