Perez and America’s Fattest City

As embarrassing and shameful as this is to admit, I am addicted to perezhilton.com.  I am even inclined to say that there are many people (mostly girls) my age and younger who get a good majority of their news from Perez.  He has become one of the most influential voices in the entertainment industry for my generation.  This is a bit deplorable.  I know ruthlessly ripping apart celebrities is part of his appeal and to some extent he probably does it to get readers’ attention, but there are so many things wrong with his website.  Aside from the obvious problems of gossip-mongering and supporting a celebrity/trend-centric conformist culture, Perez does so much woman-bashing!  He uses the word “whore” in practically every post and his posts are much more inclined to tear down women than men.   I’m not putting all the blame on him, though, because I think this is a representation of culture at large to some extent.  But I also think that many people let Perez tell them what they should think of people and so readers are then more prone to woman-bashing, themselves.

Because Perez’s coverage of celebrity culture is also fashion and beauty-centric, it is easy to see how his site is detrimental to fat acceptance, or better yet to body and self acceptance in general.  He, like the rest of the world, is downright mean to Kirstie Alley, he constantly makes fun of female celebrities when they’re spotted without makeup, and he seems to always be playing the game “fat or pregnant?” to draw attention to celebrity women’s weight gain.  A few weeks ago I was surprised to see his post about an SNL cast member being fired for being fat where he called out both fat prejudice AND the double standard for fat men and women in entertainment.  Although that is the only time I’ve been almost impressed by him.  None of his other work has been consistent with that post, from what I’ve seen.

I did not mean for this post to be about Perez, though.  I meant to comment on this post that he made about Jamie Oliver going to West Virginia to “save” the citizens of Huntingdon, “America’s fattest city.”  Not only is Perez’s post insulting (e.g.  when he says “Don’t get your plus-sized panties in a twist and enjoy the free food!”), the entire event is out of line.  I feel like this is an example of another dimension of the “headless fatty” phenomenon as a whole town is being seen, not as a place made up of actual people with actual identities, but as fat.  Jamie Oliver is apparently a super hero as he swoops in to save them from this “epidemic”.  They are exploiting a town for the sake of ratings.  I’m pretty sure there are other forces at work here rather than Huntingdon simply being a town full of hillbillies who don’t know how to take care of themselves (which I think is the image that is currently on the table).  Here is a New York Times article about Oliver’s endeavor, which mentions Huntingdon’s high poverty rate.  Shouldn’t that be a pressing concern?  A town is bound to have less nutritional resources if they are not economically well-off.  Wouldn’t “treating” the town’s “obesity” be treating a symptom rather than actually helping the town?  I don’t really have anything against Jamie Oliver, but this whole thing seems a bit wonky to me.  Perhaps it’s just the patronizing approach emphasizing fat as the root of all evil and perpetuating fat stereotypes?  You tell me…

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by worthyourweight on October 11, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Sad that Perez doesn’t realize how inextricably linked homophobia is to sexism.

    Reply

  2. Posted by TuffyRox on October 12, 2009 at 1:15 am

    I stopped reading Perez recently for this very reason. I still check in to make sure my favorite singer Amy Winehouse is alive, but otherwise I’m done with Perez. Along with what worthyourweight just said, I wish he didn’t have such a short memory about what it’s like to be fat. His site could be so much fun if he knew the difference between delightfully bitchy and cruel, misogynistic and anti-intellectual.

    Reply

  3. Posted by TuffyRox on October 12, 2009 at 1:20 am

    Oh, yeah – and the thing with Jamie Oliver… I totally agree with your reasons for being turned off by it. Even if I lived in that town and wanted to lose weight and wanted some guidance, I would resent someone coming in like a knight in shining armor to show me the way – along with my fellow townspeople. I would want to work with someone who would listen to my needs and not make a big production about having “saved” me, when the real effort would have been my own.

    Reply

  4. @TuffyRox

    Hear, hear. Not to harp on -isms, but the classism in the Jamie Oliver story just stinks.

    Reply

  5. Posted by hsofia on October 26, 2009 at 3:29 am

    That bums me out to hear about Jamie Oliver doing this because I’m a fan of his work. I don’t have cable or watch tv so I wouldn’t be watching anyway, but I hope these people in the town are treated with respect. Jamie is all about the naked cooking – simple stuff anyone can do with a small amount of time. I think it should be about helping people to eat BETTER not less or with fewer calories so they lose weight. Ugh.

    Reply

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