Aubrey Gordon created a viral sensation when she anonymously published her first article in 2016 with the headline “A request from your fat friend: What I need when talking about bodies.” Gordon’s article, originally written to a personal acquaintance and published under the screen name “Your Fat Friend,” eliminated the discomfort that fat people experience when they ignore the realities of fat bodies in the casual conversations they love. The article touched upon the anxieties of obesity—planning travel, seeking health care, dining with groups of people—and how the worries were exacerbated by friends who simply refused to address the facts about another person’s body.
All of these topics and more are discussed in depth in subsequent posts on Gordon’s blog and book. What Are We Not Talking About When We Talk About Fat?and his podcast Maintenance Phase. Gordon has become a maven praised by cultural experts, celebrities, and readers around the world for his candid, bold, and often hilarious thoughts on obesity. His work sought to alleviate shame and engage anyone who could relate to it a little less in pacifying other people’s discomfort.
Anyone who thinks that someone who writes as confidently as Gordon must have figured it all out will be surprised at this: Your Fat FriendA new documentary premiere from the Tribeca Film Festival. Director Jeanie Finlay follows Gordon through the process of writing her book, as the blogger prepares to renounce her online anonymity and face her fears of becoming a well-known figure in a vulgar world. Your Fat Friend He finds a touching relevance in Gordon’s story. She lets her subject – with her natural wit and almost endless empathy – try to understand why it’s so hard to let us take up space in the world and how important it is not to get discouraged when we try.
Your Fat Friend Gordon recounts an excerpt from the aforementioned first attempt, driving through an Oregon hot spring as the camera pans over shots of her body. Gordon used to swim competitively as a kid and says he loves the feeling of freedom being in the water gives him. But swimming is one of the many things Gordon’s concerns about his body take from him, combined with the false “well-meaning” criticisms of others. “It’s more work than it’s worth,” he says. “The way people look at you, the way they talk to you, makes it hard for you to feel so liberated.”
Despite these fears that have been ingrained in Gordon’s soul since he was little, there is no lack of self-love in his life. “I love being a big, fat lady with a tiny little car,” she laughs as she talks about her favorite place to write. He is blocked not by his body, but by a world that was not created for him, and he is not considerate of someone like him. Bus and theater seats scare. Healthcare providers turn a simple checkup into a medical lesson. Booking a plane ticket is the equivalent of sailing a sea of anxiety and growing nerves until the dreaded day of the flight arrives.
Throughout the film, Gordon details America’s obsession with weight – and not having it. old school diet books with funny titles like More Jesus, Less Me And Help God…The Devil Wants Me To Be Fat! He listed the bookshelves as both a fond collection and a reminder that society has repackaged the same diets for much of the last century. Dietary culture and its advice are major aspects of nutrition. Your Fat Friendand Finlay’s precise direction knows how to be scolded without being scolded. Finlay and Gordon are well aware that there is a huge potential audience for this movie that dieting pays off. They don’t scold those who participate in an inevitable phenomenon, but rather those who make money by keeping people miserable inside their bodies.
To write his book, Gordon must analyze how dietary culture affects familial relationships and thus his own body image. Gordon watched his mother Pam try to lose weight, and as a teenager whose body mimicked her mother’s genetic response to food, Gordon eventually got into diet programs herself, which resulted in disordered eating that plagued her life. She doesn’t blame her mother for this, but it’s impossible not to talk about her relationship with food, diet, and obesity without addressing her family’s reaction.
Your Fat Friend It may sound a bit pedantic to those already familiar with Gordon’s work, especially since half of the documentary is devoted to re-evaluating why the world exists in direct conflict with Gordon’s body and that others like it. However, those who are less aware of how under-recognized fat people are in the world will be impressed by his accessible, pleasant, and approachable approach to these issues. “Your Fat Friend” is an apt nickname; Gordon doesn’t like to teach hard, he just wants to be treated like a human.
Trying to find that thoughtful attention in mom, dad, and extended family are the hardest parts of life. Your Fat Friend. Gordon’s generalized discussion of fat-phobic culture is certainly important, but the film makes its points feel much sharper when it focuses on Gordon’s family. She even has trouble pronouncing the word “fat,” though her father insists it’s a very good descriptor when her daughter talks about herself. Family Thanksgivings are equally difficult, watching Gordon’s extended family come up with lines that we all definitely have at one point or another, like, “Tonight, make sure you turn your scale back 15 pounds.”
But the documentary moves legitimately when Finlay starts asking questions of Gordon’s mother. The production of the movie got Pam to consider the effects of her own diet and self-image on her daughter. The instability of mother-daughter relationships – and what it might actually look like, along with the ardent desire to be a good parent – comes to light. Watching Pam sort out her own regrets in front of the camera softens the film’s more didactic moments. Your Fat Friend I feel like it’s a new chapter for Gordon, apart from the writing that permeates the movie.
Your Fat Friend An engaging, but often unsurprising, documentary that finds its footsteps when it comes to the personal. In fact, the very existence of the film always keeps Gordon’s private concerns a simmering undercurrent; agreeing to write his book and make this movie means he will have to face a world that was not built for him. He’ll have to fly airplanes and open himself up to interviews and questioning just to promote it. However Your Fat Friend It is the epitome of the pleasure of fiery, serious work. It’s a lot easier to be in the world when you can be proud of who you are in every sense of the word.