Wednesday, February 07, 2007

It's those poor fat people you have to watch out for

It seems to be the year of misplaced values at the movie theater.

I admit I have not seen either of these films but I will when they show up on HBO. It's the premise I have a problem with.

The Pursuit of Happyness (Don't get me started on what that title is going to do to my students' already warped sense of spelling.) is about a man who works hard to care for his son and gets nowhere. Then he sees a guy with a fancy car and decides to go for that job and succeeds in achieving the great American dream.

The dream of what, exactly? Greed? I understand that this is based on a true story, but we all know how often details change to suit the needs of the story. Would it have been so difficult for Will Smith's character to take a chance on being a stock broker because he really loved being a stock broker? That was his dream job and he only did the other jobs because he thought he had no chance at achieving his dream? Instead, it seems like he just does this for the money. That's a great lesson to teach his son. Money buys "happyness", kid, but it can't buy you the ability to spell words in the modern vernacular.

Then there's Eddie Murphy, who decides to follow up his Oscar-worthy performance in Dream Girls with the most vile, offensive-looking turd of his career. Wasn't The Nutty Professor largely about valuing what people have on the inside and not judging them on their appearance? Yet here's Norbit, a film about how poor little Eddie Murphy really wants the beautiful thin girl played by Thandie Newton, but is stuck with this fat, mean, bossy woman who keeps him around like her play toy. Haha, she's fat, see? Isn't that funny? Aren't fat people hilarious?

It's not that beautiful people have to be evil. And it's not that I expect an unrealistic world where a man genuinely doesn't care about the appearance of a woman. You have to be attracted to your mate of course. But Shallow Hal did it perfectly; Rosemary doesn't turn into a beautiful thin swan at the end because that's not the person she is. Hal has to change his perspective, not wait for a miracle to mold her to his expectations. That's the message a good film should send.

Instead it looks like Norbit's fat woman fulfills all the nasty stereotypes that make the rest of us throw fat people dirty looks for walking down the street - that look that says, "You don't deserve to live. Why don't you work out more?"

There's a woman at the gym who's been going there and working with a trainer as long as I have. She was morbidly obese when she came in and she's still really heavy a year later, but she's working on it one day at a time. I respect that a lot more than those people who took the gastric bypass route. Now they can eat whatever they want and still stay thin, so instead of dying from a heart attack brought on by obesity, they can die from malnutrition brought on by a steady diet of Oreos.

Stories should be about something. Your story should send a message you'd be proud to tell your kids. That doesn't mean every story needs to be uplifting and happy. I love Candide, but that has one of the most downer messages in literature - and yet it somehow throws out a glimmer of hope. The same goes for Lord of the Flies. I don't want anybody watching my films and thinking about how greed is the American dream or thanking god they didn't get stuck with some crazy fat lady as a girlfriend. I guess I believe in karma and I want my movies to reflect that.


  1. Anonymous4:27 PM

    I hear ya, but --

    mmm, Oreos... Double Stuff Oreos...

    Gotta go.

  2. Anonymous4:28 PM

    I thought the trailer for Pursuit of Happyness was better than the movie.

  3. Anonymous7:54 PM

    I saw a lot publicity on the Pursuit of Happyness including Donny Deutsch's interview with the man behind Will Smith's character. I'm led to believe that in this case the story follows pretty close.

    Take that for what it's worth. Even if the story is heartwarming and even if it matches real life exactly you don't automatically get a good movie.

    And I believe the dream in this case is pulling yourself up from nothing and providing a better life for your son.

    As for the spelling... *shrug*

    And for Eddie Murphy. There's a movie I doubt I'll even watch for free - and I watch a lot of stinkers. ;)

  4. Anonymous5:20 PM

    From what I've been told (I haven't seen the movie), the misspelled "Happyness" is a reference to a scene in the plot. Will Smith's character goes into his son's school, and sees the word Happiness misspelled on the wall of the classroom. That's when he decides he has to get his son out of that crappy school and into a better life...

  5. Anonymous1:16 AM

    Ok fine, but because some fictional classroom has it spelled incorrectly, doesn't mean I have to be pissed off looking at a giant misspelled advertisement looming over Beverly and Robertson.

    Gah, it pissed me off everytime I saw it.

  6. Anonymous10:46 AM

    Not to nitpick, but I'll assume from the "based on a true story" bit, that's how it was actually spelled in the classroom. And in SF (Chinatown or other districts) I've actually seen similar colloquialisms like that.


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