So I’m still sick, having developed freakin’ bronchitis, but I’m getting better, slowly, and now have enough brain to actually watch good tv instead of bad. So now I’m rewatching Lost.
This, naturally, leads me to want to talk about Hurley. Because Hurley is awesome.
Look, if you haven’t seen Lost, you might not want to read this. The show has an incredibly complicated plot over its six seasons, and a big chunk of most episodes is flashbacks, which just makes it even more confusing, so I’m not really going to stop to explain anything. Plus, naturally, this post is going to be full of spoilers.
Hurley, more formally known as Hugo Reyes, is played by Jorge Garcia. He is, as seen above, both adorable and sexy. (I do wish I’d been able to find a picture where he’s smiling and not holding a candy bar. He has such a great smile!) His character was extremely popular during Lost‘s run, and even had a Weezer album named for him (the cover of which had a picture of Garcia). Reyes was actually created for Garcia after he auditioned for another role, because they loved the actor so much. Hurley is funny, usually upbeat, caring, generous, loyal, has common sense, is a peacemaker, and is just all-around terrific. He has a relationship during the course of the show, and it’s played very well (right up until she dies). He is rarely disparaged by other characters (except Sawyer, who will insult anyone for anything, and is bigoted on multiple fronts and generally an asshole) for being fat. He is, actually, a really awesome fat character.
I’ve been refamiliarizing myself with the plotline of the show, especially Hurley’s character arc and history, reading through Lostpedia entries and episode recaps various places. It’s been making me sad in a way that I haven’t been while actually watching the show. Hurley’s story, like the stories of all the characters, is told in fragments, bits and pieces of present and backstory, all out of order and scattered over a bunch of different episodes. Watching, Hurley is always awesome, no matter how sad or upsetting his situation is in any given episode.
But reading through it, I’m distressed to realize how many nasty tropes and stereotypes about fat people were written into Hurley’s story. He has an eating disorder (apparently compulsive overeating, which his doctor believes he does “to punish himself”), and hoards food when all the survivors need it. He’s poor, from a poor family, and works at a fast food restaurant (fried chicken). After he won the lottery, he bought the fast food restaurant where he used to work. He’s mentally ill, and when his doctor wants to put him on a diet, his hallucinatory friend talks him out of it. His fatness broke a deck by walking on it (ok, it was already at four times its rated occupancy when he got there, but he blames himself), and two people died.
Now, some fat people really do have eating disorders (anorexia and bulimia, as well as compulsive overeating and others, thankyouverymuch), or overeat out of depression. Some hoard food. Many fat people come from and live in poverty — disproportionate numbers, in fact — and I’m sure lots of them work in fast food restaurants, because you take what you can get. It’s possible some of them might like those places enough to buy them if they suddenly became rich, although having worked in fast food myself, I cannot for the life of me imagine why. Some fat people are mentally ill (including me), and some of them are fat because of their illness, or because of the medications used to treat their illness, or for other reasons connected to their mental illness. I haven’t ever heard of someone’s hallucination convincing them not to diet in real life (and honestly, in this I have to root for the hallucination, but that’s not really the idea, is it?), but I suppose it could happen. It does, occasionally, happen that stuff breaks when fat people stand or sit on it, I suppose especially when it’s already well past the load it’s designed to bear, but really? Seriously? He broke the deck with his fatness and people died, and that’s the cause of his depression and many of his problems? Fucking seriously?
As always, it’s not any individual thing that’s the problem (except maybe that last one, because good fucking grief). The problem is the frequency of it. Every single one of those things is widely represented in the media, both in fiction and in journalism, as normal for fat people. And, of course, it’s incredibly common for fat people to be jolly and friendly and the comedy relief, too. So there’s a problem with the breadth of each of these stereotypes across society. Then, too, all of these individual stereotypes and tropes are piled up in this one character, no matter how awesome he is otherwise, which gives us a problem with the depth of stereotypes in one character. It isn’t enough that he has an eating disorder, or that he’s poor, or that he’s mentally ill, or that he hoards food, or that he broke a fucking deck by walking out onto it, he has to be all of that at once, because apparently the writers can’t think of enough things to do with the character that aren’t fat stereotypes, so they built half his backstory out of them.
I know, I know, all of the characters in Lost were really fucked-up and had really fucked-up backstories. Jin was in organized crime and abusive, Sun was cheating on him, Jack’s an alcoholic, Kate’s a murderer, Sawyer’s a con man, et cetera and soforth. But few, if any, of those fucked-up backstories embody this many negative stereotypes of a group the character’s part of (and if you want to talk about the stereotypes piled on any other character, like Jin of Michael or someone, feel free in the comments). And, of course, this is an FA blog, so the fat stereotypes are what I’m going to talk about here.
Don’t get me wrong, Hurley is still an awesome character, and I love him to bits, and I have lustful thoughts about both character and actor. But a character or a work of fiction can be good and be problematic, and the character of Hugo Reyes is both.
[Standard comment reminder: New readers, please read commenting policy. All new commenters go straight to moderation, and I will not let any fat hate, fat hate apologetics (which include justifying the use of stereotypes, thanks), tone arguments, bigotry of any kind, or any attempt to explain anyone’s “intent”. Really vile or entertaining hate will be posted to a separate page with the troll’s email, IP, and any other information I have available to me. Along with a troll-eating goat.]