Dennis the Menace Becomes Dennis the Fatphobe

Bethany Snyder of Big Fit Deal let me know about this bullshit Dennis the Menace Comic:

Dennis the Fatphobe
One panel cartoon with a fat person lying on a blanket at the beach, two boys and an adult are walking behind him, one of the boys is talking. Caption “Why do I hafta be quiet? All i said was ‘beached whale.” I coulda been talkin’ about anybody” Source:

There is so much bullshit here. It’s a single panel comic strip created for a family audience in mainstream media that is literally nothing but a cheap fat joke. Think of all the people in the chain of creation and approval of this who agreed that this was something that should be published. 

Imagine if you had one panel to put a message out into the world and you decided that your best option was to add to the stigmatization of fat people by creating a cartoon that rests entirely on the idea that it’s funny to shame a fat person for simply existing in the world (in the same way that the thinner people in the comic get to exist.)

And skip me with the “can’t you take a joke?” bullshit. I know that fat-shaming is the problem and I am not.  That doesn’t make it ok to stigmatize me or people who look like me. I think it’s a bigger problem that we as a society are comfortable telling groups of people that they need to “toughen up” and become better at being stigmatized and made fun of without complaint, so that other people can laugh at our expense without having to feel badly or have their bullying behavior pointed out.

When we suggest that some fat shaming is ok because some people think it’s funny, then we set ourselves up to constantly have to argue about where the line is between fat shaming that’s “hilarious” and fat shaming that is hurtful. The fact that something is not the most egregious type of fat-shaming doesn’t mean that it doesn’t support a culture where fat-shaming (including the most egregious kind) is ok. I think it’s far better to say that fat shaming is not ok in any guise and that people who want to be funny should have to do better than relying on cheap stereotypes, shaming, and bigotry

Fat people’s bodies are not punchlines, and we deserve to exist in the world – including at the beach – without shame, stigma, or bullying. That King Features would make that simple thing more difficult by perpetuating fatphobia under the guise of humor in a family cartoon is shameful.

Activism Opportunity:

You can let them know how you feel about the 7/23/20 Dennis the Menace Comic using their feedback form or e-mailing them directly:

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10 thoughts on “Dennis the Menace Becomes Dennis the Fatphobe

  1. I love the “why do I hafta be quiet” line’s implication that the dad didn’t tell his son to stop using slurs, but to keep his voice down when he uses slurs. Charming.

  2. Dennis the Menace’s wisecrack is the kind of thing that makes me a proponent of the idea that his father should consider giving him a good old fashioned ass-whuppin’.

    1. I dunno, since his dad’s reaction seems to imply he agrees casually using slurs for fat people is an okay thing to do, he just doesn’t want his son to get *caught* doing it. I instead see consequences as him repeating the phrase where Mr. Wilson can hear it, followed by Mr. Wilson giving him a stern not-mad-just-disappointed explanation of the history of calling fat people “landwhales” and its variants, what kind of person does that and why, and asks Dennis seriously if that’s the kind of person he wants to be when he grows up. Then Dennis comes back home, overhears his dad talking about the “oversensitive hamplanet” he has to work with, and gives a heavy, sad sigh before shutting himself in his room.

      …that got dark fast.

  3. I said this to them:
    Why do you deem it acceptable to depict a child ridiculing a man who is minding his own business trying to relax on the beach? What exactly has the man done to deserve to have rude wisecracks being flung in his direction? Why is it okay to be cruel to people with certain body types? Nobody deserves to be the target of this sort of mean-spirited humor. Do better.

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    Theresa Meire ________________________________

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