Friday, July 11, 2008

The Only Thing Fat (And Dying) Is Your Head

"Wall-E is an innovative and visually stunning film, but the "satire" it draws is simple-minded. It plays off the easy analogy between obesity and ecological catastrophe, pushing the notion that Western culture has sickened both our bodies and our planet with the same disease of affluence. According to this lazy logic, a fat body stands in for a distended culture: We gain weight and the Earth suffers. If only society could get off its big, fat ass and go on a diet!

But the metaphor only works if you believe familiar myths about the overweight: They're weak-willed, indolent, and stupid. Sure enough, that's how Pixar depicts the future of humanity. The people in
Wall-E drink 'cupcakes-in-a-cup,' they never exercise, and if they happen to fall off their hovering chairs, they thrash around like babies until a robot helps them up. They watch TV all day long and can barely read.

It ought to go without saying that this stereotype of the 'obese lifestyle' is simply false. How fat you are has a lot more to do with your genes than with your behavior. As much as 80 percent of the variation in human body weight can be explained by differences in our DNA. (Your height is similarly heritable.) That is to say, it may not matter that much whether you eat salads or drink 'cupcakes-in-a-cup,' whether you bike everywhere or fly around in a Barcalounger. If you have a propensity to become obese, there's only so much that can be done about it.

The desire to link obesity and environmental collapse seems to have more to do with politics than science."


-- Daniel Engber, putting the lie to Wall-E's (and dumb liberal's all-too-willing) lies - and their unspoken desire to be prejudiced - in Slate.com.