The night before we met, Aubrey Gordon watched a group of friends, family, and strangers stare at her naked body onscreen. The image appears in one of many impressive, authentic moments. Your Fat FriendJeanie Finlay’s documentary chronicling Gordon’s journey from an anonymous essayist to a leading voice in fat activism premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last week.
For many people, even the thought of experiencing this – any part of it – is embarrassing. But Gordon may argue that people who fear it are probably not fat.
When I asked her how she reacted to seeing her naked, Gordon said, “As a fat person, there’s nothing I can do or look like to make people happy or comfortable.” “Other people always tell you that you should be ashamed of how you look and that you shouldn’t look like X, Y, Z. And it doesn’t matter whether you wear makeup or not. They’re like, ‘You’re fat and you’re here and you’re not wanted’.”
That cold, generalized “you” didn’t apply to the audience that first night, who welcomed the film warmly. This is an illuminating and vulnerable portrait of a woman who comes to terms with her personal identity and the fact that people now know who she is.
Gordon’s writings have appeared in numerous publications; He has been interviewed numerous times. Gordon’s second book, You Just Need to Lose Weightchecks for common misconceptions about weight, nutrition, and health; made New York Times January Bestseller List. And as a regular listener Maintenance PhaseGordon and co-host Michael Hobbes‘ the podcast that debunks the award-winning wellness myth, that instantly recognizable voice coming out of a human’s mouth instead of my headphones – and your transcendent laughter! – it was jarring to hear.
But in 2016, Gordon was a community promoter living in Portland, Oregon, who blogged under the pseudonym “Your Fat Friend.” None of his friends or family knew who he was, or that his self-published articles about the realities of being fat had gone viral in a world designed to work against you. When the study, published on Medium, was taken alongside some widely viewed Twitter threads, the entire internet was stunned by the honesty, clarity, and empathy of their work.
For example, in his exciting essay “What It’s Like To Be The Fat Person Sitting Next To You On A Plane,” he wrote of how flying is “a microcosm of what happens very often as a fat person.” I am watched and judged harshly as I try and fail to fit into a space made for someone else. Gordon recounted the woes of doctor visits from behind the scenes of an anonymous woman we might know very well; reduced indiscriminate use of “body positivity”; and asked readers to skip the euphemisms and “just say fat.”
Finlay got to know and loved Gordon for the first time through the tracks Your Fat Friend, just like us. “What I answered on a spirit level was that it was an anonymous voice,” Finlay said as he first discovered Gordon’s work. “It meant I could focus on the words. It felt accessible, but it was the personalized political thing I was concerned with – it felt like I was hearing a new voice and it lingered.
British documentary filmmaker Seahorse (about a trans man who got pregnant) and Last Watch (a full-length look behind game of Thrones‘ last season), he had thought long and hard about obesity in his own life; He said unrelated health issues “shape my identity” as a fat person who is often misdiagnosed as symptoms of his weight. In 2017, as Gordon took Your Fat Friend to new heights and platforms, Finlay probably reached out about making a movie about the author.
“The conversations we had were much easier, more sensitive, and more holistic than most people were prepared to have on these topics,” Gordon said of the long courtship process that eventually led to Finlay agreeing to be the subject of his next book. film. “Oftentimes, it feels like I’m talking to someone about bad things, I have to talk to them for hours to process their own bodies before I can even hear anyone else. [talk about it]” Finlay and Gordon followed suit and as we saw in the movie, she felt comfortable both swimming in the pool and stripping at the spa for the sake of Finlay’s project.
But agreeing to be in a movie about yourself and actually doing it are two very different things. And it’s easier said than done to agree to put your real name in your overly vulnerable post.
“I wanted to be a mirror of people’s own behavior in front of fat people,” said Gordon, who was his first choice to write anonymously. It was an “overwhelming” process for him to reconcile this intention – to create a universally relatable work by anonymizing himself – with his desire to set aside the mirror and become a public defender. Four years after starting the blog, Gordon announced he’s Your Fat Friend in November 2020; The revelation came in connection with the publication of her first book, What Are We Not Talking About When We Talk About Fat?.
From there, new challenges emerged that had to be tackled now that Gordon was clearly writing and speaking like himself. These concerns did not revolve around how dropping the moniker would affect the work itself. Instead, Gordon was concerned about the job that required him to appear and be perceived in person. “With headshots [done] and being on Zoom with people and putting pressure on — all of which felt huge risks,” he said, “and I felt like both people were going to change their minds about me when they saw me, and people were going to change their minds about me,” he said in this conversation.”
Among the people Gordon deeply wanted his opinion was his family. Gaining their acceptance was integral for Finlay and Gordon in forging Gordon’s new public identity. Pam and her father Rusty are featured in the film, and their daughter’s reflections on her success as an activist who is part of her platform make up another compelling narrative.
“One of my biggest fears in this process, [becoming the public face of Your Fat Friend] “It would have changed our relationship in a way that frightened me,” Gordon said. Throughout the film, Finlay’s camera catches Gordon’s parents squirming when they hear their daughter refer to him as “fat” and contemplating their own parenting. A moving scene shows Pam discussing her daughter’s constant diets, then having a hard time following an on-camera interview, realizing that she knows these diets are only doing her child more harm.
While these vulnerable moments were uncomfortable for the family, Finlay knew that including them was an important part of Gordon’s narrative. “What we all want is for our parents to see us as adults the way we are,” she said. finally Your Fat Friend documentary, Rusty and Pam laughing and bragging about their daughter in the front row of their reading; Gordon says they’re all getting closer.
What the Gordon family was trying to reconcile was not that Aubrey became a known amount overnight. Each was also coming to terms with his own reality – not in his own body, but with the pain of living in a society that did not accept him. As the documentary makes clear, this distinction is crucial to Gordon. Finlay and Gordon are not interested in pathologizing Gordon’s obesity throughout the film; the author has passed the “how” and “why” and “when” speeches. In its place, Your Fat Friend It shows how Gordon’s own body is inextricably linked to his activism.
As a fat person, he said, “You’re already a screen where people project.” He regularly chats with thin people who can say they want to be part of the fat acceptance movement, but is beginning to reveal their own fears of being fat. This is often linked to anti-fat bias, according to Gordon. “At some point you have to say, ‘Well, if you’re always going to react to my body, I’m going to cut right out and have a direct talk about what’s going on here,'” he said. . “Because otherwise I’m holding on to the inconvenience that someone else has created and that they actually should have.”
If a fat activist’s platform includes removing misinformation about obesity and promoting healthier boundaries for interacting with fat people, then of course their bodies are naturally part of what they preach. Your Fat Friend He makes this clear by giving us time to get to know Gordon as a person. She reads some of her most poignant essays on voiceover, which is illuminating. But what’s more impressive is watching him hang out with his family, discovering he’s landed a book deal, and sharing his wisdom while recording the podcast. These moments infuse a new humanity into the once-anonymous essays, providing a powerful context for her work. (Also, Gordon is simply, undeniably cute; I learned that was especially true in person, our conversation was so engaging that he had to be forcibly removed from there lest he miss another appointment.)
this is important Your Fat Friend It gives Gordon a platform to do this and does a good job of threading the needle of the personal and the political. While Gordon preaches a better lifestyle for all fat people, it’s also important to remember that Black women are the demographic with the highest obesity rates. But the most visible figures in the fat activism movement, Roxane Gay aside, are almost entirely white women. The intersections with obesity (and anti-obesity) are very broad; The economy that can contribute to obesity is misunderstood, but Black women make less money than many other demographics. Add in factors like geographic location and health disparities, and there are a lot of fat people that Gordon can’t represent.
Finlay and Gordon understand that, they said. Finlay said the goal when promoting the film was to ensure that a variety of speakers could attend and participate in conversations when selected for distribution. They also acknowledge that there are many prejudices about obesity – which favor some fat activists over others. Gordon says, “If I was a fat person with mobility issues, I wouldn’t buy this platform. “Any latent bias that people can act on to stop listening, to get over their discomfort, will hit the ejection seat.”
Finally, Your Fat Friend Gordon argued it was a “personal story film,” and his personal story is the story of a white person in Oregon. “Since there are so few stories about fat people, it carries more weight than it can or should be as a proxy for an entire movement or in other areas of action for communities.
“I feel like it’s not my job to be like a white lady saying, ‘Let me explain what our race is like. [plays into everything],” he continued. “It’s not my look, no thanks. But my job is to use the platform I have, [discussing the ways race plays into fatness](Recommendations for fat non-white activists to check out, according to Gordon: Martinus Evans and Da’Shaun L. Harrison.)
Finlay sums it up very well: “This is [film] Microscopically it is like a fine drill, it pierces a very deep well of emotion held by many people. But we need more exercises.”
Considering the courage Gordon took to use that drill in the first place – his post as Your Fat Friend opened him up to hateful comments, and Gordon said he’d been duped even once – we should be grateful for another loud, proud voice on the subject. constantly busy topic. This film is the story of how that voice finds the confidence and security that will gradually reveal itself, overcoming the fear of recognition for the sake of improving society, for a dominant, chronically vilified group of people in our country. What Aubrey Gordon does is important; There’s no doubt that after watching the movie, fans were filled with clips telling Gordon how empowering reading his writing was. Maintenance Phase trained them.
And after revealing his true self to the world, Gordon of course doesn’t mind when a group of strangers stare at him naked onscreen – he shouldn’t either.