First of all, Jennifer Lawrence is dynamite in every movie she does. She is lovely. She seems fairly intelligent. And then she goes to Barbara Walters and says this:
BW: “You criticized the people who judge other women especially on the red carpet, you’re very sensitive to that. Why?”
JL: “Because why is humiliating people funny? And I am also, and I get it and then I do it — we all do it but, I think when it comes to the media — the media needs to take responsibility, for the effect that it has on our younger generation, on these girls are watching these television shows and picking up how to talk and how to be cool and how to be — then all of a sudden being funny is making fun of the girl that’s wearing the ugly dress and making fun of the girl that’s, you know… and the word fat. I just think it should be illegal to call somebody fat on TV, and if we are regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words for the effect it has on the younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?”
Okay, let’s break a few things down. What is and is not seen on broadcast TV is largely determined by two groups; the Standards and Practices departments of the given cable television network, and (for broadcast television) the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC bases their guidelines mostly around the concept of “obscenity” as it is vaguely defined by the US Supreme Court. Specifically, it looks for material that:
- An average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;
- Depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law;
- Taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value
The Standards and Practices departments of television networks are beholden to no one but their potential advertisers. Obscenity, or sex, or smoking, or drug use, is not banned from television. And when those behaviors AREN’T shown, it’s usually because it would upset the advertisers and the network would lose revenue as a result.
Banning the adjective “fat” from TV is not the same as banning smoking. The problem with how “fat” is used on television isn’t that it glorifies the use of the word. It is that it glorifies the use of the word as a derogatory term. If anything, “fat” should be used more often, in more positive contexts. More fat characters with positive story lines and comedy that doesn’t revolve around body type. The only way to get the networks to discourage fat caricatures and fat shaming for comedy would be through the manipulation of ad revenue. Unfortunately, there is BIG BUSINESS in fat shaming, and even more in “body improvement” and “health” (think low-fat anything, makeup, SPANX).
Asking for someone to ban a word like “fat” does not deter fat shaming behavior. It simply increases its already negatively charged stigma. I say, bring on the “fat” words! Proliferate them! Take their negative power away. That is something that would actually help little girls… to hear words that describe their bodies that aren’t “bad words” that you can’t say on TV.