Friday, May 23, 2008

So You Think You Can Dance & The FAT Guy

Oh NOES! FAT PEOPLE! basically the attitude, right? Scary to even think of a fat person on a dance show. And this guy actually lifted his shirt to show his big fat belly during his dance, so of course that clip made the "coming up" segment before every commercial. Let's laugh at the fat person!

But I happen to love So You Think You Can Dance so I decided to set aside my strong misgivings about the way fat people are treated and watch the season premiere last night. Overall, it wasn't a great premiere; a lot more focus on gawking at the losers than at showcasing dance, but let's get back to Fat Guy.
First, we are gawking at a fat guy. And not just any fat guy, a weird fat guy with a fur hat. Lookie! Fat people can't dance, they can only do shtick. And that's a choice. Hundreds upon hundreds of people auditioned; a dozen got shown on TV; fur hat guy was not the only big person who auditioned, so the choice was, let's show someone laughable.

Second, the judges leap right into OMG FAT WILL KILL YOU. It's unhealthy. We're telling you this for your own good.

But there were a couple of things that I actually liked. Crazy, right?

First of all, these judges are choreographers and former dancers, so I have a certain sympathy for any anti-fat prejudice they may have; they are from a world where it is so much the norm, I kind of doubt they've been exposed to any alternate views. What Nigel ultimately said to the guy was this: 'Every dancer's heart rate goes up when they dance; health is measured by how quickly your heart rate comes back down. And look, you're still panting. That's not okay.'

That's great advise, because it's not about weight; if he's fat and not panting that's healthy, and if he's thin and panting that's unhealthy. So yay Nigel.

Finally, Mia pointed out that the guy's written bio said he didn't want to be a thin dancer, and she asked him about it, and the conversation got to that he didn't think he was a good enough dancer to compete with "real" dancers, he just thought his size and costume made him amusing to watch. And Mia engaged that directly, telling him to learn to love himself and not to pigeonhole himself, and that perhaps he could be a great dancer but he needed to let go his own preconceptions and find out. And after the initial question about his size, she never added "and lose weight," which I thought was miraculous.

Maybe it's the tyranny of soft expectations. Maybe it's like being so happy that a woman is allowed to get a job in a traditionally male field that you tolerate the lower pay. But after that offensive promo spot, there was something lovely about engaging with the guy as if he was a real human being. Fancy that.

(So you think you can cross-post)