I recently read this on the Atlantic:
And I can't help but agree: beauty IS a troll, especially when it comes to body shapes and sizes. Especially women's.
"The Fat Monica thing is an easy joke—which is to say, it is a lazy joke—but it doubles, as so many lazy jokes do, as an insight. When Friends, looking for reliable LOLs, put the skinny-even-by-Hollywood-standards Courteney Cox into cheek-jowls and body-lumps—and then proceeded to suggest that the physical change would alter Monica’s very personality—the show neatly channeled the way American culture itself treats fatness, by default: as a flaw not just of appearance, but of character. As an aesthetic failing that doubles as a moral one"
"In 1990, four years before Friends premiered on NBC, Naomi Wolf published The Beauty Myth, her examination—and her indictment—of the way attractiveness functions as both a metaphor for and a mandate over women’s lives. The book now has a sequel, of sorts: Heather Widdows, a professor of philosophy at the University of Birmingham in England, will soon be publishing Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal. The book, a scholarly work that is urgently relevant to the current cultural moment, is definitely not about Fat Monica; in another way, though, it is deeply about Fat Monica. It is an expansive inquiry into the treatment of one’s appearance as a ratification of one’s character. “As a value framework, the beauty ideal provides shared standards by which to apportion praise, blame, and reward,” Widdows writes, “making beauty-success a moral virtue and beauty-failure a moral vice.”
"Friends ended its run 14 years ago; Fat Monica, however, remains. Not just as an inspiration for other sitcomic characters, and not just as an occasional appearance on a Netflix screen or a basic-cable station near you, but also as a specter. As a joke. As a warning. “I called you fat?” Chandler says, when he is reminded that, in college, he made an off-handed remark about Ross’s “fat sister”—and when he learns that Monica had overheard him making the comment. With that, Chandler Bing, the human embodiment of the mordancy of the ’90s—could he be more sarcastic?—proceeds to express the most sincere regret he will ever demonstrate over 10 seasons of Friends. “I’m so, so sorry,” he tells the no-longer-Fat Monica. And he means it. He is thoroughly chastened. He called her fat, after all; and he can’t imagine—nor can his TV show imagine, on his behalf—a more terrible insult".
Naomi Wolf wrote the Beauty Myth in 1990 but reading it now, it felt as relevant as ever. Why, and is this ever going to change?