Thank Maude for the British—because, without Kim and Aggie teaching us how to clean our homes, and Jo Frost teaching us how to raise our kids, and Victoria Stilwell teaching us how to control our dogs, and Trinny and Susannah teaching us how to dress ourselves, and Simon Cowell teaching us how to sing, and Nigel Lithgoe teaching us how to dance, Americans would be naked, cultureless beasts who lived in garbage heaps with feral children and wild dogs.
This is all true.
The latest Brit in the British How-To Invasion is “Naked Chef” Jamie Oliver, whose new show
I Hate Fat People Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution features Oliver traveling to Huntington, West Virginia—the Obesitiest Place in the Multiverse!—where he was determined to use his “magic” to help Huntington’s Fatties get less fat. I mean, healthier!
The reality series based on this generous thin martyr giving up his time to help stupid fat people premieres tomorrow night. But! By the magic of the internetz, you can watch it here right now!
[Editor’s note: this is the entire episode, but the first 8 minutes will give you the idea; also, I’m sorry non-U.S. readers, I know you can’t see Hulu.]
If you can’t view the video, here’s a quick summary: Headless fatties? Check. Enormous food stock footage? Check. OHNOES Obesity CrisisTM? Check. Being fat is ugly? Check. Fat people are lazy? Check. Fat people are stupid? Check. Fat people are sick? Check. DEATHFAT? Check. Mother-blaming for fat kids? Check. Fat as a moral failure? Check. Religious shaming of fat? Check. Fat people don’t have “the tools” to not be fat? Check. Fat people need a skinny savior? Checkity-check-check!
I want to note that there is, buried somewhere beneath the 10 metric fucktons of fat-shaming (and not an incidental dose of misogyny, for good measure), information about healthful eating (e.g. not eating any fresh veg, ever, isn’t good for anyone), but this is information that could be delivered without a scene in which a mother of four whose husband is gone three weeks a month is told that she’s killing her children while she’s weeping at her kitchen table.
The premiere episode has absolutely zero structural critique, not even a passing comment about the reason that millions of mothers feed their kids processed foods is because it’s cheap and fast, which is a pretty good solution for people who are short on money and time.
Oliver places the responsibility for unhealthful eating exclusively at the feet of the individual, seemingly without concern for the cultural dynamics that inform individual choices. The extent of the explanation provided for why someone might choose to stock their freezer with frozen pizzas is that they’re lazy and/or don’t know any better.
And then he wonders why he isn’t greeted by the citizens of Huntington with open arms.
At the end of the episode, a newspaper article comes out in which Oliver’s evident contempt for the community has been reported. Oliver claims his words were taken out of context; the people with whom he’s been working to revamp elementary school meals don’t believe him—and understandably so, given that he’s been a patronizing ass to them.
In the final scene, Oliver speaks directly to the camera, and he is crying, wiping tears from his eyes as he throws himself a little pity party:
It’s quite hard to cut through negativity, always. And defensiveness. You know, I’m giving up massive time that is really compromising my family—because I care! You know, um, the tough thing for me [exhales deeply] is they don’t understand me, ‘cuz they don’t know why I’m here. [sniffs] They don’t even know what I’ve done, the things I’ve done in the last ten years! And I’m just doing it ‘cuz it feels right [sniffs], and when I do things that feels right, magic happens! [sniffs; shakes his head disbelievingly] I’ve done some amazing things, you know? And that’s when I follow my heart. And when I never follow my heart, I always get it wrong.
Look, I’m gonna be really honest: You do live in an amazing country. You put people on the moon! You live in an amazing country. And so do I, you know? And, right now in time, is a moment where we’re all confused about how brilliant we are and how technically advanced we are, and that is fighting with what once made our countries great, which is family, community, being together, and something honestly as simple as putting a few ingredients together and sitting your family or your friends or your girlfriend or your mother-in-law around that table and breaking bread. And if you think that’s not important, then shame on you!
In an interview to promote the show, Oliver says, “You can’t really blame the parents when the whole culture and the whole horizon of food is all the same.” Which is an interesting comment from someone who chose a scene where he’s telling a mother she’s killing her kids for the premiere episode of his show.
That underlines a key problem with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution: He doesn’t want to be seen as the guy who blames parents for killing their kids and shaming fat people for being fat—but there he is in his show, blaming parents for killing their kids and shaming fat people for being fat. Oops.
And, on top of it, he ends the premiere episode by crying because those goddamn fat ingrates don’t appreciate him.
Reportedly, Huntington eventually warmed up to Oliver, but I don’t think I’ll be sticking around to watch that happy ending unfold.
And, for the record, Mr. Oliver, the “whole horizon of food” is actually not all the same in the US: In some places, things are much, much worse.
Melissa McEwan is the founder and manager of the award-winning political and cultural group blog Shakesville, a founding member of the Big Brass Blog, and a contributor to The Guardian’s Comment is Free and AlterNet. Melissa graduated from Loyola University Chicago with degrees in Sociology and Cultural Anthropology and an emphasis on the political marginalization of gender-based groups.
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