“Skinnyfat” is a new short film centered around two friends (jaded Chaz and his loyal friend, Davy) on a desperate quest to regain their six pack abs after the softness of late-20s has set in.
Chaz, a tattooed, pierced San Franciscan hipster, is convinced he’s overweight. The latest evidence? He caught his date feeling out his “fat waist.” Yes, despite his lanky frame and low body weight, Chaz is afflicted with the most difficult condition to treat: he’s soft in the middle. He’s Skinnyfat.
The traumatic event sets him on a plan to lose weight until he has hipbones “sharp enough to trim hedges!” Joined by his flighty friend Davy, Chaz stumbles through gym workouts, crash dieting, tweaker yoga, force vomiting, and even a trip to the plastic surgeon! Along the way, he learns that physical ideals can change with the next pop culture trend, and even the revered six pack may not be enough to secure the most important love of all—his own.
In writing Skinnyfat, I wanted to create a film that exposes issues about body image in the gay community. I’ve never seen a narrative film that really explores this territory, so the possibilities were limitless. A more conventional storyline might focus on the experience of heavier-set men in a culture that celebrates lean muscle. But I wanted to approach this issue from a unique and more provocative side: the experience of thin men who don’t know where they fit in and struggle with various notions imparted by society.
Like many writers, I took a page from my own history. I grew up facing a lot of criticism for my build. Family, classmates, friends, dates, etc. would chide, “You’re so skinny! You need to put on weight!” There’s been a lot of work done to counter anti-fat rhetoric in the public sphere, but criticizing very thin people is still highly acceptable. As I talked with other men who grew up thin, I learned our experience was very similar: we were told we look sick (AIDS), we were weak, we weren’t masculine, etc. And for thin men lacking muscle tone, it’s considered the worst of both worlds. If you’re going to be thin, you should at least have tight muscles and a six pack.
Rather than making an oppressive drama about body image, I felt comedy would be a better route. You can get away with more, and it allows audiences to approach the subject in a “safer,” more positive way: by laughing. Skinnyfat is an outrageous satire, which is fitting because the level of body image issues in gay culture is outrageous! Open any gay magazine—even community-oriented magazines such as Frontiers, POZ, and the BAR—and you’ll see the vast majority of imagery is of the culturally-defined “perfect” body: tight tanned muscles, six pack abs, etc. And padding every issue are advertisements for teeth whitening, gym memberships, personal trainers, weight loss supplements, liposuction, hair removal, hair implants, pec implants, butt implants, and crotch enhancing underwear. Is it any wonder gay men have one of the highest rates of eating disorders per capita of any group? Or that entire communities (e.g. skinny hipsters, fuller-figured Bears and Cubs, and muscular circuit party men) form around body types? Skinnyfat uses satiric humor to show what happens when the body-conscious become the body-obsessed.
Chaz and Davy, the main characters in Skinnyfat, are thin urban hipsters harboring unhealthy views of their own bodies and the bodies of many around them. Their level of self-criticism is fueled mostly by the narcissistic and deeply dysfunctional Chaz. By creating an anti-hero who embodies stereotypical gay character flaws, the film takes an inside-out approach at deconstructing physical ideals in the gay community. It goes to show that no matter your body type, someone’s got an opinion about it. And the subversive humor points to an all too obvious conclusion: even if you achieve the heralded six pack abs, will that be enough to be accepted?
Andy Bydalek (“Vapor”)