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Low-Hanging Fruit —

May 2, 2013

With The Biggest Dickweed behind us, I can now allow my mind to wander to other subjects, which I have missed very much.

Today, I found myself thinking about schadenfreude, which led me to reading the Wikipedia page.

Spelling and etymology

The corresponding German adjective is schadenfroh. The word derives from Schaden (damage, harm) and Freude (joy). Schaden derives from the Middle High German schade, from the Old High German scado, and is a cognate with English scathe. Freude comes from the Middle High German freude, from the Old High German frewida, and is a cognate with the (usually archaic) English word frith. A distinction exists between “secret schadenfreude” (a private feeling) and “open schadenfreude” (Hohn, a German word that roughly translates to scorn — outright public derision).

Let’s face it: sometimes schadenfreude feels good.

Especially when it’s someone who has done something quite heinous. I realize there’s the whole “innocent until proven guilty” thing, but George Zimmerman is guilty in my mind. There’s no doubt that he was there with a gun and the gun went off killing Trayvon Martin. Those facts are not in dispute. The question, it seems, is whether Martin attacked Zimmerman first. But as far as I’m concerned, Martin had the right to defend himself from some random asshole playing vigilante. Just to be clear, I don’t really want to get into a debate about the case. If you think he’s innocent, great, but I think he’s responsible for the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

And there are a lot of people who agree with me and who would love to see something terrible happen to George Zimmerman, if only to be found guilty and punished accordingly (personally, I’m against the death penalty). For many, it may be enough that Zimmerman got fat.

Zimmerman BnA2

According to his defense attorney, Zimmerman “spends all day thinking about the second-degree murder case against him and has gained 105 pounds.”

Zimmerman  BnA

So the jokes are flying, including one comparing him to Chaz Bono. If you have the stomach for it, I made a Storify of the Twitter search “George Zimmerman fat.” A cursory glance will show you the delight people have at seeing a fat Zimmerman, whether they’re saying that a heart attack is too good for him or to lay off the “prison Twinkies” (even though he hasn’t been in prison this whole time). There’s even a few who have said that Zimmerman’s weight is a losing “strategy”:

George Zimmerman’s strategy is wrong: this country is less sympathetic to disgustingly fat people

I responded:

Yeah, they should be less sympathetic to disgustlingly stupid people. I know where they can start.

Yeah, I do get it. In our culture, being fat is the worst thing you can be and now George Zimmerman has gained 105(!!!) pounds because he’s so depressed or stressed or remorseful or whatever the attorney is implying. Next to the dreaded obesity, I can’t really think of anything short of physical harm or financial ruin that could satisfy the schadenfreude people crave in lieu of swift justice.

But Zimmerman’s weight gain wasn’t exactly a surprised. This is his mugshot from 2005.

Zimmerman Mugshot

So he hasn’t always been as thin as he was when he shot Trayvon Martin. He obviously lost weight and — surprise surprise — in a stressful situation when he’s probably in self-imposed exile, he regained that weight. I doubt there was a real “strategy” to Zimmerman’s weight gain.

But whatever the reason, it’s jaw-dropping how vicious the attacks are against Zimmerman’s weight, but it’s not surprising because it’s just that easy. Anyone with an internet connection can access hundreds of stories of the various celebrities whose weights go up and down more predictably than the New York Stock Exchange.

But that must be what people want to see from tabloids, online and in the checkout line, because if a celebrity gets fat or thin, we’re going to see it. People love to gossip about who got thin and who got fat, and if it’s someone we love losing weight and someone we hate getting fat, all the better.

Which is why it’s no surprise whatsoever that Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy weight has become such an obsession with the media. Is there anyone out there who honestly has a positive feeling about the Kardashian family? I realize there are a whole lot of people (myself included) who just couldn’t give two shits about the Kardashians. Then there are a whole lot of other people who seem genuinely offended that she’s a “celebrity.”

Their hostility mostly stems from the fact that her profile rose to infamy after her sex tape was released in 2007, which led to a series of reality shows. Other than that, her only claim to fame is that she’s the daughter of Robert and Kris Kardashian (as a crime and punishment sidenote, Robert came out of retirement to be an assistant member of OJ Simpson’s legal team). They divorced, and Kris later married former gold-winning Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner. Kardashian became friends with Paris Hilton, who introduced her to the “socialite scene” (according to Wikipedia).

So, Kim’s image is that of a spoiled, little rich girl who gets an explicable amount of press coverage for God knows what, including past hyperventilating coverage of her weight gain and ecstatic revelations of her weight loss. Gawker even suggested that the whole thing is a scam to hock diet pills.

Now that Kim is pregnant the press is having a field day with her weight gain, including this hilarious cover:

I Can't Stop Eating

Here’s an excerpt from the article that I just made up:

“It’s like I try to not eat for days on end until I collapse,” Kardashian said. “Then I wake up in a hospital with an IV in my arm and I’m all like, ‘HEY! I’m trying to stop eating here!'”

And this is just one of the 11 tabloid covers I’ve found using my GoogleFu:

Kardashian-Pregnant-Fat-Magazine-Covers

Lets face it, schadenfreude sells.

People hate Kim Kardashian and now that she’s pregnant, they get to make a bunch of pent-up fat jokes we’ve all heard a thousand times before. For a thoroughly toxic example, check out (at your own risk) this Mad magazine graphic on Kardashian’s weight.

I don’t really know what to say or do about all this. I understand why people feel delighted that Zimmerman and Kardashian are fatter than before. I understand the contempt people feel for these two individuals, and how this perceived failure is a way to take them down a notch. But if you’re one of the people laughing and their weight, try to think of the message it sends to the people you know and love who are fat.

Yes, you are mocking two infamous assholes, but by making their weight an object of ridicule, by treating their weight as some sort of cosmic justice, you are telling all those around you that “bad people” deserve to be fat or that weight is a punishment. That may not be your intention, but that is most definitely what you are doing.

Do you know good people who are fat? Do you know bad people who are thin? Does it change their core essence if they suddenly swapped places? Yeah, life can get a little shittier when you’re fat (especially when you’re the paparazzi’s quarry), but life does go on.

Rather than perpetuate a culture that delights in schadefreude, I would encourage us all to embrace it’s opposite: mudita. According to Wikipedia, Mudita is a Buddhist concept whereby people derive “pleasure that comes from delighting in other people’s well-being rather than begrudging it.”

Mudita is easy to accomplish if you’re a parent, as you watch your kids learn and grow. It’s harder cultivate mudita in a world where it’s easier and more popular to wallow in schadenfreude. But what kind of world would you rather live in?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2013 5:21 pm

    Reblogged this on The Cheese Whines and commented:
    George Zimmerman and Kim Kardashian are both foul entities. But they are foul entities because of their behavior, not because of their body type. This society really needs to cease focusing on other people’s physiques, stat. It is a harmful, shallow, and downright evil practice.

  2. Duckie permalink
    May 2, 2013 7:11 pm

    Just an observation – that picture of Zimmerman when he was thinner in his suit coat – that coat looks way too big for him, like he was bigger before, then lost some weight quickly and was arrested before he had a chance to buy a suit coat that fit properly…that kind of rapid weight loss combined with the poor decision making that got him in trouble makes me question whether drugs may have been involved.

  3. Elizabeth permalink
    May 3, 2013 9:54 am

    Good piece, Shannon. I totally agree with you about George Zimmerman, but his weight is irrelevant, and Duckie’s suggestion makes a lot of sense. Coke, for example, can cause drastic weight loss, with the pleasant side effect of serious paranoia, which George Zimmerman seemed to be expressing the night he murdered Trayvon.

  4. May 3, 2013 12:36 pm

    Everything about “dressing for court” is theater. Clothing makes a HUGE first and lasting impression on everyone; from the judge, to jury, to the public, to the media. I think the first picture and impression of Zimmerman ‘swimming’ in that huge suit jacket was absolutely planned/intentional.
    Remember, at first there was a lot of speculation about Trayvon being taller (but lanky) but being outweighed by Zim by at least 30 lbs. The defense did not want Zimmerman to be perceived as a big bully or an aggressor.
    I guarantee you, that is NOT his own jacket he’s wearing while attending his arraignment. And even if it was his jacket from some other heavier era of his life, (using it anyway) It was a deliberate attempt to make him appear thin; gaunt, suffering, “down trodden” even “persecuted”. After all, Trayvon “brutally attacked Zimmerman” and Zim was only defending himself. (coff*bullshit*coff)

    That all said, I also think the reason he may have put on a hundred pounds in the last year is because (rumor has it) he’s FINALLY taking the meds he needs to take for his mental issues. It was recently discovered that he was / is under psychiatric care now and even before the Trayvon killing. Some kind of defense ploy? Maybe. But don’t many kinds of psyche meds cause weight gain?

    Anyway, as much as I think this a-hole deserves the strictest, harshest punishment allowed by our laws, I will never call him names based on his body size. I wish everyone else in the world of social media would stop as well….

  5. violetyoshi permalink
    May 4, 2013 9:17 am

    I wonder if thin people who call fat people disgusting, will ever realize that by doing so, they’re only supporting the notion that thin people are mean, and damaging their stance in society as well as the rest of their ilk.

  6. Dizzyd permalink
    May 6, 2013 1:37 pm

    @violetyoshi – good point!! I bet u they’d NEVER think of that! Too busy pointing fingers. But, they say for the one finger you point at others, there are 4 more pointing back at you.

  7. Dizzyd permalink
    May 6, 2013 1:48 pm

    I have to admit, this was very thought-provoking, esp. the last 2 paragraphs. I know the ‘schadenfreude’ side of me would love it if the fat-haters would all become the very thing they fear. The ‘mudita’ side would hope they suddenly realize it’s not so bad, fight for fat rights, and start enjoying food – and life – again.

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