The Fix

Jackson's topless act unlikely to affect bottom line, and Gest blames the National Enquirer. Plus: Group's spokeswoman calls "Big Fat" TV shows obnoxious.


Amy Reiter
February 3, 2004 4:56PM (UTC)

Afternoon Briefing:

The bottom line: The top may have come off Janet Jackson, but CBS and MTV -- both units of Viacom -- aren't going to feel the cold. Analysts are saying that advertisers (salivating for 18- to 34-year-old viewers) won't run away from the controversy, and any fines imposed by the FCC won't affect the stock price. (CNN/Money)

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Gest again: David Gest now says that his breakup with Liza Minnelli had nothing to do with alleged abuse but was caused by one National Enquirer article alleging Liza was an alcoholic. Gest told "Dateline," "She got the magazine on a Wednesday morning and on Thursday announced our marriage was over." (ABC)

Hooray for Hollywood: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is planning to build a museum. Nothing's definite, but the number $200 million has been floated, and the idea is to compete with the blockbuster Walt Disney Concert Hall and the world-class Getty Museum. (Hollywood.com)

U.S. asks South Korea to ban lap dancing: The U.S. military has sent letters to the South Korean Special Tourist Association urging a crackdown on "client-focused exotic dancing" near bases. They say the women "negatively impact military discipline." (World Tribune)

Casting news: Variety reports that Sir Michael Caine will play Nicolas Cage's dad in the film "The Weatherman." (Movies.com)

-- Karen Croft

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Even as studies show that Americans are heavier than ever, a new wave of reality TV shows has taken to making fun of fat people. Most conspicuous is Fox's "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance," which places a thin, attractive woman in a phony engagement with a large, ill-behaved man whose main goal is to disgust pretty much everyone around him -- and, of course, viewers as well.

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Last season's "Average Joe" and this season's "Average Joe: Hawaii," while purportedly championing the cause of the normal guy, also generate tension and controversy by pairing a few large, out-of-shape men with a model-type woman. The implicit message: Can these slobs possibly live up to the standards of a beautiful person? The answer so far: no. (In fact, TV viewers watched the very big Sean sent packing Monday night from "Average Joe: Hawaii.")

Salon called up Sandie Sabo-Russo, spokesperson for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, a 34-year-old fat people's rights group with more than 5,000 members in chapters across the United States and Europe. While NAAFA tries to have a sense of humor about the media -- its hall of fame includes John Candy, Chris Farley and Miss Piggy -- it takes the cause of "ending discrimination against fat people" seriously. It even has a "Fat Activist Task Force" that uses letter-writing campaigns to protest what it feels are unfair portrayals of fat people in the media.

What do you think of "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance?"

I think that's a really obnoxious title. If you change that word "fat" to any other oppressed minority -- to "My Big Black Obnoxious Fiance," or "My Big Gay Obnoxious Fiance," or anything -- you'd have a lot of groups that would be going, "Well, wait a minute..." They've wrapped all these negative stereotypes into this one guy who's fat, [saying] because he's fat, he's obnoxious, and he's sloppy and he's smelly -- which is not true about us.

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When the word "fat" is used as a negative, it becomes a term to hurt people, just like when people use the N-word against blacks. That's one of the reasons why we use the word "fat" -- it means we've taken it back. I'm fat. It is the appropriate adjective for my body.

What about "Average Joe"?

Matter of fact, I watch it all the time. [Laughs.] I have a few of my favorite reality shows. I love "Survivor," and I watch the "Bachelorette" ... she's so cute. She's so pretty.

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Why do you like "Average Joe"?

I was curious. I watched the first time and I was so pulling for Adam -- you know, the average guy when she got down to the one last average guy and one non-average guy. Adam was charming, he was a nice guy, he was rich -- what an idiot [she was]! I can't believe she passed this guy up! But it's her prerogative ... I don't berate someone for being more attracted to a thin person than a fat person.

From television's point of view, if they're just trying to get more people to watch, doesn't it make more sense for them to focus more on thin, beautiful people than fat people?

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Who are they to decide what's attractive and not attractive? I think extreme body builders with all the ripples -- oh yuck, it gives me the creeps. It's like fingernails on a blackboard. I see that when I'm flipping the channels and I switch that stuff off. That's the way I look at it -- gee, you don't have to look at it if you don't like it. But there has to be that broad spectrum of reality. Because there's many people who think rounded women are attractive.

It's not just about whether people think we're beautiful or not. Most thinner people treat fat people as if there's something morally wrong with us.

What did you think about the stunt in the first "Average Joe," when the thin woman put the fat suit on [to trick the contestants into saying nasty things about her]?

I think it stunk. We don't like it for all the same reasons that black people don't like it when white people put black face on and pretend to be black. It's demeaning and disrespectful.

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Do you think the guy from "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance" could ever make it to NAAFA's hall of fame?

I don't think so. He's probably thrilled to get a gig, and to some extent I don't blame him. I'm sure he's probably a nice guy in real life. But we'll never know, because all we'll think of him as is the fat obnoxious guy.

-- Christopher Farah

Morning Briefing

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Star power: Do you need an astrologer to tell you that Wesley Clark is "a man's man" and that Howard Dean "can be cool and distant or passionate and intense"? The New York Times apparently thinks you do -- and so has gotten an astrologer to parse the Democratic candidates' charts. (N.Y. Times)

Janet's spin: Janet Jackson explains that Justin Timberlake was supposed to rip away a part of her costume, but only the top layer of leather, leaving the lacy red part behind. (Drudge)

Wise words: Scarlett Johansson on It: "No one can tell me who the 'It' girl was last year, so it's kind of worrisome. Who was it? All I know is, once you're the 'It' girl you are the 'Once Was an It Girl-Girl'. " (Fox News Channel via Page Six)

-- Amy Reiter

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Amy Reiter

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