Discrimination, Doxxing, and That ‘Louie’ Episode: A Q&A With the Filmmakers Behind ‘Fattitude’

So often in pop culture, fat is used as a symbol of immorality.

From Colin Farrell’s fat-hating boss inHorrible Bosses to “Fat Monica” onFriends to Ursula in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, fat bodies frequently are a substitute for something disturbing, something laughable, or something that’s villainous. Even if the fat-shaming is not overt, as in Lifetime’s series Drop Dead Diva, there is still an underlying message that fat equals impiety.

Yet, despite widespread acceptance that pop culture drives and defines how we feel about our bodies, there has yet to be much acknowledgement of how society is not only rife with fat discrimination, but is complacent about it.

That’s where Lindsey Averill and Viridiana Lieberman come in. Through their feature-length documentary, Fattitude, the Florida-based filmmakers and long-time friends are taking a concentrated look at the ubiquity of fat prejudice through media analyses and interviews with some well-known activists—like Marilyn Wann, author of Fat! So?, and Sony Renee Taylor, founder of global movement The Body is Not an Apology. They also plan to develop an educational activist campaign around the film, much like those related to the documentaries An Inconvenient Truth and Miss Representation, that centers on raising awareness of fat discrimination.

“Our media tells a lot of lies about fat bodies and about the experience of living in fat bodies,” Averill told RH Reality Check. The film project is “close to both of our hearts because we both have lived in bodies of changing sizes throughout our lives and we both battled how fat discrimination functions, how fat hatred functions, how fat-shaming functions.”

Fattitude is still in the production phase, though, and Averill and Lieberman have turned to the community to help fund their project through a Kickstarter campaign, which ends onSunday, May 25. Funds raised through the drive will go toward travel costs for the crew and production team to shoot additional interviews, equipment purchases, revenue for an illustrator/animator and sound editor, and costs of film festival applications.

So far, their Kickstarter campaign has more than exceeded its goal, bringing in nearly $5,000 more than the original $38,050 they set out to raise. With only a few days left, the duo is now pushing for $50,000, hoping to raise enough for additional production items such as professional color correction, original music composition, and a fair use lawyer.

But the entire process has not gone smoothly. Earlier this year, Averill and Lieberman became the victims of a horrible online attack. Shortly after launching their Kickstarter, a YouTube user by the handle “GODBLESSADOLFHITLER” posted the Fattitude trailer under the title “Cakes: The New Comedy Hit,” which Averill immediately reported for copyright infringement, and YouTube removed it. Apparently angry about being reported, the YouTube user began to harass Averill, Lieberman, and their supporters on Twitter, posting their contact information online—or “doxxing” them—and soliciting his followers to also stalk and abuse the filmmakers. In a matter of days, Averill and Lieberman were receiving rape and death threats, hate mail, and frightening phone calls. The abuse continues to this day. (The incidents were reported to local police, which subpoenaed Google, YouTube’s parent company, but the filmmakers have yet to hear back.)

While the experience has left both Averill and Lieberman shaken, they say it’s validated the importance of both the film and their work in exposing fat hatred. “I feel more aggressively determined that this is an absolutely necessary film,” Averill said.

In May, I spoke with the filmmakers for RH Reality Check about the core principles of Fattitude, the latest episode of Louie, the importance of featuring diverse voices, and more. Read the interview here: http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/05/21/discrimination-doxxing-louie-episode-qa-filmmakers-behind-fattitude/

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