Your Fat Friend: Review by Esme Betamax
I first found out about Aubrey Gordon via the You’re Wrong About extended universe – a smorgasbord of podcasts including but not limited to: You are Good, The Bechdel Cast, and Maintenance Phase, which Gordon hosts alongside Michael Hobbes (You’re Wrong About; If Books Could Kill). The pair teaming up to call bullshit on the wellness industry, one diet book at a time.
In 2018 Gordon piqued the interest of acclaimed documentary filmmaker Jeanie Finlay after reading a single blog post: A request from your fat friend. Contacting her to float the idea of a documentary turned out to be a shrewd bet, as Gordon’s fanbase has since flourished. Astute but unsurprising as Finlay has an eye for interesting characters and fascinating subjects. Her 2019 film Seahorse follows 30 year old Freddy, a trans man, through his experience of pregnancy and childbirth. Weirder still is 2011’s Sound it Out, from the point in time when record shops were all but extinct (!)
Filming Your Fat Friend over 6 years, Finlay folds in the journeys of Gordon’s parents, Rusty and Pam who separated years earlier. Initially reluctant to be in the film, Pam’s relationship with Aubrey ends up being one of the most engaging aspects of the film. Not that their dynamic is dramatic or bombastic – the moments that Finlay includes are kind and quiet, yet somehow together they begin to thaw a sort of shame-based permafrost. Feelings run deep and, as Pam attests, when you speak about them on film (and so can be held accountable), many things bubble up to the surface. It’s not a comfortable trip but it’s worth the effort.
Having listened to Maintenance Phase, I thought I knew what I was in for, but did not expect my own feelings and memories to be cracked open:
Two girls from my class in the infants playground, one ginger, the other blonde, the kind of inseparable Best Friends who had known each other since before they were born approached me to declare “Our mums say that people are tall and thin or short and fat, and you are short and fat”. Or the GP who brusquely told me at the age of 14 that I would benefit from losing at least a stone and sent me on my way. Why are these things lodged so clearly in my memory?
In the way that the best documentaries do, Your Fat Friend is likely to leave you with more questions than answers. Yours will be different because these are personal journeys, but here are a couple of mine:
Why do we speak so euphemistically about our bodies?
What causes us to go to war with our own bodies and how will we stop?
Aubrey Gordon and Jeanie Finlay tour the UK and Ireland, previewing Your Fat Friend throughout January. At the Watershed screening Q&A host Naomi Alderman (author of Disobedience; The Future) remarked that as the younger women in her book The Power awaken something in older women, this film helped her come into her own fatness, letting go of shame and tapping into a source of strength.
Your Fat Friend is released in the UK on 9th February 2024
Season 1 of The Power by Naomi Alderman is available on Amazon Prime
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