Coming To A College Near You: Fat Studies?

Who decided to make Blair’s maid, Dorota, the only overweight one on “Gossip Girl”? And why did J.K. Rowling pen Harry Potter’s uncle and cousin, Vernon and Dudley Dursley, as portly? What dictates why some characters in fiction are chubsters while others are anorexic? One professor/doctoral student at George Washington University is actually pursuing a PhD in fat studies. Not gender studies or nutritional studies—no, Julia McCrossin is investigating why authors choose to make characters fat. The university will be rewarding her for her work with the first degree in fat studies, and I’m not sure whether to be repulsed or really excited.As a person of normal weight who’s been made to feel obese from all the societal hoopla, this seems like a topic that I should have thought of on my own years ago. It’s pretty damn cool for someone to be publishing research on humankind’s capacity to stereotype people based on their weight. It’s also quite awesome that this research is stepping beyond the over-studied pigeonholes of economic status, social class, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. Although Prof. McCrossin’s focus is literature, she says that there’s much to be said about fatness in movies and TV shows. Not to mention the ruckus over Mariah Carey’s girth and the whole Kelly Clarkson fat fight. So, there are a ton of directions in which her initial studies can be expanded.

While discussion of size doesn’t happen often in higher education, it’s constantly talked about almost everywhere else. Hands down, what makes this new discipline so intelligent is that it’s so obvious. In an interview with the GW Hatchet McCrossin said, “I wanted to think about why some characters ‘needed’ to be fat and how that fatness affected the works in which they existed in.” To any person who has ever been overweight, this idea is so simple. This field of study isn’t brain surgery, but there’s certainly something it can add to a culture increasingly suffering from diabetes and heart disease.

Yet I have to wonder, does this mean that after fat studies starts popping up at colleges around the country, will the next department to open be … *gulp* … skinny studies?! McCrossin told the Hatchet that, “I came to fat studies because of one simple thought: as someone who studies literature, I believe that when authors create fat characters, they don’t do so innocently or free from the cultural baggage fat people have traditionally had.” Well then, what about authors who create skinny characters?

I’m just so torn between thinking that fat studies is absurd and wonderful all at the same time. I find it extremely hard to believe that in the future, when colleges and universities are able to stabilize their currently recession-destroyed endowments, they could start adding fat and skinny studies departments. But I’m also sure that at the start of the 20th century, the suggestion of colleges teaching gender studies was equally preposterous. So what do you think, in 2109 are kids going to be majoring in fat studies? [GW Hatchet]