In our modern era, weight is a notoriously sensitive subject – for men and women alike. Whether the focus is on weight loss or weight gain, few relish the thought of conversation concerning their bodies and how their weight may contrast with a popularized ideal.
So how is this emotion-fraught topic often handled on the big screen? We examined the roles weight plays in popular films: Which movies – and movie genres – mention weight most? Which actors most frequently appear in these films or play characters with weight-related names (think “Fat Lou” and “Chubby Man”). The results are surprising – and our script analysis doesn’t even capture sight gags or other unspoken references to weight, so it’s likely the total count is even higher. Read on to get the skinny.
When it comes to weight-related remarks, 2011’s “Drive Angry” takes the cake: Characters mentioned weight a whopping 31 times during the 104-minute-long film. One character goes by “Fat Lou” and the term “fat” is used in a derogatory manner. In second place comes “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” (1996) with 29 mentions: “I can’t stop eating. I eat because I’m unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat. It’s a vicious cycle,” says the character dubbed “Fat Bastard.” “The Postman,” which debuted in 1997, comes in third with 24 mentions of weight-related terms.
Next, we zoomed out from specific films to explore which genre most frequently tackles the subject of weight. Comedies come first (with 23.86% of weight-related remarks), and action films are a close second (holding 23.51% of mentions of weight). Dramas, crime films, and biographies trail.
Why do people think being overweight is funny? When asked why comedies tackle such serious subjects, comic Sarah Silverman sums it up to Time magazine: “That’s the reason people become funny is to overcome pain,” she says. “The most basic is the fat kid making the fat joke first.”
It may be a common reality, and indeed we draw humor from it regularly, but it’s fundamentally tragic – not comical – that anyone would feel compelled to joke about their weight to dodge public scrutiny and derision. In many of these instances, people are clearly masking pain – pain that in some cases may spur development of disordered eating, potentially leading to conditions such as anorexia. Others may turn to compulsive exercise, and other purge behaviors associated with bulimia.
A struggle with body image can ultimately have severe repercussions, and many people in these situations can benefit from some form of counseling. If you’re concerned you may already be feeling the impact of a distorted body image or you have developed signs of an eating disorder, call 1-888-232-6949 today to speak with a treatment support advisor about recovery options.
Some movie actors seem to get typecast in certain roles: the sidekick, the straight man, the comic relief. So which actors end up with lines that mention weight the most? Bill Murray comes in first, with an average of nearly eight weight-related mentions per movie. (“There is a very fat pair of pants hanging on the flagpole this morning,” Murray says as Tripper in 1979’s “Meatballs.”)
Brian Cox ranks second with nearly seven mentions, Tom Sizemore comes in third with just over six, and Tom Cruise comes in fourth with nearly six (“ Six billion people on the planet, you’re getting bent out of shape cause of one fat guy,” Cruise says as X Vincent in 2004’s “Collateral.”)
Quotes aside, sometimes characters’ very names make reference to their weight – whether lighthearted or not. In “Drive Angry,” which debuted in 2011, Jack McGee plays Fat Lou – the slightly lecherous guy who runs Fat Lou’s Roadside Diner. The memorable “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” pokes continual fun at “Fat Bastard,” a morbidly obese henchman portrayed by Mike Meyers. (“I want my baby back baby back baby back baby back baby back ribs,” the character famously said.)
The script for 1997’s “The Postman” (1997) features a character referred to as “Chubby Sentry,” played by Andy Garrison. And 2012’s “Papadopoulos & Sons” includes a man called “Fat Laki,” played by Jimmy Roussounis. What are some other weight-related character nicknames? Fatty, Fat Thug, Chubby Man, and Fat Knight, among others.