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Updated: June 8, 2013 16:32 IST
AN ARMCHAIR WITH A VIEW

Let’s chew the fat…

Swati Daftuar
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Illustration: Sreejith R.
Illustration: Sreejith R.

Is Aishwarya Rai’s baby weight funny? Swati Daftuar thinks of at least five reasons why it's not.

It’s not easy, making people laugh. Circus clowns and stand-up artists will tell you that. And then there are those who’ll tell you that it’s all too easy; that sometimes, jokes don’t need a what, they just need a who. I learned this over the last couple of weeks. Several blogs, three talk shows, and at least a week’s worth of Pg 3 items later, I came to the disturbing knowledge that ‘baby weight’ critics are a real thing.

Of course, I am talking about the Cannes clamour. The post-Cannes round-up brought an avalanche of commentary on the art of filmmaking, yes, and on one other pressing issue — Aishwarya Rai’s baby weight. A kindly website reported that she had, thankfully, managed to walk the red carpet this time without being accosted by elephant grunts and donuts. Another article expressed approval that the actress had appropriately managed to shed some baby weight. A third wasn’t convinced that a silhouette-slimming black was the right choice for the ex-Miss World. If I wasn’t afraid of it, I’d be almost impressed by the sheer volume of output around this topic.

I also learned another important lesson. Baby weight critics are only a poorly-staffed department in a much bigger company — the celebrity shamers. While the former were busy zooming in to look for elusive double chins and arm-fold fat on Rai, the latter were churning out new twitter tags and memes to fat-shame another Indian celebrity child and heir. While there is no point withholding the famous Ms. Rai’s name, the latter’s I will keep to myself, just on the off-chance that doing so might prevent a few more tweets about someone who is frankly just a school kid. Clearly, fat-shaming and baby weight indignation have wriggled into what must have been an empty spot on the funny table. The voices raised in protest don’t really help. Of course, they ask the right question — Why do we do it? Would we like it if it happened to our mother/sister/father/brother?

This is usually followed by a counter argument or defence — it’s the price you pay for fame. And finally, there is the comment section below these debates, the ones that hold the real solution, or rather, the real problem.

It was these comment sections that caught my attention while I was reading the long-winded arguments for and against Aishwarya Rai’s stubborn extra kilos. Combing through earnest appeals and misspelt abuses, I found one common defence all fat-shamers have up their sleeve — a proud ownership of a sense of humour. One gentleman spoke of uptight people and feminist agendas; another berated enemies of good times and harmless jokes, to which several added their thumbsups and backslaps. Little, yellow, moonfaced emoticons were scattered across similar comments, marking (and this is what bothers me) the strongholds of the last surviving guards of humour.

Such heartfelt arguments are enough to make you wonder. While thousands of people re-tweet funnies made at the expense of a celebrity mom, a kid with health issues, or a pop-star’s antics due to drug abuse, is it okay that you aren’t laughing away ? Is it okay to not find funny what the rest of the world clearly does? Does this mean your sense of humour is on its way out? At the risk of sounding like a badly-scripted TV commercial, I ask — Are you in danger? Do you suffer from a chronic, undetected case of uptightness?

Alack, almost immediately I can think of at least five reasons why a woman’s baby weight isn’t funny. I can think of nothing that will make it funny. And yet, at this very moment, there are talk-show hosts and stand-up comedians using it as fool-proof material. Quite obviously, there’s something here that I, and people like me, are missing.

So the question isn’t if it’s right or wrong, because whatever my ilk thinks, there are plenty of people out there who do think it’s rightfully funny. Neither is the question whether it will stop, because it won’t. There will always be celebrities and rich kids who get fat or wear ill-suited clothes and who will become a twitter trend. We laugh at these things the way we laugh at Mr. Bean and his series of unfortunate events.

Of course, the question could be why. What made you laugh when you received the viral picture of a post-delivery Rai? Or when you read that tweet about someone’s disease-induced obesity? Was it the clever words, the extra kilos, or was it maybe, just maybe, the identity of the person?

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