In one of the many jubilant reviews garnered by Darren Aronofsky’s latest film The Whale, one writer concluded that we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. This was in reference to the morbidly obese main character who eventually dies, but not before we find out he developed an eating disorder out of grief. Here was a fat man who evidently had feelings despite his exterior. Ironically, I find myself doing just what the writer suggested I don’t: judge the film before I’ve seen it.
As a fat person, I’m surprised to have forgotten some of the tropes society has formulated about bodies like mine. It might be the time I’ve spent recovering from an eating disorder, my underuse of popular (and harmful) social media, or my Blur It Out browser extension, but I apparently had been living in a kinder world. Everything about The Whale puts a damper on that experience.
Many may marvel at Brendan Fraser’s stellar performance, I see a minstrelsy of fatness. While undoubtedly not its primary purpose, The Whale reminds fat people that life is absolutely different for people who are not like us. Non-fat people can use the film to reconcile with fatness, to see the humanity behind the physical. Fat people can get reacquainted with how they’re supposed to see themselves, employing The Whale for scale.