Archive for June 22nd, 2010

Making Fun

This is how it starts, just a normal morning.

Then an alien tries to hack into your brain.

You scare it off with your amazing face-scrunching powers.

And then you laugh a laugh of righteous victory.

Yeah, having fun with making weird faces at my webcam. XD Something which I am quite good at, really. I am also a champion of the extreme eyebrow and other advanced facial techniques, such as touching my nose with my tongue.

As a mezzo-soprano, one of the things I liked and disliked most about the potential roles I could do were the amount of slapstick I had to do. Now, I like doing comedy. I like making people laugh, but I don’t like it when I have to do it at my own expense. Case in point, my one big acting opportunity in high school. My senior year, we did a musical called Nunsense. It’s only a five person cast (all women, what a surprise). I played the Mother Superior, who was meant to be on the large side. Most of it was a very enjoyable experience, except for the “high monologue”. You see, at one point my character was handed a bottle of inhalants that had been confiscated from a student by another nun, and she had no idea what it was and kept sniffing it, ending up making herself high. She then spouted a bunch of funny nonsense and ended up running around the stage with a Carmen Miranda fruit hat on her head, right at the end of the first act. This is all well and good, and it was pretty fun to do, just because I could act all crazy, except the line that got the biggest laugh from the audience was the line where I made fun of myself for being fat. And I hated it. I was in high school, and I didn’t have very high self-esteem, and having a bunch of strangers laugh at me for being fat didn’t make me feel good. I hid my feelings and didn’t say anything to the director, but my mother could tell how unhappy it made me, and she was angry on my behalf. This was following the year where the same director cast me as the Elephant in Children of Eden (a musical based on the biblical stories of Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark), which also made her see red on my behalf. I had several of my friends come up to me after Nunsense and tell me how much they had loved laughing at my expense, and it hurt. I knew they were trying to tell me that they’d enjoyed my performance, but I wasn’t proud of having to make fun of myself on stage.

When I got the role of Ruth in Pirates of Penzance in college, I thankfully had thicker skin. Of course, Gilbert and Sullivan are sort of famous for their blatant misogyny (how many old, unattractive women can you find in their works?), but it was mostly a fun role to play, so I sucked it up. Really the only time it was annoying was when other characters were pointing out how old and ugly Ruth was, which, since I was neither (even at the height of my body-loathing I’ve always known I have a pretty face), was rankling. I didn’t let it get to me so much, because I was older and didn’t take things as personally, but given the choice I wouldn’t want to do that role again, because I don’t like being made fun of.

I spent my first year of middle school being teased so mercilessly that my mother had weekly meetings with the principal, trying to get them to make it stop, sent my (then 6’7”) oldest brother, who’d just got his license, to pick me up from school so he could intimidate the little assholes, and eventually ended up taking me out of school and attempting to homeschool me because I was so miserable. I’ve always been a bit over-sensitive to teasing, even from my family (I’m a lot better about it these days), and I think that’s a common thing for the youngest child, that we want to be taken seriously and get angry when people poke fun at us. But that’s different from systematic emotional abuse from other students, because I was taller, and heavier, and not one of them (we’d moved there from a different state a year before). I withered and shrank into myself. It took me several years to begin trusting people again, and I’m still wary of new faces and the possibility that they might intentionally hurt me for their own amusement.

I do take myself a bit too seriously sometime, but I also have spent a lot of my life being made fun of and belittled. Because I’m fat, and tall, and a woman. There are societal messages everywhere that reinforce my status as a lesser human being, and without meaning to my family and friends sometimes buy into them. I don’t like playing roles where people have to laugh at my expense. I’d much rather be the lady with the biting wit who makes people laugh at the stupidity of others, or the stand-up comic who makes people laugh at some of the ridiculousness of everyday life. I don’t mind being silly and making people laugh at me for that (like in today’s pictures), and I don’t mind when people laugh at me because they don’t understand me or a hobby I like or whatnot. But I am done letting people laugh at me because of who I am. There’s nothing funny about my fatness, thank you. It’s not okay to laugh at me just because I’m different enough that you can fool yourself into thinking I’m a lesser person. I am not an object here for your amusement. I’m a person. And if I make a concerted effort to be funny, then feel free to laugh. But don’t laugh just because I slipped and fell on my fat ass, unless you would laugh at your skinny friends for the same reason. Don’t laugh when a high school girl is forced to play an Elephant simply because the director singled her out as the biggest girl in the show (and the biggest guy got to be the other Elephant, what a surprise). Don’t laugh when someone calls her old and ugly, because even if she is one or both of those things, that doesn’t mean she is an object of derision.

There’s a difference between comedy and cruelty. A lot of people don’t care to figure out where that line is, but I can tell you how much it hurts once someone has crossed it. So don’t laugh.


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