Does a fattist insult justify a sexist one?
There’s been much high-fiving online this week among Adele fans, who are delighted with the way in which local comedy hero, Adam Hills, took down Joan Rivers for making fun of the the singer’s weight.
The veteran comedienne went on David Letterman’s show after the Oscars and made cruel fun of Adele’s post-baby body. She said she’d met the singer at the event and then made a “she’s thiiisssss big” type gesture by spreading her arms wide and puffing out her face.
Rivers was unrepentant when audience members jeered her for unkindness and added “What’s her song? Rolling in the Deep? She should add ‘fried chicken’.” Boom boom. Ugh.
Rivers failed to get the hint and dropped a few more fattist comments that left an awful taste in the mouth of the singer’s very loyal fans. David Letterman looked like he wished his chair would swallow him.
Local comedy legend, the very loved Adam Hills, joined a chorus of criticism of Rivers’ tasteless, tactless and out-of-touch jokes during the cringe-worthy exchange. On his weekly show, The Last Leg, Hills launched an uncharacteristically caustic counter-attack.
“After the Oscars Joan Rivers tweeted, quote, “You could easily pick Adele’s statuette out of a lineup, it was the only one wearing Spanx”...’’ said Hills, just warming up. He repeated Rivers’ ‘Adele is this fat mime’, then offered a hearty “f—you” to Joan Rivers.
“How dare you make fun of one of the best female role models on the planet for the way she looks? Adele is one of the very few women in pop music that I want my daughter to look up to—and you’re making jokes about the way she looks?”
So far, so many points strongly made.
“...When you’re so insecure about your own face, you’ve spent more money on it than the prodcuers of Life of Pi spend on that tiger? (His audience erupts in approving laughter.)
“I’m not finished! I’ve met Adele and she was lovely and hot. You, Joan Rivers, have become a jaded, bitter old moll. Get a plastic surgeon to manufacture yourself a new soul. Stop being such an enormous, hypocritical, insensitive d—k!”
Thankfully, another member of his panel cuts in then with “That’s what happens when you don’t get enough sleep!”
I say thankfully, because the clip feels to me like what started as a valid and useful rant against the superficiality of establishment-Hollywood’s values (as espoused by Rivers), ended in an insult that many women would still find seriously offensive.
Though iconic TV sketch-chracters like Kylie Moll turned the old school-yard slur of being “a slut” or “prostitute”, “a promiscuous woman with little or no morals” or a “slag” (the definition many online dictionaries still offer for “moll”) in on itself, I think Hills weakend his argument and his performance by resorting to it.
Clearly Adam Hills has his heart in the right place. And I love the fact he wants his daughter to think of Adele as inspirational (so many of us do), still I think he may or should be regretting his choice of killer punch.
Though you feel the sincere emotion and the good motives in his Rivers tirade, I think he slips off the high moral ground by reaching for a strongly sex-based insult like “moll”. Bitter? Fine. Old, certainly correct in Rivers’ case. Jaded, no doubt.
But moll? The word may be comically out of date, but the urban dictionaries still define it as a name for a woman judged to be of poor character due to her sexual choices. There is no male equivalent slur.
So it boils down to this: does a series of cheap fattist gags justify the use of a what still feels to me like an unnecessarily sexist one?
Though I love Adam Hills, and I am certain he had only the best intentions, I would argue no. Perhaps that really is what happens when you stay up too late watching the Oscars and don’t get enough sleep…
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