I don’t like Chris Christie’s politics, and he seems like an unpleasant fellow when you watch him interact with other human beings on television. Yet for all his faults and the politics on which we firmly disagree, I still feel great sympathy every time some wise-ass pundit or comedian makes a tired joke about his weight problem. It just isn’t funny.
I cringe whenever Bill Maher brings up Christie on his HBO program, Real Time, because I know that two beats behind Christie’s name is a cheeseburger crack. It’s as inevitable as Maher’s impatient, dour look after one of his jokes falls flat. Most of the people who mock Christie are like Maher, comedians and entertainers, but I can’t help think if his politics were different (he’s conservative) or if he were a woman, he might dodge the relentless, personal taunts.
Men are cruelest to other men, and some of us live in masculine worlds where the silent playground rules still reign. Even in this advanced age, men are supposed to “take a joke.” At some point, I think, many men stopped making fun of “fat women,” because it’s obviously cruel, yet men never seem to feel any problem being thoughtless to other men.
I work in a male-dominated environment, and I’m also (charitably) a chubby guy. Men I’ve worked with have called me big boy, fat ass and far worse. I laugh it off, or I call them something equally demeaning. The back and forth cruelty is a strategy, and I engage in it to hide how unpleasant it makes me feel. Fat jokes are designed to make one category of person feel less important, even less human. Christie brushes off the jokes and the barbs, but even the casual observer should be able to see how much it pains him.
The other upsetting aspect of the constant Christie criticism (for me) is that it often comes from people who should know better. Liberals claim to be the embodiment of tolerance, understanding and compassion, yet there is a segment of liberal establishment who think that calling out fat people is a good thing. The overweight need to “eat less,” they might say, and take better care of their “health,” as if mockery is a backhanded favor. I think all the talk of “health” is just a smoke screen for bigotry. The reasons obesity is on the rise in the U.S. are complex and defy simple explanation. Most fat people don’t like being fat, and certainly hate being mocked about it.
I bend left in politics, but I think my fellow liberals should know better. I am also a man, and think that men should treat each other with more kindness. It’s okay to dislike someone’s politics, opinion, and choice of football team without resorting to cruel, playground taunts.
Perhaps I should forgive Bill Maher for his constant cheap shots at Chris Christie, because, he’s a comedian, except that his jokes at Christie’s expense stopped being funny or original a long time ago.
Image credit: DonkeyHotey/Flickr