Just when you think journalism can’t sink any further, Stephen Marche pens this pile.
“The mounds of fat that encircle Rob Ford’s body like great deflated tires of defeat are truly unprecedented in Canadian politics. His angry fat is perfectly of our time”
“His fat is all he has going for him; it makes him look working-class even though he’s a drunk-driving, second-generation political dilettante, a man who has never been faced with the financial difficulties of ordinary people”
Seriously, how does the editor keep his/her job after allowing this to be printed? (see here)
Update: Looks like the Globe pulled this article.
Update: I was sent the text of this article:
Rob Ford’s not popular despite being fat. He’s popular because of it
From Saturday’s Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Oct. 15, 2010 7:24PM EDT
Last updated Friday, Oct. 15, 2010 10:53PM EDT
The mounds of fat that encircle Rob Ford’s body like great deflated tires of defeat are truly unprecedented in Canadian politics.
We have had chunky political candidates before, but the front-runner in Toronto’s current contest to be mayor is so fat that his belly is invariably the first thing you notice about him.
Yet far from harming his political image, his bulk is the key to his appeal. Neither intelligent nor sympathetic, Mr. Ford offers voters fat. And we want fat. In fat, we see ourselves.
Let no one confuse Rob Ford’s obesity with jollity. Every extra pound on Mr. Ford’s frame is an extra pound of rage. His angry fat is perfectly of our time.
Fat is the physical manifestation of postindustrial life. It is no coincidence that the obesity crisis in North America has occurred simultaneously with the decline of manufacturing in our cities. The foods that we love to eat originated in a time when the lives of men and women were devoted to manual labour.
In the late 19th century, a typical steel-factory worker in the Northeastern United States poured molten steel for 12 hours a day, six days a week. In such conditions, the major problem wasn’t hypertension but consuming enough calories quickly enough to last through an entire shift without wasting break time.
Therefore doughnuts, hamburgers and steak-and-cheese sandwiches. Which we continue to eat sitting behind desks while we process paperwork.
For men trapping fur or working in a lumber camp, poutine makes sense. Not for kids heading to a bar after a hard day’s telemarketing.
Whether through the migration to white-collar jobs or through rust-belt unemployment, we have lost the physical labour but we have kept the diet that once sustained it.
Fat is the bodily equivalent of the boarded-up factories in once-industrial powerhouses like Windsor and St. Catharines and Buffalo and Cleveland. Fat in North America is work that is not being done.
Before the advent of television, fat politicians such as Mr. Ford were not such an anomaly. In the early 20th century, the enormous body of U.S. president William Taft could be taken as evidence of a humanizing self-indulgence. Gluttony, after all, is the least vicious of the seven deadly sins. A big gut signified that the president was in the end, despite his status, one of the boys.
For kings, fatness symbolized luxury, particularly the luxury of not doing any manual labour. Henry VIII weighed so much that he was constantly having new suits of armour designed to accommodate his ever-expanding gut, and his coffin broke through the supports at his funeral.
Julius Caesar, in Shakespeare’s play of the same name, dislikes Cassius because he is too thin. For Caesar, fat men in power are happy, satisfied, forgiving. Thin men are conniving. He says:
Let me have men about me that are fat/ Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’ nights:/ Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;/ He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.
Television rendered Caesar’s advice moot. Once TV had entered our homes and we became preoccupied with how everyone looked, we needed our political leaders trim; it signified efficiency and self-control, which is why jogging remains one of the most widespread clichés of political advertising, for conservatives and liberals alike.
In America, Mike Huckabee, an otherwise unexceptional Republican governor from Arkansas, became a national contender only after he published his polemic against junk food and personal memoir of lifestyle modification called Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork.
Now all of that is changing, at least in Southern Ontario. Mr. Ford doesn’t run from his fat or hide it – and why should he? His gut embodies the parts of the city and the country hardest-hit by the changing nature of our economy and the evisceration of manual labour from our society.
His fat is all he has going for him; it makes him look working-class even though he’s a drunk-driving, second-generation political dilettante, a man who has never been faced with the financial difficulties of ordinary people. Mr. Ford’s body reflects the decline around us better than any story he could tell.
Toronto’s current mayor is David Miller, as calm, generous and smart a man as you would want to meet; he achieved nothing in office. The biggest story of his six years was that he managed to lose weight. Newspapers reported on his regimen; the mayor was proud of his accomplishment.
And yet with every pound that he lost, it seemed that he became more and more separated from the reality of the city around him, separated from the lives of people who have to get to their jobs and cook meals. Who can blame voters now for wanting a fat man?
Stephen Marche is a novelist and the culture columnist for Esquire magazine. He lives in Toronto.