Saturday, June 8, 2013

creating a/broad, June 8, 2013

Fat Chance
by Cameryn Moore

So, at several points during the shooting of Phone Whore (the movie) two weeks ago, the director would say “cut” and then be really excited about the shot we just did, and invite me over to the camera or to the laptop where he was uploading the footage to see what it looked like. Every time I said, “No, no, I don’t want to see, that’s fine, I never look at myself on video.”

I think that’s a fairly common attitude for performers; it’s a little weird to juxtapose our experience of performing live with a captured moving image. What is that thing I do with my eyebrow? Why did I make that movement right there? Is that really the way my voice sounds?

The answer is, no, that’s not really the way it sounds or looks. Playback through a machine is imperfect—charisma doesn’t record well--and visuals captured in the small box of a video frame are differently experienced than a live, sweaty actor on a stage. But my own reflexive reluctance to look at myself comes from someplace deeper than just that disconnect between experience-in-the-flesh and technology. It’s from a lifetime of being a big girl. And even though I’ve been putting myself out there for years as a performer who is fat, seemingly indifferent to comments or heckles or slurs or stares of disbelief, I still feel them and it’s still hard.

when I sit down and think about what I’m doing out in the performance world, what I’m trying to do out there, it makes me a little dizzy

Sometimes I worry that, between being openly sexual and openly fat, I am spending an unsustainable amount of energy maintaining my psychological defenses. It’s challenging enough walking down the street--a one-woman slutwalk, my own personal body-acceptance rally—but when I sit down and think about what I’m doing out in the performance world, what I’m trying to do out there, it makes me a little dizzy.

I mean, let’s look at the state of the union. Most larger actresses get the best-friend or the jolly neighbour or the matronly restaurateur roles. Women are routinely badgered to lose weight to get parts; Margaret Cho is only the most outspoken about that horrifying situation, but I’ve heard of dozens of others. I’m not interested in that shit. 

It helps that I’m a writer as well as a performer. I’ve got things to say and conversations to start, and as a late bloomer I realized a long time ago that I’m not going to get anywhere following the standard show-biz trajectories. So Fringe, right? That should be easy! Totally counter-cultural and down with whatever people bring, right?

Except no. The people who make up the Fringe are soaking in the same cultural values as larger society; we can’t help that. We can only help how we respond to that, correct it, examine it. And most people aren’t examining those values. As a result, larger women tend to get the same spots in fringe land as they would in Hollywood. There is a dearth of female solo artists out here anyway, and fat female solo artists? Forget about it. I think the only other fat woman I’ve seen doing solo work was doing a fucking weight-loss show.

I feel that I’ve dropped the torch or something.

We select out, see. Women who are told that they aren’t attractive, certainly not attractive enough to be on stage, aren’t getting support to go for performing in the same way. I mean, fuck support, I’d settle for non-hostile. But the reviews talk about appearances, and the same looks follow me as I work a fringe line that come up while I’m out just walking on a sidewalk (“how dare she wear that short skirt? Doesn’t she realize how fat she is?”) and oh, the occasional vitriol from an audience member, angry that I have the gall to talk about having a sex life in spite of being fat. I’ll say it: it takes an extraordinary exertion of will to persist in the face of all that. 

I don’t get praise for this often enough. I need to focus on creative and critical praise for my writing, for my performance, for my creative marketing and kick-ass work ethic. But my friend and colleague, the late Heather MacAllister, said it best: “Any time there is a fat person onstage as anything besides the butt of a joke, it's political.”

I remember this when I miss all of the overt body-positive activism that I used to do with the community theatre company I directed in SF and Boston. I feel that I’ve dropped the torch or something. But then I remember that quote, and I think about the women who have come up to me during my three years of touring who thank me for being so brave, and I’m not always sure whether they’re talking about saying the word cock to a theatre full of strangers or being naked as a fattie in a theatre full of strangers.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this honest sharing - I hope you know you're loved and respected by your fans along the way. Quick words after, before a show, they mean a lot. Thank you for doing what you do. Janine


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