Your Fat Friend, a documentary directed by Jeanie Finlay, is the touching story of obesity rights campaigner Aubrey Gordon.
Say What You Really Meanby Alexa Dalby
Your Fat Friend
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Jeanie Finlay directed award-winning Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth, a ground-breaking documentary about transgender pregnancy and birth, so anything by her is worth watching.
This time her subject is Aubrey Gordon, a former LGBT issues activist in the US, and now a pro-fat campaigner. The film explores diet culture, eating disorders and attitudes towards weight.
Gordon is a wonderfully charismatic subject. She launched an anonymous blog – Your Fat Friend – in 2015 and was outed and subsequently threatened in 2020. She writes beautifully about “fat acceptance” and society’s misleading conflation of slimness with wellness.
She promotes plain speaking about obesity, with no euphemisms. A candid, amusing and endearing personality, she is a best-selling, insightful author, eloquent speaker and podcaster, but still she seems a fish out of water based in America’s conservative heartland of Oregon. She is also obese and proud.
Jeanie Finlay’s sensitive documentary, made over six years, concentrates on Gordon as the minor celebrity she is now. It does not go into the causes of her obesity, though it is tempting to play amateur psychologist when we hear her parents talk at the end of the film.
America is the world’s most obese society so it is surprising to learn from Gordon that adjustments are not already made for larger people and Britain may be heading the same way. Gordon may rightly have identified a problem in the discriminatory way American society treats “fat” people, but her valid concerns do not necessarily mean that being “fat” is as healthy as she wants to portray it or that low-income people are not forced into obesity by having to eat the low-quality foods that they can afford.
Then again, I may well be one of those brainwashed by the prevailing slimness/wellness norms that Gordon is tirelessly trying to overturn. In this case, watching Your Fat Friend may make me – or you – have a change of mind.
Your Fat Friend is on release on 9 February 2024 in the UK. Gordon was on a Q&A tour of the UK to promote the film during January.