Jeanie Finlay’s Your Fat Friend Devours Anti-Fat Bias

When it comes to the multi-billion dollar diet and wellness industry, the emperor has no clothes. Foisted on a tenuous bed of lies that feeds on the insecurity of those living in modern day society, a hierarchy exists deeming some bodies more worthy of respect than others. Such is the driving force of Jeanie Finlay’s biographical documentary of Aubrey Gordon in Your Fat Friend.

In February 2016, an anonymous letter emerged entitled “A Request From Your Fat Friend: What I Need When We Talk About Bodies” seemingly written by none other than @yrfatfriend. For years an eloquent author wrote blog posts and then Twitter quips addressing the systemic discrimination of people in larger bodies as well as her own personal experiences under this pseudonym. Seven years later, this blogger turned book author turned successful podcaster has been revealed as Aubrey Gordon. The 2024 film Your Fat Friend chronicles her life from anonymity to well-known body liberation and anti-fat bias crusader.

Director Jeanie Finlay takes the endeavor of revealing to the audience examples of fat joy and a health at every size approach.

This year’s Athena Film Festival, hosted by Barnard College, plans to screen Your Fat Friend this Sunday, March 3rd at 3pm. The director and producer of the film, Jeanie Finlay, most known for her feature documentaries Seahorse and ORION: The Man Who Would Be King, deftly holds Aubrey’s story in her hands without exploiting or tokenizing her experience. As a woman who also identifies as fat, Jeanie takes on the endeavor of revealing to the audience examples of fat joy and a health at every size approach.

The film has garnered numerous awards including  2023 Official Selection at the Tribeca Festival, Audience Award Winner at the 2023 Sheffield Doc Fest, and the Audience Choice Leon Award for Best Documentary at the St. Louis International Film Festival. Deserving of every acclaim, Your Fat Friend beautifully welcomes the audience into the exponential rise of Aubrey’s fame as she juggles book writing, podcast hosting, and navigating the world in a body that others feel the need to spew their opinions on.

A particularly poignant part of the film occurs as Aubrey sits at her kitchen table recounting an incident in a grocery store. She describes herself making her way down the aisles, when a woman feels it is her civic duty to thrust her hand into Aubrey’s cart and remove a melon to be returned to the shelves because it has “too much sugar.” She looks into the camera and exclaims, “It’s a melon!” How much audacity must a person have to feel like they can postulate about the nutritional value of a fruit to a complete stranger? There seems to exist a vigilante existence bordering on citizen arrest that entitles thin people to view fatness as a moral failing.

Click image to enlarge.

The film also makes a point of honing in on Aubrey’s separated parents and their relationship to her body as a child and in adulthood. At a young age, she went on diets with her mother in an attempt to shrink her body. The restriction inherent in any diet claiming to promote weight loss inevitably leads to her body compensating through binging in order to protect from future starvation modes. Aubrey’s mother confesses that she felt that her daughter’s body was her responsibility and that somehow the constant dieting came from a “place of love.” Aubrey’s father comes across as loving in the film, but he struggles to understand the work towards combating anti-fat bias that she engages in. 

In Aubrey’s second book, “You Just Need to Lose Weight” and 19 Other Myths About Fat People, she chronicles instances of bright and happy children being stripped from their loving homes and into the foster care system all because of their body size. We live in a world that still finds it acceptable to outwardly express prejudices and discriminate against people living in larger bodies.

As an avid listener of Maintenance Phase, the podcast that she co-hosts with Michael Hobbes about debunking the myths of the wellness industry, I felt inclined to check out this film. Once the Tribeca Film Festival released pre-sale tickets last year, I snagged them because I knew this would be a momentous occasion. 

The mental health sphere needs to do better and challenges their own unfounded beliefs between health and body size. 

Without giving too much of the story away, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of medical and mental health professionals to see this film. Anti-fat bias runs rampant in the medical world with people being denied medical care and procedures based on their body size alone. She admits to struggling with an eating disorder for years but being too afraid to seek the care that she needs due to failing to find a practitioner who will treat her holistically. The mental health sphere needs to do better and challenges their own unfounded beliefs between health and body size. 

As the credits rolled, the sold out audience leapt to their feet for a standing ovation. Miraculously enough, Aubrey and Jeanie attended that screening and opened up the floor for a Q&A. Jeanie revealed in that segment that Aubrey initially expressed apprehension about exposing herself in a documentary. Jeanie operated from a place of rolling consent where Aubrey could pull out of the project at any time. This level of care in the film industry is one that I have yet to witness and will hopefully be a blueprint for documentary filmmaking in the future. 

If you can’t make it this weekend to AFF, screenings are popping up in Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, and Missoula, MT. If you hail from the UK or Ireland, opportunities arise later this month and throughout March. The hope would be that the film can reach wider audiences by joining a streaming service, but future plans have yet to be announced.

For those unfamiliar with Aubrey Gordon’s work, the film offers an entry point into years of her life. As a relatively new fan, I felt emboldened to check my own biases of the lives fed to women living and existing in the one thing all humans have in common. A body.

© Taylor Beckman (2/29/24) – Special for FF2 Media ®

LEARN MORE/DO MORE

Click here to view the full trailer for Your Fat Friend.

Read Gordon’s original article A Request From Your Fat Friend: What I Need When We Talk About Bodies

Buy Tickets to the Athena Film Festival screening on March 3rd @ 3pm

Order Aubrey Gordon’s first book What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat

Read Gordon’s newest book “You Just Need to Lose Weight” and 19 Other Myths About Fat People 

CREDITS & PERMISSIONS

Featured and bottom photo: Aubrey Gordon in Your Fat Friend. Courtesy of DKC / Jeanie Finlay.

Middle photo: (L-R) Friend Callie, documentary subject Aubrey Gordon, and writer Taylor Beckman. Courtesy of Taylor Beckman.

Tags: Anti-Fat Bias, Athena Film Festival, Aubrey Gordon, Diet Culture, Eating Disorders, Jeanie Finlay, Maintenance Phase, Size Discrimination, SWAN, Taylor Beckman, Tribeca Film Festival, Your Fat Friend, Yr Fat Friend

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Taylor Beckman (she/her/hers) is a sister, daughter, friend, avid baker, and adorer of Regency-era British television shows. After graduating from Muhlenberg College with degrees in both Psychology and Theatre (acting and directing concentrations), she flew to Europe where she performed as a theatre artist, teaching English in Belgium and France. Once she returned to the States, Taylor pursued a career in acting until the pandemic happened and she changed the trajectory of her life. Taylor is now a student at NYU getting her Masters in Drama Therapy where she hopes to combine her love for theater with the inherent therapeutic qualities that stories possess. When she isn't writing theatrical reviews or profile pieces for FF2, Taylor can be found drinking mint tea and reading a Charlotte Brontë novel. Thank you to Jan and the FF2 Media team for the opportunity to critically engage with people and the art form of performance.
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