A Weighty Debate: Discussing Fat Princess

Perhaps it would have been naive to assume that Sony's Fat Princess could have surfaced without stirring controversy, but as the media's picked up on a few dissenters in the blogosphere, we now have a little issue on our hands. We've covered a bit of the reaction against the game, a strategy title that's a little bit capture-the-flag — except in this case, the "flag" is a very fat girl, made difficult to move because her captors are tasked with feeding her cake. Reactions have ranged from the constructively mild — Feminist Gamers wonders why fat chicks are considered "cute" and suggests a heavy treasure chest instead — to the bilious. Shakesville writer Melissa McEwan writes, sarcastically, "I'm positively thrilled to see such unyielding dedication to creating a new generation of fat-hating, heteronormative assholes," and completed her protest with a photo dubbing herself "The Fat Princess of Shakesville Manor" — and flipping the bird, presumably to Sony. The angle that the majority of the media seems to want to go with is "Feminists cry foul over Fat Princess," though whether someone is fat or thin is truly a feminist issue is debatable, one supposes. So shall we debate?It's unfortunate that society has such a narrow range of figures that people are allowed to have in order to be considered attractive, and the general conception is that a fat man is somewhat more empathetic a creature than a fat woman, as unfair as that is. But what's wrong with a fat princess? On one hand, obesity is a serious health problem, and it's understandable that those who confront it might not wish their issue to be relegated to a video game mechanic, a source of laughs. Fat Princess ostensibly intends to be cute and funny, and perhaps it's offensive to think of fat girls as "cute and funny." Instead of what, though? Princess Peach isn't fat, but she's cute and funny too, isn't she? Complicating the issue is the fact that the concept of overweight woman as comic relief has been part of our culture for quite some time; we have quite a few femme comediennes who embrace their fat as a form of beauty and independence from social pressure. They prove that being fat needn't be some great, offensive social secret. So what's the alternative for the princess? Should she not be fat, because thin girls are cute and funny while fat ones are not? Would it have been better to make her a typical, idealized female? Or must we be so sensitive that we are no longer allowed to rescue the princess, as we have done in our fairy tales for centuries, at all? Is the problem with Fat Princess the fact that making her fat is something of a form of torture by her enemies? Because getting fat is a beautiful thing, or because getting fat is a terrible thing? There are, to be fair, reasons for fat girls, thin girls and feminists to be a little affronted by the game, but it's really not clear what the specific reason is, precisely, or what the solution might be. James Green, lead art director on Fat Princess, told Yahoo! that the game's concept artist is female. I'm female, and when I first saw screens for Fat Princess, my only reaction was, "It looks cute." I hate when we as an audience dismiss debates on issues in video games by saying "it's just a game." But I don't think that the things we see in games are necessarily reflections on ourselves or about us; the fat princess is not a spokesperson for all women, or even all fat women, and I'm most curious about the critics who chose to see her as a statement on themselves or their role as women in the real world. Ultimately, though, wouldn't removing the fat girl, or the issue of obesity, from the game because they bring too many issues into play be precisely the wrong message to send to women?


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