UPDATE: Duh, read Nancy’s blog. She’s mocking American Apparel and the whole contest. So now I can 100% say: Nice work! I am behind it, ranch dressing cumshots and all.
American Apparel is having a plus-sized model contest. The current front-runner is named Nancy, she is a size 12, and she is pretty hot. Good on American Apparel, sort of, for not just using skinny hipsters to model their clothes — fat girls are hipsters too! But it’s American Apparel, so of course a lot of the big-girl photos have that same Terry Richardson / borderline-kiddie-porn-in-grandparents’-basement aesthetic that I waver between hating because it’s gross and hating because it’s so played out. (It’s worth noting, of course, that these photos are self-submitted and not actually taken by American Apparel).
But here’s the thing with Nancy’s photos: They aren’t that same “Oops you caught me being sexy in a lace ankle-length body suit all by myself! I’m so surprised!” thing (alternately: “Oh hello, here is my butt, I hope you like it because I am going to injure my lower back standing like this all of the time“). Nancy’s not just pushing out her good bits; she’s eating or otherwise hanging out with food in all of the photos. And like, really eating — chocolate sauce dripping down her face, laying in a bathtub of ranch dressing, etc. Which on one hand is kind of subversive and awesome — fat chicks are not really supposed to even be visible, let alone take serious pleasure in eating food. It’s cute when a teeny-tiny actress tucks into a giant burger, but it’s not so acceptable for someone whose body might be featured, headless, on the nightly news to illustrate the American Obesity Crisis. And it’s awesome that her website tagline is “I can’t stop eating” — there’s so much pressure to be a Good Fatty who exercises and eats healthily and doesn’t over-eat like all of the Bad Fatties that it’s refreshing to see a fat girl being like, “Yup, I like food, ok.” So first reaction is, “Fat girl eating in a sexy ad? Yes please!”
Oh but then. I can look the other way about the super-literal food choices, like the cherry pie over the crotch. I can look the other way about the ranch dressing cumshot (even though really? Ranch dressing cumshot? Ugh ok fine).
But then there’s this pig roast picture. And look, sexy photos don’t bother me, and Nancy took these photos herself so it’s not like this is some ad exec’s vision, but when American Apparel features one fat girl, they pick the one who’s laying naked on a table with an apple stuffed in her mouth? The point is that fat girls eat a lot, right? I mean, it’s a cool photo — her skin looks all glossy and there’s this kind of 1950s Thanksgiving dinner table aesthetic to it that I like. If it was a skinny model on that table, though, I’d be like, “Hey that’s kind of fucked up! Go read some Carol J. Adams and look askance at images of the female body as meat! Women are not food to be consumed by men!” Etc.
But it’s not a skinny model on that table; it’s a woman who’s a size 12, and whose body type is routinely compared to animals like pigs and cows. So the analysis can’t be identical; even pointing out that none of the thin American Apparel models are eating in any of their pictures doesn’t do the job. Because the hot big girl who knows she’s hot and decides to lay on a table like a roast pig is sending a message that goes beyond “another naked chick looking dead and like a piece of meat to be consumed by a male viewing audience.” The hot big girl who decides to lay on a table like a roast pig is also saying, “I see your insults and I raise you a very literal image of them that is simultaneously humorous and sexy and uncomfortable, and there are a lot of reactions to be had, but laughing at me is not one of them.” And God bless that girl, because that’s not an easy message to send.
But still, it is a naked girl on a table. It’s a naked woman as meat. It’s a fat girl crazy for food. And christ on a cracker, it’s American Apparel, and it’s for a contest where users rate applicants on a scale of 1 – 5, so I’m not sure their audience is thinking through the complexities of fat girls and food and sex any more deeply than “Look, titties.”
Although they are some really great titties. And now I want ice cream.