Fat-Topia Misses the Mark While Throwing jabs at “Fat Acceptance” Community 

Editor’s Note (You can find this small excerpt on my – under construction-  blog which is at www.thatprofessorlife.com): While I was originally excited to contribute to the Fat-Topia documentary, nearly a year ago, I was completely and utterly unprepared at that time, to answer the questions asked of me for this film. Unfortunately, I saw a young man who was outside of the community, trying to tell a story. I thought I saw some similarities in us both being cisgender white straight sized males, and I was not correct in the amount of similarities. In the approximate year or so of the film’s production, I have tried to make myself an even better student of “Fat Acceptance,” learning why it really is not my story to discuss, either. This is why I write less and try to partner with other writers, more. To be honest, I hadn’t heard from the director in quite some time, so I assumed that the project, like many others all over the world, had fallen and failed. But, it did not and the film is unfortunately pretty offensive. For that reason, I have written a pseudo-review of the film, discussing his missteps (and yes I understand the irony of me writing it, but I felt it was important to discuss). Whether Simpson had bad intentions is just uneducated, we do not agree with the notions expressed in Fat-Topia and were unaware of the conflicts he had had with “Fat Acceptance” activists in the community.  

When we were asked to interview with a student director, Connor Luke Simpson, about the “Fat Acceptance” movement, we thought “Sure! It’ll be cool to spread some knowledge that we have to a student in search for answers!” 

Unfortunately, what we contributed to was a major miseducation. “Fat-Topia” is an hour long debate and journey of a young man pitting “Fat Shamers” in the ring with the “Fat Acceptance” movement. The most unfortunate part is that this young man didn’t really dig deeply enough into the science he is citing when he says that “fat kills.” It makes the film very dangerous and could be the source of major triggers for many who watch it. 

Here’s the thing: this “documentary” was really more of a journey of one young man as he tries to educate himself in fat acceptance. There are a few issues with this: 

  • It is not a properly titled and previewed documentary as its very centered around Simpson. 
  • It wasn’t a complete story, missing many of the “Fat Acceptance” activists who make up the community (and even if not all of them were available or willing, it was still quite skimpy) 
  • Unfortunately, Simpson didn’t delve into the research deeply enough to do the learning he wanted to do. There was one moment where we thought he might pivot towards understanding. We’re not sure if this was staged, shallow, or what. But, it wasn’t enough. 

Now, there are a few things to dissect: 

  • We all know that common preconceived notions often blind us to doing the right research. Simpson didn’t know what he didn’t know. 
  • As someone who has not been poking around in the community for very long, Simpson didn’t have the resources to properly educate himself. 
  • Simpson has not experienced any of the biases or issues that the fat community has faced, meaning he is wildly under armed for the battle he says he is trying to fight. 

But, is that your problem? It is not. So, when lots of people are telling him that he is not the right person to tell the story, he really should have taken a moment for pause. The poking and discussing were clearly hurting people and not welcome. Perhaps this was not the right project at this time. Maybe he needed to do a lot more research and then he’d be prepared to create the perfect documentary? Maybe he could have executive produced the story and found plus size men and women to ask the hard questions in a way that would really come from a place of less bias? 

Even if his intentions were pure, it’s important to note that Simpson really didn’t phrase things properly. Phrases like “fat kills” as just one example… As a guest in the community, it would have been prudent to be much more politically correct. We, as white straight cis males need to be so very aware of how uneducated and inexperienced we can sound to others. I think some will think that’s a sign of lack of intelligence and try to get defensive. But, being intelligent does not mean you are educated on something as sensitive as this. The smartest humans recognize there is always more to learn. 

The other side of the coin is that he didn’t care to learn all the things we’re saying he should know, because he wanted to create controversy. Or, he just wanted to tell the story he was invested in, no matter what. And, that means there is malintent there. If you pair that with the idea that Simpson used footage he was asked not to, it doesn’t look great for someone who is trying to gain respect in the “Fat Acceptance” community so that he can study and report. 

Unfortunately, we’ll never know what his intentions are, but it’s not looking so good. That makes his miseducation dangerous. Whether its manslaughter or murder, if you were in a car and you didn’t know how to control it, you could have still killed someone. The same can be said of Simpson who is wielding a documentary that is very very harmful. No matter his intentions, this story is not accurate and it is a shame. The “Fat Acceptance” community does not get much media coverage to begin with. It is so misunderstood. Films like this are not helpful. Perhaps it will not be as impactful as the director hopes so that we can learn from it without it biasing the rest of the world. 

We, at Bold Media, do hold ourselves accountable for being involved with this documentary. We can only hope that this is a moment of learning for all and that some new directors can tell a better version of the story. In the meantime, we have written some pieces that mention “Fat Acceptance” so feel free to poke around our site for some facts. 

We so also recognize that white cisgender non-marginalized males are not the best people to tell this story. If you are a proper “Fat Acceptance” writer and would like to share your blog post on “Fat Acceptance” we’ll be happy to link to your post. Please reach out to us and let us know how you’d prefer your article be shared so that we can send people to your original content.