Monday, 18 June 2012

Fat Sally

At the moment I have quite bad eczema behind my ears. Eczema is the weediest of conditions. Asthma comes in a close second but the prop that goes with it gives it an edge. An asthma sufferer at a party can always pull out an inhaler and people will think 'This guy is different, interesting, vulnerable, I'd like to get to know him'. Pull out some steroid cream and start applying to the back of your ears and people will move away and judge you if you use the same fingers to pick at the nibbles.

I feel sorry for fat, ugly kids in American teen comedies. Not the characters - the actors playing them. If you play a nerd or an arsehole (all I play) then there is always the chance that in real life you are cool and nice (I am neither). If the sheer unattractiveness of your appearance is the punchline to a joke - 'Who wants to put their weiner in Fat Sally?' - then there's no hiding the fact that you yourself are fat and unattractive. That can't feel nice.

The actress playing Fat Sally (let's call her Ruth) is 14. For as long as she can remember Ruth has been bullied for the way she looks. She's sought solace in food and this has made things worse. She goes to drama class and a supportive teacher gives her the confidence to participate and it turns out she's quite good. In the rest of her life she feels humiliated and shies away from attention. When she acts she feels liberated and able to express herself. Unshackled by her baggage, in drama class Ruth can be whoever she wants to be. Her parents are pleased to see a more confident Ruth at home. They discover a local drama group and take her to it every Saturday. Ruth is given the lead role in the group's new youth theatre production and puts in a brilliant performance. Her parents are so proud. A local talent agent gets in touch and offers to represent Ruth and get her some auditions. The agent says that 'Ruth really has something'.  Ruth's parents tell her that as long as she continues to work hard at school then they will support her in any way they can.

Ruth is excited. Just six months ago she was the laughing stock of the school and that was all she was. Now she has another life in which she feels empowered and there is a very real chance that she could actually become a professional actor. At night she lays in bed thinking about the world of possibilities that have opened up for her. She doesn't have to be Fat Ruth anymore.

Over the next month Ruth gets 11 casting meetings. She auditions for the roles of Fat Pam, Fat Pat, Fat Sarah, Fatty Patty, Fat Debbie, Fat Claire, Fat Denise, Fat Kelly, Fat Rose, Fat Michelle and Fat Sally.

By the Fat Sally audition Ruth has lower confidence levels than she had a year ago. Every few days she sits in a casting suite with 20 other fat and ugly girls and then misses out on the role, not because she isn't good enough at acting, but because she's not fat and ugly enough. On the way back from the audition Ruth tells her mother that she doesn't want to act anymore. Her mother can see what is happening and feels awful. Saddened but realistic her mother says she's understands.

Two days later Ruth is offered the part of Fat Sally in a Rob Schneider movie. It's only a tiny part but she'll get $1500 and she'll get to meet Rob Schneider. She has never been more excited in her life. Her mother says she doesn't have to do it and reminds her how she felt two days before. Ruth doesn't care about that anymore though. She's a teenager and she's just been offered a part in a real Hollywood movie. Of course she's not going to turn it down.

So there's Ruth on the set of Get High School 4. She's in a high school canteen not unlike her own and she's abused just like before except this time there's 2 cameras pointed at her, an enormous crew watching and it goes on all day. They do 8 takes of the moment in which a tray of food is thrown in her face.

"Welcome to Hollywood" says Rob Schneider.

NB: I have never seen a Rob Schneider movie. I just thought his name worked well and I know he does comedies. If you're reading this Rob - let's go for a drink sometime. 

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