I don’t typically do trigger warnings, but this post is going to contain mentions of eating disorders, fatphobia, fat shaming, and there’s some depictions of fake gore. Be warned.
Hoo, boy, am I ever on TikTok. Yep. Sure am. I got TikTok in 2020 when I was recovering from COVID-19 alpha strain and used the app mainly to get some joy back into my life. I made a few videos but soon after left my account to go to seed until I picked it up again in late 2021 when I began to seriously make videos for Drunk In A Graveyard. It didn’t take long for me, during one of my late night For You Page doom scroll sessions, to find a TikTok with some lyrics that have gone on to strike me quite deeply.
“I’ve drawn out in sharpie
Where I’d take the scissors
If that’s what it took
For me to look in the mirror
I’ve done every diet
To make me look thinner
So why do I still feel so goddamn inferior?”
This TikTok stopped me dead in my tracks – something that is generally uncommon with me in regards to TikTok. I tend to do a lot of laughing on the app, I network for new horror blogs and accounts to follow, I drool over alternative fashion, but not often am I ever punched in the stomach like this.
So, the lyrics are from Maddie Zahm’s “Fat Funny Friend”, a heartfelt folk-pop single that just dropped February 4, 2022, and has gone very much viral on TikTok.
The song is written from Maddie’s point of view as someone who grew up overweight, who lived inside a fat body, and how she was treated, seen, and felt about herself during her time inhabiting this body that society has deemed as “the Other”. Maddie has since, by her accounts, lost over 150lbs, and now lives inside a conventionally beautiful body – she has stated she is a size 6, and further to this, Maddie is just, well.. she’s achingly beautiful. She’s exactly the type of girl I would be jealous of, if I was to see her on the street. And yet, her she was, baring literally all of herself, detailing every humiliating detail of what it is like to live in a fat body, to be The Other, and even though she’s by all other means “come out the other side” of being a fat person, she remains haunted by her heavier weight and the experiences it put her through.
And I think this is what struck me so powerfully, was that even behind the “before & after” supposed “success story”, Maddie remains so hurt, and the pain resonates so clearly in her voice.
And it got me thinking – where have I seen this before?
And of course, like most things, it goes right back to horror with me. I mean, I run a horror blog after all, so I supposed that’s appropriate, but in a way I guess it seems silly.
But.. “Fat Funny Friend” takes me right back to the night Drunk in a Graveyard joined together and watched horror anthology “The ABCs of Death”. The anthology pits various directors and filmmakers against a letter of the alphabet, and they have to create a short film. Some horrifying, some horrible, some heinous, and some hilarious. But the one that’s always stood out to me was “X is for XXL”, a short directed by French filmmaker Xavier Gens. The 6 minute short follows Getrude, an overweight French woman who walks in a haze of diet culture advertisements in France, all the while inhabiting a fat body. She is brutally mocked for her size, until in a dizzying depiction of binge eating disorder combined with body horror, she quite literally takes scissors and tools to her body, hacking off the fat has encumbered her. Finally, Gertrude stands, in a viscera soaked moment of liberation to gaze into the mirror, finally inhabiting a thin body before she collapses to die. I remember being so struck by this simple short and how accurately it portrayed diet culture, eating disorders, and the fact that fat shaming large bodies DOES NOT work. Even though many of the other horror shorts in ABCs of Death didn’t land with me, I have always held onto “X is for XXL” for how hard it hit me.
As an overweight person myself, I know all of these struggles too well. Even though I’m on my own weight loss journey, with early morning fasted cardio, restricted calories, too much knowledge of the MyFitnessPal app, and too much time spent with a step counter, I still feel just as heavy as I was ten pounds ago, twenty pounds ago.
I look in the mirror and I don’t see any of the changes that others claim to see, and my twisted cognitive thinking brushes off any comments as simply lies – it’s just people gassing me up, after all.
I assume any hate comments I get on either this page, or my YouTube or my TikTok will be about my appearance, my weight, and often they are, though not all the time. For a change people often tell me I’m ugly. Maybe I am.
How many times have I rolled my eyes at the portrayal of large bodies in films? On one hand you either have the literal “Fat Funny Friend” (see films with Rebel Wilson, Amy Schumer, Melissa McCarthy) or you have the “fat body as grotesquerie” – Robert Eggers’s The VVitch, Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem, 13 Ghosts, Slither, Se7en, Resurrection, and even 2021’s Dune with Stellan Skarsgård.
How many times have I horrified the therapists that help me when I really tell them the thoughts that go through my head? How many times have I written in my journal of my struggle to walk by a mirror, a window, a reflective surface without body checking myself into oblivion? How many years was it before I was finally diagnosed with an eating disorder in 2021? How do I explain to people who constantly post self love memes that this is simply not a reality that will ever be true for me and that my best option is to hope for self neutrality? How do I reconcile how depressing that is? I don’t know. I really don’t. And neither does Maddie, who said herself in a recent TikTok that she thought that finally having a small body would mean she loves herself, and she just isn’t there yet. And I get that so deeply it is painful. Maddie talks about making herself smaller, learning to shrink not only physically but metaphorically and I know this too. Xavier’s character Gertrude knew it as well. It’s in the way she walked, the way she moved through the world. It’s in her final triumph to die thin, and isn’t that the goal of so many women the world over. Isn’t that the voice in my head saying, “if you hurt yourself doing it, but end up thin, wont all the pain be worth it?”
But, I do know now why Maddie’s song and Xavier’s film hit me so hard.. because they’re not Rebel Wilson yukking it up for the camera, begging the viewer to laugh with rather than at her, and it’s not a beautiful corpse horror show of the fat body as a carnival grostesquerie – they’re honest portrayals of the truth of living inside a body that can feel suffocating and oppressive. And I thank them both for that. Who knew you could find deep personal meaning in a short film about body horror?
And for those who haven’t seen ABC’s of Death or need a refresher on the short “X is for XXL” you can find the short below – and again obvious trigger warning:
And before any of the concern-posting supposed health advocates out there start commenting blogposts about how “fAT sHaMiNg WoRks AcKshully”, all of the scientific literature shows that, in fact, only the opposite is true. Shame is a powerful emotion. If we teach people to hate themselves, how well do you then expect them to care for something (aka their body) they hate? We must remember that we cannot hate people into change, into respect, or into self love. Hopefully some of you remember that, but since most of you won’t, I will see you in the comments.
You can send us beer money on Patreon