Discover more from you owe me an apology
on john early, the collective trauma of growing up in the early 2000s, and Gayle King being correct yet again
I can't take the pressure of it
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What a week. I don’t know about you, but I have been absolutely consumed with how much I already resemble this woman, how easily this could have happened to me, and wondering why on God’s Green Earth white people are getting PTO on Juneteenth. Gayle King agrees. (btw, I have a well-documented history of loving Gayle King and having a lifetime of reservations about her infamous friend. cancel me!!!) My only respite in this cursed moment of cultural chaos? That would be John Early’s new MAX (🙄) special, Now More than Ever.
It takes a lot for me to sit through a white, male comedian’s work and much less, fall in love with it. But that is something that John Early (and his frequent collaborator, the probable voice of our generation, Kate Berlant) was able to accomplish with ease. It started from his and Kate’s truly revelatory Paris video, a work of art that I quote on a daily basis.
And from then on, I became absolutely ravenous for anything he had to offer. I don’t know what I would do if there wasn’t a goldmine of hilarious, incisive content out there for me to gobble up - from the 555 special (I, too, am SAG), to Search Party - even Taylor Swift knows what time it is.
To me, what makes him so special is his ability to distill what exactly is so humiliating about being a millennial down into these darkly funny, undeniable, bite-sized moments. In the climax of his new special, as the modern church service-esque music swells behind him, he goes on an extended run about the sickly sardonic tone often used in marketing to target those of us with disposable income and a deep-seated hole within us that we somehow still believe material objects can fill. You know the ones. A flyer in the mail for a new product called “Zenf,” printed on glossy, baby pink paper, claiming to be the “modern-day flossing solution for baddies on the go.” An ad in your Promotions tab for razors that simultaneously encourages you to keep your armpit hair in order to stick it to the man. He mentions that he saw a Postmates billboard that simply read: “Hate people? We get it. Postmates.” (“By the way, mass shootings everywhere.”) What are we doing? Are we really going to be known as the generation that formed our senses of self from BuzzFeed quizzes, made “water of the day” TikToks and got scammed by BetterHelp? Are you not embarrazzed?
Culturally, we are down bad. We are all on our own little streaming islands with no unifying piece of media to connect us, and it feels awful. Monoculture beacons of light like Bruce Springsteen and Married… with Children were so omnipresent that when my parents first moved to this country in the 80s, they were already stans. What do we have now? The Spotify vs. Apple Music wars? Sparsely-attended Subreddits about The White Lotus fan theories? I guess people really like Stranger Things, but honestly, is that all there is? I have no idea what the solution is, but if you need me, I’ll be longing for the days when there wasn’t a soul in the entire country who wasn’t choking back tears when Fantasia Barrino was declared the winner of American Idol. I refuse to give up hope that there is a way back to that place. In the mean time, let me know in the comments below what you’re watching so we can all try to get on the same page.
want to hear last week’s apology demand read aloud by yours truly? click here.
(content warning: bodies, weight, fatphobia - internalized and otherwise. take care of yourselves, friends, because I’m about to get real.)
this week, I demand an apology from: early 2000s diet culture.
The year is 2003. By day, I am at school, being bullied by the PACER test and by night, I am in the comfort of my own home, being bullied by Tyra Banks. Every single week, my eyes are glued to my family’s ancient television in a heavy wooden frame in the basement, as I watch Tyra’s every move. To me, there is no one more glamorous, more savvy, and more chic than her. I hang on her every word, including the ones barked at sample sized models about how they will never book modeling gigs with their fat rolls (which I could never quite detect with my own eyes, personally) hanging over their jeans like that. I watch as they pledge their dedication to Tyra and swear to “take this opportunity seriously” aka remain as thin as humanly possible while posing in an actual graveyard and also making it fashion. I wish I could be as dedicated as them but alas, I love oatmeal creme pies too much and also I am ten years old. Whether it be from America’s Next Top Model, or TRL, or YM magazine, or from my very own pediatrician’s office, I am constantly inundated with messaging that there is something wrong with me. That my naturally chubby body is indicative of failure, of a sin I’m already guilty of, and that if I don’t spend every waking moment beating my body into submission as penance, then my life, my wonderful existence, is a waste.
So, early 2000s diet culture, you owe me an apology. For making it impossible to edit you out of my DNA. For every time that I look into a mirror and hear biting words from voices that don’t even belong to me. As I previously discussed on She’s All Fat, a podcast I proudly co-hosted years ago, I have been tackling my own internalized fatphobia head-on for awhile now. But even after years of grueling work to unlearn all the ways in which the diet-obsessed early 2000s broke my brain, and therapy, and educating myself, and “diversifying my feed,” I still struggle all the time. Recently, I’ve discovered a surprise, medication-related weight gain and even though it wasn’t “my fault” (and what does that mean, exactly?), it still sent me into a full-on tailspin. I want to be better than this. I want to feel the same level of self-assured and worthy and beautiful no matter how much I weigh. I want to walk around in the world with no need for my ironclad suit of armor, ready to protect me from whatever mix of sexism, racism and fatphobia the world has decided to serve up to me this time.
Because when I truly think about it, I don’t actually resent being fat. Sure, it can be inconvenient, but I’ve met enough members of my family to know that genetically, I was always going to be plus-sized. And I accept that. I think it’s beautiful, even. What I resent is the idea that whenever I walk into a room, my body makes a first impression before I get the chance to make one myself. I resent that no matter how accomplished, or witty, or kind I am, I am fat - and for people who live comfortably unexamined under the thumb of white supremacy, that is what will come to mind first. I resent the knowledge that when I am smaller, I am treated better, and that there is no way to access that treatment other than to figure out a way to become smaller again. I resent that it feels like for every step we make towards real progress, the Ozempic craze, or buccal fat removal, or Michelle Obama’s fat kid crusade, or the movie The Whale undoes it instantly. I resent that a whole new generation of kids will have to deal with this whack-a-mole problem of fatphobia because try as we might, we can’t seem to get rid of it for good. And I resent that there are so many people who deserve the same apology. Diet culture has done us all so dirty and it’s time we take our hoops off and get to scrappin’. Listen, I have my moments, but one thing I know for sure is that I am never going back. Because peplum tops may be trending again, but walking around with the belief that I am less than just because I have a gut and an ass will NEVER be. Know that.
this week’s shoutouts:
I am in love with Maeta’s virtually skip-free new album, When I Hear Your Name. This live performance of her song “Through the Night” will tell you everything you need to know.
This season of The Other Two has taken some huge swings as they dabble in magical realism and get very honest about the dark sides of celebrity. And after they brilliantly predicted Disney’s latest “exclusively gay moment,” I’m a fan for life.
I might be dating myself here, but I still hang out on YouTube. These days, I keep coming back to the Don’t Tell Comedy page that showcases new (and often diverse, thank GOD) voices in standup comedy. My favorite recent sets were this one and this one.
if you haven’t heard last week’s podcast minisode where I discuss my pop culture glossary along with, and I quote, “The cyclical and sort of clownish nature of life,” then you should really check it out.
thank you again for being here and see you soon!
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