Friday, April 25, 2014

In Praise of Cowardly Fat Dudes.

There's a certain character archetype, both in television and film, that when invoked I cannot help but automatically root for them.

They are the Cowardly Fat Dudes*.  

I say dudes, because frankly, there's not a lot of representation for fat women on TV and film, cowardly or otherwise.  Off hand, I can think of four fat lady recurring characters over the last twenty years and half of them were played by Melissa McCarthy.**

However, I digress.  This post is, after all, titled "In Praise of Cowardly Fat Dudes," not "Let Us Bitch About The Lack of Representation for Fat Women."  Believe you me, that is a post for another day.

I love a good underdog, and the Cowardly Fat Dude archetype fits the underdog description well.  Cowardly Fat Dude is portrayed as unsure of himself, often slow, and well, cowardly.  However, they are also often written as generally kind and concerned for others and can often represent a voice of reason when every thing around has gone bat-shit insane.

Some classic Cowardly Fat Dudes include Chunk from The Goonies, Dave from The Full Monty, and Piggy from Lord of the Flies (although anyone who has taken high school English knows things didn't turn out so well for Piggy.)

My current favourite Cowardly Fat Dudes are Aaron Pittman on Revolution (played by Zak Orth) and Samwell Tarly on Game of Thrones (played by John Bradley).  Aaron, a former stupidly-rich MIT grad and Google exec, loses his money, power, confidence and his wife after the blackout that is the catalyst for the events in Revolution.  He spends a lot of the first season mourning his pre-blackout life and generally pointing out the bat-shit craziness of the events that unfold around him.  However, as much as he protests and balks, when his friends are in trouble, he's usually right in there, even if he looks ready to crap his pants at any moment.  Late is season one, he pulls one particularly ballsy, kick-ass move that had me literally in tears.
Aaron's expressions usually alternate between this and "Are you kidding me?" disgust.  Source
Samwell is introduced as a self-described coward, who seems to have internalized a lot of nasty stuff told to him by his father, who considers him more than useless.  He joins the Knight's Watch (Night's watch?) after his father threatens to have a "hunting accident" if Sam doesn't get the eff out.  I haven't seen much of his character arc so far, as I am still trying like hell to catch up on this series, but I can't help but like the guy and hope to see him kick some ass.

There's some rage in there.  This kid is going to do some awesome shit, I know it.  No spoilers, please.  I'm only on season three.  Source
The reason I like the cowardly fat dude is that they seem to rise above their fear when it comes down to the line.  Every other character underestimates their abilities, as do they themselves, so I always find myself rooting for CFDs to come out on top, especially in situations where they are able to put their own particular talents to work in ways that other characters with more brawn and bravado would not be able, through the use of wit or intellect rather than brute force.  

I love the Cowardly Fat Dude character because it's one thing to lack a sense of danger, but it's an entirely different thing to look danger in the eye, feel debilitating fear, and go forth anyway.

*I'm fat-friendly.  I use 'fat' solely as a value-neutral physical description, and not a perjorative in any way.

**In case you're interested, the ones I came up with were Rae from My Mad Fat Diary, Molly from Mike and Molly, Lorelai's friend on Gilmore Girls and the inimitable Roseanne Conner.


  1. Cowardly Fat Dudes are an incredible cliche ("incredible" in that the archetype is still used, overly-so, and apparently still has credibility).

    As for the "fat" woman on TV and movies... they exist. Most are "ethnic" (i.e., non-White), and they're just as represented as fat dudes are, if you know where to look (my favorite would be Donna Meagle, as portrayed by the awesome Retta, in "Parks and Recreation"), but again, that's for another blog at another time.

    1. It must be 'cause they're such danged sympathetic characters.

      Ah yes, Retta is cool. Didn't get too much into Community, but I liked her.

    2. "Community?" Wrong black woman, lol. Parks and Recreation, lady!

    3. Aww man. I suck. Stupid thing is, I started to type in Parks and Recreation and went "no... That's not right. I'm thinking of Community"


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