Editor’s notice: This text incorporates plot spoilers for “The Whale.”
I knew earlier than seeing “The Whale” that it was a film a couple of man named Charlie who weighs over 600 kilos, is grief-stricken over the loss of life of his associate, and is successfully trapped in his residence attributable to his weight.
I additionally knew that “The Whale” had attracted quite a lot of criticism, scary anger, disgust and accusations of exploitation. Regardless of the controversy, Brendan Fraser’s efficiency has been extensively praised, and he’s been nominated for greatest actor on the ninety fifth Academy Awards.
However what I didn’t know was that this movie would make me cry. As I left the theater, I discovered myself hyperaware of my very own fats physique shifting by way of the parking zone, and I began to really feel the way in which I typically do once I see a mirrored image of myself in a mirror: monstrous.
In my analysis on fats characters in standard tradition, I level out how the fats character often should shed some pounds with a view to achieve acceptance or to be liked.
In “The Whale,” nonetheless, Charlie doesn’t shed some pounds; the transformation goes in the wrong way: he will get larger and larger, struggling a gradual and painful bodily breakdown. As I watched the movie, I began to grasp, with a looming sense of dread, that “The Whale” had no plans to recuperate this character. The fatness was the topic and the purpose.
I started to appreciate that this film was not a melodrama, nor an uplifting story about redemption; to me, “The Whale” is a physique horror movie that exploits the worry and disgust individuals really feel towards fatness.
The physique as a monster
Physique horror is a subset of the horror movie style that depicts the destruction, degeneration or mutation of the human physique. These movies are designed to gross out viewers, and the protagonist typically turns into the monster of the story as their physique turns into increasingly repulsive.
Director David Cronenberg made the subgenre well-known in movies corresponding to “The Fly,” “Shivers,” “Videodrome” and “Rabid.”
“The Fly,” a remake of the 1958 movie of the identical identify, tells the story of a scientist named Seth Brundle who merges his DNA with that of a typical housefly. Over the course of the movie, he progressively degenerates right into a disgusting creature nicknamed “Brundlefly.” One other significantly disturbing physique horror movie is “Tusk,” during which a person obsessive about walruses finally ends up kidnapping a merciless podcaster and dismembers him with a view to flip him right into a walrus.
David Cronenberg’s ‘The Fly’ is a standout of the physique horror style.
twentieth Century Studios
In physique horror movies, there’s something viscerally disturbing about seeing the human physique distorted, whether or not it’s attributable to a parasitic alien, a mutated virus or the sadistic compulsions of a mad scientist.
“The Whale” means that though Charlie deserves pity, he’s nonetheless a monstrosity.
Like Seth Brundle, who experiments on himself whereas drunk, Charlie recurrently gorges on fried hen, pizza and subs – the implication being that Charlie is immediately liable for his morbid weight problems.
Seeing Charlie’s gradual bodily disintegration is like watching a slow-motion automotive wreck; you can not look away despite the fact that you recognize you need to. He’s barely in a position to stand, and he loses the power to carry out essentially the most primary of duties, like selecting up an object from the ground. In some scenes, the digicam rests on Charlie’s distended intestine, his swollen calves or his sweat-soaked garments, inviting the viewers to be repulsed.
In physique horror, there isn’t a return from being remodeled; the harm is completed. And though not each remodeled physique horror character dies, many do.
In the long run, Charlie’s physique finally ends up destroying him.
Until flesh do us half
Movie critic Robin Wooden famously argued that “the true topic of the horror style is the battle for recognition of all that our civilization represses and oppresses.”
In a thin-obsessed tradition, fatness has turn out to be its personal sort of monster. Regardless of the physique positivity motion, fats individuals are nonetheless typically seen as unattractive and irregular, and usually tend to be discriminated towards at work, stigmatized by physicians and convicted by juries.
In 2012, sociologist Francis Ray White wrote that “fatness is more and more being figured as anti-social” – one thing that “should be eradicated within the identify of a viable future.” White factors out that when weight problems is talked about as an “epidemic,” it reinforces the concept fatness is an sickness that should be cured, and that fats individuals are not individuals however carriers of a contagion.
Within the closing moments of “The Whale,” viewers witness Charlie’s life ending: He vividly remembers a time when he was blissfully completely satisfied, on a seashore along with his daughter and the love of his life. As he’s dying, he levitates, ultimately free from the monstrous burden of flesh.
It’s the solely time within the movie the place he appears weightless; certainly, it’s the solely second of freedom for this character.
However the monster itself – fatness – lives on.
Darren Aronofsky, the movie’s director, has mentioned that his movie is “an train in empathy.”
But when empathy is the power to grasp and share the sentiments of one other, why was I left with the thought of my very own physique as an irredeemable monstrosity? I’m not alone on this unease; critic Roxane Homosexual referred to as The Whale a “carnival sideshow,” and “emotionally devastating.” To Homosexual, “The Whale” depicts fatness as “one thing despicable, to be averted in any respect prices.”
She may have been describing a monster. She may have been describing me.