Wednesday 21 July 2010
Julie Burchill: If Eamonn can't see the funny side of fatness, he should lay off the pies
I know that we were meant to don black armbands and fly the flags at half-mast when Dawn French and Lenny Henry went bang, but personally I was pleased. I've had beef (and how fitting is that word, considering how fat we both are!) with that bitch since way back in the day, when I refused to be in a 1994 South Bank Show. This was some sort of celebration of morbid obesity – sorry, a "personal celebration of Big Women, drawing on art, photography, fashion, film and sculpture to ask why Big Women, who were revered and celebrated throughout the history of art, are now ignored by today's culture."
Surely, I pointed out, people should feel pride in personal qualities like talent or bravery or generosity or kindness; not in their BMI, be it high or low? But Dawnie Dearest obviously wasn't used to having people disagree with her, as she reacted to my perfectly reasonable decision by making my humble handle EVERY OTHER NAME in the credits at the end of the show.
When last year she called for fat jokes to be made as unacceptable as gay gags, the jiggly was well and truly up. And now Eamonn Holmes is the latest showbiz hunk of love to turn touchy after what appeared to be an easy-going attitude to his size. Rather than suggest that fat jokes per se should be binned, he has had his lawyers instruct the brilliant impressionist John Culshaw to desist from making a series of what seem to me quite amusing gags about a parallel world in which Mr Holmes causes havoc in the studio by eating everything on set, including flower displays, sofas and even Frankie Dettori, after mistaking him – quite feasibly – for a gingerbread man.
As with Dawn French's about-face, I just don't get this sort of sour grapes. How can a fat person be in on the joke (which they themselves have set up!) one minute, and then be stropping about with a face like thunder, issuing lawyers' letters and threatening to take their cheese football back the next?
When I look in the mirror, I see an ambulatory archive of all the fun I've had – all the lush liquid lunches with mates, and all the gorgeous evenings on the sofa with my husband guzzling pizza and ice-cream.
I know I'm going to die anyway, and I know of so many people who have died young after following all the boring rules for an alleged healthy life, and also of so many people who seem old before their time because they live in fear of death, and I am never going to be convinced by any amount of government bumpf to change my wicked ways. I'm not fat because of hormones, stress, big bones or glands – I'm fat because I have fun, and that's the way it's going to stay.
You play the "early death" card? I'll play the "miserable old age" card. Unlike you, probably, I briefly had a volunteer job at an old people's home – a good one, full of kind and capable carers – and the loneliness and despair of the inmates was so sad to see that I quickly quit. So if I die too young to be put away, that's fine by me!
You play the "poverty of aspiration of the junk-stuffing working class" card and I'll play the "poverty of aspiration of Jamie Oliver" card, as the half-witted do- gooder once boasted that he's never actually finished reading a book.
Sometimes I actually believe that the refusal of the working class to be corralled into healthy eating and sensible lifestyle choices indicates a far deeper intelligence about the actual workings of society than the people who lecture them possess. The sorry, retrogressive state of social mobility in this country being what it is, it is a total lie – funded by public money to the tune of millions of pounds – that eating five portions of fruit and veg a day and walking to school will mean that a working-class kid will have half as good a life as the laziest, porkiest, thickest brat born to an affluent family.
A hundred years ago, a feckless, offensive, sexually incontinent fool like Boris Johnson would have been sent by his father to the colonies, where his half-witted antics could be contained away from public contempt. Now he's the Mayor of London, safe in the status that his breeding alone brings him. If that's not enough reason for the proletariat to throw caution to the winds and get stuck in to the trans fats, I don't know what is.
And as for those of us – me, Dawn, Eamonn – who are lucky enough to be rich AND greedy, let's pork out with a good grace, eh? Historically, we lard-buckets have been known for being cheery coves. If we can't have a laugh, we might as well be mopey old self-slashers and self-starvers!
Fame games: Spinal Tap's the right attitude for Latitude
I just got back from being interviewed alongside my friend and writing idol Garry Mulholland at the Latitude festival. We were asked to do a book-signing afterwards, and all the way there Gaz was predicting that there would be a long queue for my efforts and none for his. "It'll be just like that scene in Spinal Tap!" he predicted.
As it turned out, he was right about himself – and totally wrong about me. As the queue for an earlier act on our stage, Bret Easton Ellis, snaked further back through the festival site, Garry and I sat twiddling our thumbs by large piles of our publications while the BEE fans shuffled past with excruciatingly slowness.
In the end I sold precisely ONE book (thanks, Barry!) and actually BOUGHT two for girls who asked me to sign their programmes (cheers, Kate and Alison!) Meanwhile, the Easton Ellis snake grew even longer. As we limped away from the scene of our humiliation, another scenario from Spinal Tap occurred to me. Gesturing back at BEE, whose hand was now a quicksilver blur, I couldn't help but say "Bret Easton Ellis, my arse! They were still booing him when we went on!"
OK, so it wasn't strictly true. But in situations too trivial to involve the Scriptures in, the wisdom of The Tap can be a great comfort.
The family: All this home and hearth stuff makes me vomit
It's sickening enough to hear "normal" people banging on neurotically about "family" as some sort of inherently brilliant thing when any fool knows that the vast majority of violence, child abuse, paedophilia and murder takes place within the walls of Home Sweet Home. It evokes in me a violent desire to become a wombless lesbian separatist.
So when people who have made their names and fortunes by rejecting family values then seek to make a further buck or to curry favour with an even larger audience by embracing them, I really do want to reach for the sick-bucket. First the bisexual self-harmer Angelina Jolie comes on like she's a born-again Earth Mother; now Madonna stars in a series of ads for the gay gazillionaires Dolce & Gabbana celebrating the "beauty and simplicity" of family life. Cultural hypocrisy may not be as offensive as political hypocrisy – but it still sucks, and the people who indulge in it are preposterous hypocrites.
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