(The 2023 Tribeca Film Festival runs June 7-18 and HtN has a ton of coverage coming like Melanie Addington’s Your Fat Friend movie review. Seen it? Join the conversation with HtN on our Letterboxd Page.)
I walked out of Jeanie Finlay’s new documentary, Your Fat Friend and headed to the bathroom. After only a few seconds after watching this film that dares us to think differently; I heard a mother and daughter in the bathroom. The mother explaining nicely how the daughter’s underwear may need to be changed as it shows a bit under her garment (not sure what she had on as we were all in stalls). The daughter replied in an exasperated tone, “That’s just my hips, mom,” in a tone that if you are a mother or daughter, you know inherently from your relationship with your mother.
And there it was. The perfect summation of what Aubrey Gordon has tried to shout from the rooftops of the Internet since her first anonymous blog post in 2017, the catalyst that started all of her career. If you don’t know her book What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat or her blog director Jeannie Finlay takes care to walk you through Gordon from her anonymous first post being read out loud while the camera explores curves of her body in water to going beyond what we’ve seen publicly to the intimate moments when Gordon had to explore going from anonymity to public facing.
And I have no way to dissect this film from the viewpoint of other because perhaps for the first time I saw myself on screen. If you know me, I believe everyone should see themselves on screen – everyone deserves representation. But the thing is, as a fat woman, somehow, we got skipped in line during the who remains ignored on screen vote. But because of voices like Gordon’s, Lizzo, Others now, and authors back to the 1960s (see Gordon’s recommended list to read on her website).
Gordon was content writing anonymously, even then drawing ire from the angry troll boys of the Internet, but when the offer of a book deal came in, she knew that she couldn’t hide anymore. And while some of her choice to be anonymous was fear based (we live in a constant state of everyone telling us their opinions about our bodies in America), some of it was sensible – if there is a face and a body to the words, could you dismiss it easier by deciding she wasn’t the right size to fit her claims? Some may think her too fat, some not fat enough. Her vulnerability as she also stays on camera and shares the many day-to-day interactions we have and the coded ways people speak to our body types is tremendous. Finlay followed her from the beginning for years and she let her into her family life, eating disorder, podcast and the many threats against her life and her surprise at the overwhelming support she has found in using her voice.
But it is not the author, podcaster and joyful fat girl that is unique to this story. It is how Finlay shows her interactions with her family who are slow to understand what she is preaching and the dynamic of mother and daughter and how we keep passing this disease of fatphobia down to each other through our words. Her mother’s beautiful transformation of better understanding her own role creates a lovely arc of the personal story of Gordon as her public story also plays out.
68% of women in America are size 14 or larger. What if more of us spoke our truth? How would representation change? There’s a cultural shift happening now and while society is slow to grow, we’ve known that woman of all types is beautiful in history. Perhaps with this film we might finally see real change in our society or more importantly, in ourselves. Perhaps the mom after the film in the bathroom will see it with her daughter and have a frank discussion. A film like this that gives such hope opens possibilities for all of us.
The film is represented by Cinetic Media.
– Melanie Addington (@MelAddington)
2023 Tribeca Film Festival; Jeanie Finlay; Your Fat Friend documentary movie review