Content warning: fat hate, disordered eating, and every other warning you’ve already heard about Jessica Jones (rape, PTSD, violence, misogyny, all sorts of warnings that fat women don’t deserve).
You’re on the internet, so I assume you’ve heard of, if not already binge watched, the Netflix/Marvel series, Jessica Jones. The show has been praised–rightfully so–for its unflinching, unapologetic themes of rape, PTSD, and even the sinister, casual misogyny of a man telling a woman to smile.
If the title of this post drew you in because you’re looking for another fawning think piece about how refreshing and wholly feminist this marvel (no pun intended) of a modern superhero franchise is, you’re probably the exact feminist I want to have a confrontation with.
I’d heard so many wonderful things about the show, so I tried it. It sucked me in immediately. About seven minutes into the first episode, our heroine is on a fire escape, spying through people’s windows. She sees a fat woman running on a treadmill. The woman steps down and retrieves a fast food burger to messily gorge herself on while Jones looks on and sneers, “two minutes on the treadmill, twenty minutes on a quarter-pounder.”
Despite the claims of notorious fat hating internet enclaves, there hasn’t been an outcry over this “triggering” content. And that’s what I–a sniveling, cowardly SJW, just to get that bit out of the way–am concerned about.
You know about trigger warnings–the term “content warning” is preferable, as it doesn’t appropriate or water-down terminology pertaining specifically to PTSD–because everyone on your Facebook timeline is complaining about them. Trigger warnings are everywhere, coddling the gentle feelings of a generation doomed to failure from being handled with white kid gloves, or so increasingly crusty fellow Gen Xers have decided. So where was the warning for that fat shaming joke that the pathetic, bottom-feeding Reddit dwellers so gleefully noted the absence of? Like most of the online drama that feeds their oxygen-deprived, shriveled little erections, the outcry was totally manufactured. In fact, when I googled the quote, not a single result on the first two pages were about the joke itself, but the overblown reaction the fat haters believed everyone was having.
So where the fuck was the overblown reaction, guys? Where was the trigger warning everyone thinks wasn’t needed? Where the fuck was it? There have been plenty of content warnings for rape, for violence, for suicide, for PTSD flashbacks. Was there no compassion or consideration left for the fat women? If even the fat shamers believed that the absence of a trigger warning should be cause for outrage, where the fuck were you? In a day and age where a marine biology Tumblr tags its posts with the mind-bogglingly obvious “TW: water”, where was a single social media feminist when your fat sisters were being brutally let down? And not just let down, but mocked for a reaction that wasn’t happening at all, let alone on the scale dreamed up by a bunch of sentient pubic hairs on the internet?
“But it’s feminist here! And over here!” you might be tempted to cry. Put a hold on that transaction, because I’m not buying. If I’m willing to cop to my seasonal worship of the misogynist shit-fest that is Love, Actually, you can good and goddamn admit that your unproblematic fave has two lines that are problematic, and you can take two seconds out of your day to acknowledge that and give fat women a head’s up.
By the end of the first episode, it was clear that this is going to be a show I love, and I’m going to stick with it all the way to the end because I am thoroughly enchanted. Krysten Ritter is, without any whiff of overstatement, flawless. The writing–in the first episode, at least–is tight as a drum, and it’s probably the only time I’ve seen a television character who wasn’t Olivia Benson tell a rape survivor that her assault wasn’t her fault. Jessica Jones is a great show. I was about to gush to my husband about how great it was, when I realized that he might want to watch it as a result. I thought about all the times he’s seen me red faced and sweating after a run, how many times I’ve tried to diet only to say “fuck it all!” and launch into some Taco Bell. How many times he’s seen me launch into some Taco Bell when I wasn’t saying “fuck it all!” to a diet and eating just because damn, I love those chicken quesadillas so much. I thought of him seeing the smart, strong Jessica Jones saying something I’d said to myself in my deepest moments of self-hatred a million times before. I thought about a following scene, where Jones tucks carelessly into a sandwich that will be the only thing we see her consume in this episode besides booze. And I thought about how embarrassing all of that was when combined. Even though I know that my husband doesn’t care about my weight–a shocking claim that would no doubt be denounced as a delusion or an outright lie by the slobbering anti-fat internet masses–, even though I know he’s still with me when I can’t stand being with myself, I would be mortified to watch that episode with him. So when he asked how it was, I didn’t do what I wanted to do, which was to grab him and shake him and scream in his face, “Why the fuck haven’t we watched this yet? What is wrong with us?” Instead, I shrugged and said, “It’s okay.”
And that’s me, a fat woman who no longer flirts with disordered eating, who no longer laments that her gag reflex can’t be triggered by something so puny as an index finger. A woman who would now be comfortable getting a tattoo of a Taco Bell chicken quesadilla on her forehead with the words “Fuck it all! Taco Bell!” in letters that replace her eyebrows. I can’t imagine how it must feel to women who haven’t developed a thicker skin yet, who haven’t overcome demons that will wake up hungry and cranky when they see a sweating fat woman eat a burger followed by a rail-thin beauty devouring a sandwich. I can’t imagine how many women turned off the show right there and missed all the powerful feminist content everyone is lauding. And all anyone needed to do to protect them was to mention how the show failed here. A single line in the middle of a four-thousand word praise orgy would have sufficed. A single word in defense to our legions of haters would have been even better.
Look, I’m a realist. Fat shame is here to stay. As long as horrible people are brutally oppressed by having to be nice to the people who count, fat people–who obviously don’t count–will be the target of impotent, frustrated egos that need to lash out at their own insecurities. Would I have preferred that Jessica Jones didn’t feature a fat shaming joke? Of course, especially since the production is helmed by a female show runner and is being praised as a feminist masterpiece. Do I think the show is irredeemably antifeminist because of it? Absolutely not. Do I want to prevent future episodes from being filmed, picket Netflix headquarters, and demand a full apology? Of course not. I’m not one of the fragile, fascist fatties who demand everyone worship us as sexual objects and who were completely invented by the gong farmers of the internet, because those types of fat people don’t exist. But you know what I do want? Some admission by my fellow feminists that fat women deserve just as much consideration and protection as every other woman. It’s one thing to declare that fat is a feminist issue. It’s another entirely to bother to do anything with that information. All you needed was a single content warning hashtag. All you needed was to acknowledge that we could be hurt by such a cheap, throwaway joke. And you didn’t.