Fat Tropes: Stupidity

“Fat” has a lot of negative connotations: lazy, gluttonous, slothful, helpless, ugly. One of the worst, most damaging associations is the idea that fat people are stupid. This stereotype is prolific throughout popular culture, reinforced under the guise of “humor” and “life lessons”.

Homer Simpson:

Homer Simpson is the quintessential stupid fat character. He makes decisions at a very base level, with food and drink serving as primary motivators:

This donut has purple in the middle, purple is a fruit.

He is uncultured:

Books are useless! I only ever read one book, “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and it gave me absolutely no insight on how to kill mockingbirds! Sure it taught me not to judge a man by the color of his skin…but what good does that do me?

He is ignorant of basic science and math facts:

The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side!

His diminished intellectual capacity is inextricably tied to his comedic value.

Augustus Gloop:

Augustus Gloop is a “gluttonous” boy motivated by the consumption of sweets and chocolate. In fact, he’s so wholly dull that eating is the only thing he cares about:

‘I just knew Augustus would find a Golden Ticket,’ his mother had told the newspapermen. ‘He eats so many bars of chocolate a day that it was almost impossible for him not to find one. Eating is his hobby, you know. That’s all he’s interested in.

He doesn’t listen to simple directions:

‘The grass you are standing on, my dear little ones, is made of a new kind of soft, minty sugar that I’ve just invented! I call it swudge! Try a blade! Please do! It’s delectable!’

Automatically, everybody bent down and picked one blade of grass — everybody, that is, except Augustus Gloop, who took a big handful.

In fact, he’s so singularly motivated that he’s likened to an animal:

Augustus was deaf to everything except the call of his enormous stomach. He was now lying full length on the ground with his head far out over the river, lapping up the chocolate like a dog.

These tropes are so pervasive that they are self-perpetuating. There are openly hostile individuals that claim fat people are stupid because they allow themselves to be fat despite purported “health risks” and “easy access” to diet and exercise products, though they only fan the flames of an already robust fire.

Labeling fat people as unintelligent is more symptomatic of a cultural problem then it is causal. The internet doesn’t help, serving as a opaque curtain behind which people can manufacture new examples of the same old hate, and the anonymity seemingly amplifies the aggressive nature of these memes.

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