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On thinness-related disorders: Hindustan Times

JK Rowling recently won more points among parents and children worldwide when she spoke out angrily on her website about the widespread idolization of ‘empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones’ with ‘oversized handbags and rat-sized dogs’ – no, not rival authors, but models and other celebrities with fake fast metabolisms and real eating disorders, the patron saints of a thinness-obsessed world. ‘Is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be?,’ Rowling asked. ‘Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’?’

I was a little taken aback by the question, because the most noticeably fat people in Rowling’s books – Harry Potter’s uncle Vernon and cousin Dudley – also deserve all the other epithets in that last sentence. But Harry Potter is, after all, fiction, and Rowling has her views on thinness and its discontents pretty well figured out in real life. ‘I’d rather they (her own children) were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny, a thousand things, before thin.’ she said. A meaningful and mind-improving statement; more power to Rowling, and more introspection for fashionable people with thinness-related disorders.
Speaking of which, an interesting thinness-related disorder has been making waves over the Indian airwaves over the last few days. It’s called the WMD, or Wardrobe Malfunction Disorder. Here are the facts: Carol Gracias loses her top at the Lakme Fashion Week, but recovers and gets on with her life. But instead of saying gracias, Carol, and getting on with their own lives, the media and the politicians leaped into the fray with alacrity, displaying an interest in exposed flesh usually associated with other sorts of sharks. Publicity stunt, they clamoured, and suddenly there was blood in the water. Yes, sure. The politicians and ‘social’ organizations shouting themselves hoarse weren’t seeking publicity at all. And as for the media, the scale on which the incident was covered had nothing to do with the fact that the woman whose clothes well off just happened to be beautiful, successful and well known in her field. No doubt they would have displayed equal virtuousness if an elderly male politician’s dhoti had slipped at a rally, making his manifesto clear to one and all.

Actually, come to think about it, they probably would. Clothes falling off is good viewing, across cultures, across times. But let’s get this straight. Fashion events, specially major fashion events like Fashion Weeks, don’t need any more publicity. There’s no way they could get any more publicity. Editors give fashion every square millimeter they possibly can, because pretty people in or out of pretty clothes make for pretty papers, which sell. If there was any way papers could give fashion more coverage and get away with not looking like idiots, they would. Who is this publicity stunt in aid of, then? Carol Gracias, who for years now will be known as the girl whose top fell off? Doubtful. The event, or Indian fashion in general, because it underlined the fact that they can’t put a flawless show or a flawless dress together, which will no doubt endear them greatly to the international buyers for whose eyes this whole extravaganza is trotted out? Still doubtful. The only person who actually wanted more publicity from the whole thing was designer Benu Sehgal, who I read hung up the offending dress at her stall, which was the equivalent of saying ‘Look, ma! I’m a designer, but I can’t make a dress that stays on in public!’ And that’s just plain weird.

But even weirder is the much-abused term Wardrobe Malfunction. Journalists, beware! Are you aware that when you blithely include this phrase in your articles you are paying homage to the atrocious boy-band N-Sync, whose former lead singer made the phrase famous? Yes, it might be the Global Language Monitor’s most influential Hollywood-inspired phrase of 2004, but it’s the silliest euphemism in the world when it’s not used tongue-in-cheek, and so articles on how the Maharashtra CM has ordered an inquiry into the growing threat of the all-destroying social evil of Wardrobe Malfunctions look even sillier than they are. And, face it, these are stories that don’t need any help looking silly. Is this what our police need to spend time on? Should a special police taskforce be set up to investigate clothes falling off all over the nation? More importantly, what qualifications does one require to apply to be a part of this crack team? Because I’d like to apply.

Wait, actually, I wouldn’t. Because it’s potentially embarrassing. What on earth do you inquire about someone’s clothes falling off?

Detective: Did you drop your clothes on purpose? Carol Gracias: No. Detective. Damn. I see you are a tough nut to crack. All right, then. Who made you drop your clothes? Carol: No one. Detective: So why did you do it? Carol: I didn’t do it. Watch the bloody footage. My top unfastened accidentally. I picked my top up and walked on. Detective: Accidentally? Ha! I believe there are no accidents. Carol: That’s your problem. My top fell on its own, and no one alive was responsible for it. Detective: Are you suggesting that an evil, malignant supernatural entity, as seen in Bhoot and other such movies, unfastened your top? Carol: No. Detective: Then what caused your top to fall? Carol: It’s called gravity, you blithering idiot.

Perhaps its time we all realized that the situation lacks gravity in every other sense, picked up our own tops and walked on. Because if we don’t, we stand to be in danger of succumbing to another thinness-related disorder – the most thin-skinned among us are likely to also be the most fat-headed.


About Samit Basu

Novelist. Best known for fantasy and science fiction work. Most recently, The City Inside (Tordotcom)/Chosen Spirits (Simon and Schuster)


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Copyright (c) Samit Basu. Images copyright respective holders.
April 2006


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