Monday, December 2, 2013

The Disappointing Fat Shame of "Enough Said"

[Content note: fat shaming, spoilers for the film Enough Said]

This weekend, I saw Enough Said. If you're not familiar, it's a romantic comedy starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Eva) and the late James Gandolfini (Albert). The premise is pretty stated at the Wikipedia page for the film:
The plot centers on a woman who befriends a woman and starts dating a man at the same time, only to find out that her two new acquaintances are former spouses. This leaves her in a dilemma about whether she should risk her new friendship and romantic partner if she reveals what she has learned about them from one another. 
All that is harmless (and kind of boring) enough, but what stood out to me was the relentless fat shaming.

It started with Eva commenting to her friend that she had met a new guy (Albert) but that he's "kinda fat" so OF COURSE she wasn't attracted to him at first. It continued with Eva later talking about his and her "flabby, middle aged bodies." Albert has internalized shame and talks about how he needs to diet. His ex-wife, Marianne (Catherine Keener), goes on long tangents about how fat and disgusting Albert is to Eva, in excruciating detail of her hate of his body and his failed attempts to lose weight, down to critiquing the way he eats guacamole. This all gets in Eva's head so while on a double date, she "jokes" about getting him a calorie book, tells him to stop eating, and generally makes fun of him.

The only saving grace is that after this, Albert stands up to Eva for her treatment of him and they breakup (at least temporarily...the end is ambiguous.) But this is far from a redemption for the overall tone of the film. I mean, Eva's fatphobia is so strong that later, long after her break up with Albert, we see her on Thanksgiving talking to a friend. She's saying how happy she is that her college aged daughter is coming home for the holiday, but she can't even refrain from making a face and commenting that it's too bad it looks like her daughter has gained some weight.  Fat negativity is just embedded in the fabric of the dialogue throughout. It was all too much. I mean, any one piece of it would have been too much, but together it was agonizing and so unnecessary.

While no character is immune to writer/director Nicole Holofcener's deeply held fatphobia, obviously most of the shaming centered on Galdofini's character. Given his recent passing, it felt in particularly poor taste. Not that anyone knew that would be the case, but still.

And perhaps most remarkable is that none of this is actually remarkable, at all. Holofcener's views are sadly mainstream. Her characters talk like many real people talk. It's all "normal," so much so that thousands of people have watched this garbage and did not bat an eye, or worse yet, laughed happily at the constant fat negativity.

Thin privilege is going to the movies confident that your body shape will not be the butt of every other joke.

Please see the commenting policy before replying to this post.


  1. I really enjoyed this film, and most of Holofcener work, so perhaps I am biased. But it seemed obvious, to me, that Julia Louis-Dreyfus's character was "supposed" to be out of line for her attitude. There's a difference between a character being fat shaming and a movie being fat shaming. It's a difficult line for any movie to walk. In real life, everyone is prejudiced to some degree or another.

    1. How was the movie itself not fat shaming--honestly, I'm interested to hear your assessment there because I just don't see it.

      One might make the claim that Eva learns a lesson, but it's clear she doesn't by the comments she makes after the break up about her daughter and the fact that she (genuinely) apologies for not telling him about being friends w/ his ex and not for her shitty attitude about his eating/weight.

      She wasn't "even out of line" in the movie--other characters exhibited the same attitude in smaller ways, she was just the most outspoken. As a fat person, the movie felt incredibly insulting overall.

  2. None of the characters in the film are paragons of virtue. Fat shaming is all people have left since they cannot prop up their self esteem by using race, age or disability anymore. Gandolfini has the last laugh in the film as he shows that he is the only person who is necessary and real...but, he doesn't gloat. That is the lesson after all, it is important to accept one's shortcoming and move on with the business of living a real life.


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