Media is such a powerful tool and even someone I consider as brilliant as Dustin Hoffman did not realize the effect that it had on him until he demanded to be a “Beautiful” woman in Tootsie. This reminds me of the ways in which the film “Shallow Hal” starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black (2001) also demonstrates the impact media has created on our perceptions and dictates how we treat one another but also how we miss out on “interesting” and potentially fulfilling relationships. In fact, Gwyneth Paltrow (star of Shallow Hal) admits that while she was in her “fat suit” her colleagues treated her differently and relieved when she was back in her own thin body.
Taking the perspective of the other whether they come in a fat body, a colored body, a body that does not speak the way you think they should, move or even dress a certain way according to cultural, regional, organizational norms for example; are all bodies are outside the mythical normal. It is sad to know that humans have to go through such extremes to have empathy and see their own prejudices. Dustin and Gwyneth both seem to have walked a mile in the preverbal shoes of a woman, a fat person, or a person not considered as beautiful and if we ever get to understand another oppressive condition in our lifetimes, I think it will make us better individuals. Now the question is how does that happen at a global level?
Consider this. Now that Obesity is going to be called a disease one would suspect that the dis-ease that some of have with our bodies will be meet with some form of compassion instead of instant judgment and criticism. Changing language can be a beginning to changing minds or attitudes. Unfortunately, Tootsie and Shallow Hall are both comedies which is another problem in itself and while it is no laughing matter as Dustin and Gwyneth realized, the fact is that according to society and folks that watched the films that did not cry but laughed at all the fat jokes, fat bodies are still the butt of the joke, literally and figuratively. What can we do to help others walk a mile in our shoes? If calling a Obesity a disease does not help change perspectives, what options are we suggesting to combat that global disease that we all suffer from which is a lack of acceptance of anything or anyone that is not like “us”?