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A fashionable hatred

I do not imagine that Samizdata readers spend a lot of their spare time reading Arena magazine (it does not appear to be available online). It is a chap’s monthly publication that fancies itself as being at the more intelligent end of the man’s magazine world, mixing glossy advertisements for insanely expensive wristwatches and fast cars, not to mention pictures of minor French actresses in a pleasing state of undress, with post-modernist ironic pieces on anger management, etc. I get the impression that it is the sort of publication that pitches to the sort of man who reads the Guardian or Observer but who wants to indulge his blokeish tendencies with a clean conscience – in short, to have his low-fat steak and eat it.

Occasionally the tension shows. In the August edition, for instance, we have a largely gushing and Bush-bashing film review of the latest Michael Moore propaganda effort, sorry, ‘documentary’, Fahrenheit 9/11, which contains a remarkable admission by the obviously pro-Moore reviewer that the filmaker had a “cavalier attitude to such niceties as facts” while stating what a swell film it is. Facts eh, who gives a damn about em?

But what really did it for me was an article (page 77) containing one of the nastiest attacks on a group of people in a magazine that I have read for some time: the overweight. The writer, Giles Coren, whom I have heard of before, rants against overweight people in terms of amazing verbal violence. Words such as “mountain-arsed”, “the great lumps”, “these pigs”, etc, are sprinkled around. Witty, no?

Now I accept that there is something dumb about those who are overweight trying to present themselves as victims. However, I also have nothing but contempt for the way in which the fast-food industry has been targeted for assault by an unsavoury mixture of ambulance-chasing lawyers, moral scolds and sundry bores who would legislate our pleasures out of existence rather than rely on our own self-restraint and personal responsibility. Coren’s article, in particular, seems to be steeped in a sort of fashionable puritanism and also draws on a deeply suppressed need to be able to hate a particular group. Let’s face it, hatred is out of style. There are laws against it. If our demented British Home Secretary, David Blunkett, gets his way, it will not be possible to express anything more than polite scepticism about the irrational superstitions known as official religions. But humans love to hate, or at least some of them do.

I very much fear that the overweight among us are in the cross-hairs of our fashionable haters. Of course, one should not make too much from a single article in a pretentious guy’s magazine, but Coren’s piece is all part of a trend.

To hell with him, I am sending out for pizza with extra cheese.

17 comments to A fashionable hatred

  • Cydonia

    I am bit confused by your post. You rightly express contempt for the ambulance chasing attacks on the fast food industry. But surely Coren et al would agree with you on that? So what is your point?

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Cydonia, Coren also calls for massive taxes on the fat, crackdowns on fast-food businesses, etc. He is all in favour of using the State to hit the overweight.

    Should have made that clearer, perhaps. A broader point, overall, is what I identified as a new, respectable sort of “hatred”, of the overweight. Just imagine if Coren had written those words about a religious group, for instance.

  • Antoine Clarke

    Er… but isn’t Michael Moore an “elephant arse”, a “great lump” and a “pig”?

    Sounds like a bit of confusion on the Arena editorial board.

  • Johnathan

    Antoine, I know. I guess Moore is the left’s favourite chunker. Actually, the fact that Moore is overweight and likes a burger and donuts is one of his few endearing qualities. I don’t even resent the guy for being very rich or sending his children to smart private schools. What I hate is his vile views.

    Of course, if he really meant what he said, he’d give all his disposable wealth to the poor and hungry. Fat chance (heh!)

  • ernest young

    Irony of the day: Coren’s claim to fame is being the restaurant critic of the times.

    New fashionable hate target: The offspring of second-rate personalities, riding the coat-tails of their parents in the hope of becoming third-rate personalities.

  • bobmologna

    Giles Coren replaced Johnathan Meades as the Saturday Time magazine food reviewer. I’ve always found him very annoying and a poor food writer.

    Overweight people are considered fair game in the same way that “white trash” are.

  • Bobmologna: might that be because in the US quite often they are one in the same?

  • ernest young


    Probably, the US and the UK are very similar in that respect.

  • If it’s normal to find certain people attractive isn’t it also normal to find others repellant?

    When I see many fat bastards they look so revolting frankly my stomach turns.

    I don’t advocate the sort of action it sounds like the article is in favour mind you, but that doesn’t mean I have to like the way certain people have allowed themselves to mutate into.

  • Johnathan: the hate is not “new.” When I did my senior thesis on body image (not as wimpy a topic as it sounds) five years back, there were plenty of public examples of fat hate and demonization of overweight people. (One famous example is of “Titanic Kate Winslet”, who was actually at a far healthier weight than the majority of Hollywood actresses.) Not to mention demonization at a private level.

    The only thing that is still shifting is the weight limit to be called fat, and that’s shifting down. I know several quite healthy people who might erroneously be called obese under new guidelines. I mean, you can tell with your own eyes if someone is unhealthily fat; someone who is merely overweight has a good distribution of mass on the body while an obese person has, well, rolls. Yet a person who is proportionate and perhaps works out more than anorexia office girl gets called fat nonetheless.

    Can you tell this topic annoys me? I have too many friends who think they’re ugly when they look just fine…

  • ernest young

    I just love the subconscious use of language.

    A thesis on body image and – I assume, obesity, being described as – (not as wimpy a topic as it sounds).

    Am I the only one who remembers the burger eating hero from the days of the Popeye cartoons, and the original English burger chain named after him?

  • Guy Herbert

    Reading lad-mags is the only thing that readily comes to mind more depressing than contemplating the state of the political world. Glossy pictures of unobtainable objects of desire with commentary apparently written to entertain 12 year old boys (who evidently have vastly more money and social opportunity than I ever will). Great.

    I’m as happy to sneer at lazy fat people (or at least those who claim it is someone else’s fault) as the next man, but can anyone read Giles Coren without feeling sullied by the condescention to themselves?

  • Jonathan L

    One famous example is of “Titanic Kate Winslet”.

    I can’t be the only man who finds women’s depictions of what is attractive extremely annoying. As a man, nature has equipped me to evaluate women in a way that other women cannot hope to compete with. I would never seek to impose my views of what makes a bloke sexy, I’m just not equipped for it.

    When I heard a group of women discussing Kate, I made this observation to them, which went down like a ton of bricks. A women who has curves is attractive. One whose curves are hidden by being too fat or thin isn’t. Individual taste varies of course, but the fundamentals are the same.

    Just as ridiculous of course is the idea that the general public shouldn’t be allowed to regard lard buckets as unattractive

  • Is Giles the son of Alan Coren? (Sorry, I’m out of touch with the Brit publishing world.)

    Alan C. was one of the funniest writers during the 1970s — I had all his compilations, including All Except The Bastard.

    Are they still available? (Golfing For Cats etc)

  • j.

    oh no. another stupid american reader. i guess everyone can learn form the british journalists: wit, irony and the intelligence they have is great.

    you should be more tolerant, baby. being a fat person myeslf, i do believe giles has every right to poke fun at anyone

  • Deedee

    I just want to say that I think Giles Coren is absolutely charming and refreshingly different. I love his wry sense of humour and citicism. Everytime I read one of his reviews, I can’t help but smile. So, he can say anything as far as I am concerned.

  • Steven

    As an obese man I think Coren is disgusting and unimformed.