Fat Like Me

A pigs-eye view of the Happiest Place on Earth

"Do you have a handicapped sticker?" he says.

"He's not handicapped. He's just overweight."

He peers into the car and sees the mass of Good in the passenger seat, a bag of Cheetos spilled on the floor in front of him.

"Oh. Sorry to hear that," he says. And he really looks sorry. "Well, you can try to get closer by telling the attendants up ahead. But if there's no room, he'll have to walk up to the shuttle."

"Is there some way that he can be carried?"

"What?"

"Can he be carried? He's awfully big . . . it's glandular."

"Uh . . . no, not really."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. Good luck."




THE FATTEST PLACE ON EARTH

Anywhere in America is a perfect place to view the chunky, plump, rotund, stout and robust. But there are few places where you can witness the truly elephantine, corpulent, distended and gargantuan. Disneyland is one of them. Anyone who has hung at the park can attest to this fact: fat people are all over Walt Disney's bucolic vision of long-lost America like an 8-year-old fat kid on a box of Ding Dongs. It's tempting to make psychoanalytic generalizations about this phenomenon, so I will: Disneyland is a place designed to convey illusion, fantasy and make-believe. And if you're living in a culture where the dominant visual paradigm is six-pack abs on men and slim women with cheekbones sharp enough to slice someone's jugular, then Disneyland is a suitable venue for denial and avoidance of the cottage cheese accumulating on your rapidly expanding ass.

But there are both more obvious and more complicated paths to explore. The obvious is that America is the fattest country on earth, and Disneyland draws 13 million visitors a year, most hailing from this country. Mathematically, you're going to get a lot of porkers. The more complex is that Disneyland is a quintessentially American byproduct of the consumerism that has, over 229 years, transformed this country from a nation of second-rate disaffected religious separatists and entrepreneurs into a superpower.

Disneyland, like so much of America, is about consuming more than we need. And just as the still-embryonic empire that Walt Disney kick started into full growth mode with the opening of his Anaheim theme park has morphed into a world-straddling business colossus, this nation's waistlines have expanded to gargantuan proportions.

In 1963, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 44.8 percent of the American population was overweight. In 2000, that number had risen to 65.2 percent. In 1963, 13 percent of Americans were obese; in 2000, it was 31 percent. In 1970, 4.5 percent of American children were overweight; in 2002, it was 15.8 percent.

And the fattest are getting fatter. A study published in the February 2005 International Journal of Obesity reported that, in 1990, less than 1 percent of Americans were morbidly overweight; in 2002 that figure had nearly tripled to 2.2 percent, or 5 million Americans.

And they all seem to be coming to ?Disneyland.

Which begs the question: Is it irony, poetic justice or simple direct advertising that many of the trash receptacles at Disneyland are emblazoned with the following words:

"Waste Please."

CHEETOS, PLEASE

We're waiting in line to buy our admission tickets. A petite woman pushing a red-clad toddler in a bright green baby stroller runs over Good's right foot (In real life Good stands just 5'7", but he has size 13 feet.) She stops and is about to utter a hasty apology when she sees Good. Her eyes grow huge, and she continues her journey wordlessly.

Good asks the good-natured middle-aged woman inside the kiosk if there's a way he can get a special-assistance pass.

"What do you need it for?"

"I'm kind of large."

"Oh. Well, you can go to City Hall and ask them."

I notice something on the counter behind her. It's a bag of Cheetos.

"Are you going to eat those?" I ask.

"What?"

"Those . . . things. Are you going to eat them?"

"Uh. Yeah. I was planning on it."

"Oh. Because my friend's really hungry. He's a hungry beast, and there's a lot to feed."

"Well, there's plenty of places to eat inside the park," she says.

"Where's the nearest one?" Good asks.

She patiently tells us about multiple options just inside the gates.

"There aren't any stands out here," I say, pointing to the huge concrete expanse between Disneyland and California Adventure. "Even cotton candy or something."

"No, sorry. They're all inside the gate."

"It's like he's a cat locked inside a house, salivating at the thought of rivers of canned salmon flowing right outside the door," I say.

"What?"

"Do we have to walk, or can we get a ride?" says Good.

"You have to walk, hon. But, really, it's not that far."

BROUGHT TO YOU BY . . .

Wonder Bread, Pepsi-Cola, Fritos, Nestlé, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's: these are a few of the empty-calorie, preservative-laden, sugar-drenched, fat-packing corporate sponsors that have helped underwrite attractions or restaurants at Disney over the years.




INVISIBLE FAT MAN

Our story is simple: if anyone asks why a photographer is following Good through Disneyland, the reply will be that Good is none other than Roscoe Arbuckle, a growing star on the morbidly obese porn circuit. Our photographer, Mark Stouffer, is a German photojournalist on assignment. The Germans eat this shit up. His nom de guerre is Shnikt Kleinhundt. I'm going to stay out of the way and watch what transpires.

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