You’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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