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Really Really Ridiculously Fat-Shaming: The Fatphobia of 'Zoolander 2'

14/02/2016 19:46 GMT | Updated 14/02/2017 10:12 GMT

Full disclosure - I loved the first Zoolander film, from Billy Zane and David Bowie's cameos to "orange mocha frappachinos".

So, despite the dire reviews for Zoolander 2 that I'd read, I decided to go see the sequel in the cinema.

I hated it.

Not just because of what the reviews all rightly claimed - a ridiculous plot (even more so than being triggered to kill the Malaysian prime minister with Frankie Goes To Hollywood's Relax), stupid jokes and a stampede of never-ending celebrity cameos from everybody from Katy Perry and Sting to Susan Sarandon quoting Rocky Horror in an Italian orgy.

While these points were all valid, the main reason I disliked Zoolander 2 so much was the distinct vein of fatphobia running through it.

Roughly half of the film's humour centres around supermodel Derek Zoolander's son being fat.

When Derek, played by Ben Stiller, sees his estranged son in an orphanage, he is visibly sickened and refuses to look after the child.

Owen Wilson's Hansel says: "Does being fat make you a terrible person? I don't mean that as a rhetorical question, does it? I know it doesn't make you a good person."

Later, Derek Jr's appearance is mocked as he wears tight trousers, while villain Mugatu attempts to "fatten him for the slaughter" by feeding him pasta and lard, which is propelled from the nostrils of a plastic pig.

Derek and his son's big reunion comes when Zoolander oh-so-bravely comes to terms with his child's apparently horrific affliction, telling him: "I don't care if you're fat anymore."

He also tells Mugatu: "He's not fat. He's plus-sized."

Awwww, boom, fatphobia is a thing of the past.

Upon the Zoolander 2 trailer's release, there was outrage over the offensive and passé "what's in your pants" jokes aimed at a transgender model, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. (And rightly so, the scene is a slab of tiring Carry On era transphobia.)

Co-writer Justin Theroux claimed that the characters were a satire of fashion to "point out the idiots", with Zoolander's intolerance meaning to be a lampooning of the prejudices in the fashion world.

But that doesn't really work in this film.

The comedy isn't slick or intelligent - the jokes centre around Zoolander's increasing idiocy, Penelope Cruz's boobs, orgies involving animals, hipster talk and Anna Wintour attempting comedy.

And that's fine, if you leave it at that.

But the severe fat-shaming running through the film doesn't feel like a light being shone on the distinct sizeist attitudes in fashion and the media; it is just geared to make the audience laugh at the overweight.

It worked, apparently - the cinema in which I went to see this film was packed with people laughing out loud as chubby Derek Jr pulled a pout and became the world's hottest plus-size model.

The fashion industry is easy to lampoon, and satire done well can be amazing, but this film is not what that is.

Zoolander 2's joke is literally "haha, look, hot model Zoolander has a fat kid", and it doesn't evolve into satire or acceptance. It takes one offensive, cruel and frankly boring punchline and runs with it until the very end credits.

What made it worse for me is that the butt of the joke was a child, Cyrus Arnold, who was chosen for this role specifically to have his weight mocked throughout.

This is a community that is already ostracised by about 95% of all fashion campaigns and stores worldwide anyway - do films really need to join in on the attack as well?

Depressingly, this is a trend that isn't going to end any time soon. In the trailers before Zoolander 2, I saw the teaser for Sacha Baron Cohen's new film Grimsby.

Rebel Wilson's first appearance in the trailer features a "I'm not pregnant, just fat" quip.

Another scene sees his character told to approach a woman in a green dress who "you can't miss, she's gorgeous".

However, Sacha doesn't approach the hot blonde focused on by the camera, but Gabourey Sidibe, who is also wearing green. Cue hysterics from the audience.

Fat-shaming is so hot right now. Apparently.