Is Fat Amy A Good Role Model? By Emily Smart
The part-time agitator
I’ve never been very radical. This may surprise some people. Mouthy, opinionated, never one to avoid controversy, but not radical. I have been on less than a handful of marches in my time and for all the wrong reasons. When I was a student, a gang of us went to Glasgow to protest about Tory cuts. Me and my mates went because the student union had organised £8 tickets to Glasgow for the protest and we had never been to Scotland before. It seemed like a good idea at the time to get absolutely shit-faced before getting on the train. It wasn’t such a good idea trying to sleep in the overhead luggage rack and waking up at stupid o’clock the next morning reeking of booze, dehydrated and in need of a McDonald’s. The ‘march’ was boring and I think we piked off halfway through to dine at the house of the golden arches. That’s about as far as I got as an agitator.
All blacks and whites
Fast-forward to my 45th year on planet earth and things have changed, almost radically. I nearly crashed my car the other day looking at a billboard for Air New Zealand. The poster ‘celebrates’ the company’s position of being the official airline of the All Blacks and shows everyone from ground staff to the captain joining in a game of rugby with the nation’s sports stars. The only women depicted on the poster are air stewardesses chasing after the manly Air New Zealand staff who are playing rugby. The ‘girls’ can only follow holding drink bottles. For some reason this outraged me. I thought about writing to Air New Zealand and having a quiet word. Why did they not feature any images of women passing a rugby ball? Women play rugby, so why portray them as ‘trolley dollies’?
So what has changed? Why did I feel compelled to speak out? Well the truth is I’ve had kids. I’ve got 3 children who rightly or wrongly look to me as a role model. What I say has an impact on them and will no doubt shape how they view the world. If my sons or daughter see the Air New Zealand poster, will they think that only men can play rugby and that it’s women’s role in life to run after them making sure they are looked after?
I’m guilty of it myself. I was out playing football with the kids a couple of months ago and one of the boys was not passing so well. I shouted out ‘Stop playing like a girl and get on with it.’ I was quickly reprimanded by the other half and reminded that girls are more than capable of playing footie and that I needed to think about what I was saying.
Is it fun to laugh at the fat girl?
Yesterday, on the way to swimming, the kids were discussing girls and boys. Kip suggested that ‘Boys are much more smarter than girls’, at which point I had to interject and correct him on his poor grammar – the irony was not lost on any of us. The conversation quickly changed to the previous evening’s family film, chosen by yours truly and probably not wholly suitable for two 7 year old boys and a 9 year old girl: ‘Pitch Perfect 2.’ We had all enjoyed ‘Pitch Perfect 1,’ a bit of sing-song, jazz hands nonsense which had been fairly amusing. One of the central characters is called Fat Amy. This is the exchange in the first film explaining how her name came about:
It was funny. The first time. By the end of ‘Pitch Perfect 2,’ I was a bit over Fat Amy being fat. Seeing an ‘over-sized bird’ swinging on a trapeze singing ‘Wrecking Ball’, bending over and ripping her trousers (because she’s fat, just in case you didn’t realise) and flashing her fine china at Michelle and Barrack Obama was fairly lame. I shouldn’t really single out Fat Amy in this film; every stereotype one-liner under the sun was rolled out: the Mexican girl talked about being traded for a chicken by her brother when she was 12, and the lesbian (sleeping in a tent with all the good looking ladies) quipped, ‘I hope the sun never rises.’ Lazy scriptwriting, reliance on old-fashioned stereotypes and jokes as old as dirt left me wondering why I had let the kids watch it.
Who’s minding your children?
All of this comes on the back end of my daughter being banned from TV for 2 weeks because of an inappropriate comment she made to our childminder Kendal. We let her watch these sassy Disney shows, where all the teenager actors in them are at least 23, and they moan and bitch, and inflect upwards at the end of sentences. She loves them. I hate them with a passion. After being rude to Kendal and genuinely upsetting her, she will no longer be watching such nonsense. Kendal is lovely: she’s 25, beautiful, teaches burlesque dancing at night and has got her boobs bought and paid for by her boyfriend. Who am I to judge? The kids adore her and she seemingly likes them. There have been a few instances of inappropriate things being said since she took on our childminding duties. I came home once to find Elliott looking at horrific images of women scarred for life through acid attacks to their faces. I asked what she was doing. She cheerfully told me she was doing her homework and reeled off a story Kendal had told her about a model whose jealous boyfriend had thrown acid in her face because she had dumped him. Elliott was fascinated. I was appalled.
A couple of days ago, Elliott was discussing in great detail how she felt really sorry for a woman Kendal follows on Facebook because she was really fat, lost loads of weight but now has saggy skin. This made me incredibly sad, I don’t want my nine year old daughter worrying about anyone’s weight or how they look and it’s probably time for a long overdue chat with Kendal.
Under the influence
It’s not only people outside of the family that influence my kids. Anyone who knows me will vouch for the fact that I swear more than Gordon Ramsay and drink more than Gazza, but that doesn’t mean I want my children to use profanities or start drinking vodka when they’re 12. I’m not perfect and I can’t be with them 24/7 to monitor what they see and process, but I can try and teach them right from wrong, how to speak to people, the importance of treating everyone equally and that no matter what the situation, they should try and be kind. I’ll be doing my best on this front and probably fucking up badly, but they need some sort of moral barometer until they’re old enough to make up their own minds and work out who they want to be, and how they should act.