Saturday, November 24, 2007

OH NOES VAL KILMER IS FAT: The fear of aging, and sexualization of, well, everybody.

I recently saw some nasty articles and blog posts about Val Kilmer. Kilmer has always been a favorite of mine, not just for his looks, but for his easy smile and cool demeanor. The first thing I notice in a person is their smile; when I met my now husband, I saw a dazzling, friendly smile--it wasn't until the next day that I realized that he was also a babe.

So, back to Val. He's gained some weight, and apparently goes out IN PUBLIC. Sometimes, he goes out in public WITHOUT A SHIRT ON, with his fat showing! GASP! Since he (so far) cannot be arrested for this, he is instead being lambasted in blogs, news outlets, and celebrity gossip pages. Apparently, people expect celebrities to never age or change in any way, such as gaining weight, developing wrinkles, or losing hair.

You know what, though? Celebrities do not owe it to us to continue to be objects of sexual fantasy. They are mortal and human, and, after they have made their fortunes, there is no reason they cannot enjoy that fortune comfortably, without forcing themselves to starve and engage in grueling exercise to preserve their looks. There is no reason for a nearly 50-year-old man to attempt to look like he did when he was 30, and it is selfish and disgusting for people to be angry with him for aging normally.

Is this born of a fear of aging and death? Is it that people think that, if the rich and famous cannot stave it off, then we certainly cannot? We are unable to face and accept our own decline and demise, holding out hope that medical science will one day prevent them--and we look to those who would have the first access to this technology to pave the way. Fame and fortune, however, do not confer immortality; they do not even significantly prolong life compared to the average person in an industrialized country, but the fearful hold out hope that there's a secret somewhere to living forever. A celebrity who shows chinks in their armor of perfect youthfulness, the way Kilmer has by not subjugating himself to the thin and flawless ideal, is scaring his fans into realizing that they, too, are mortal. How dare he.

Interestingly enough, a corpse is presumably less sexy than a fat person, but do we hear complaints that James Dean has "let himself go" by dying? Perhaps this is because Dean has no ruined the sexual fantasies, his image forever preserved in the youthful state by his early demise. So, while a huge part of this is a fear of death, it is also a fear of aging and decline. Many societies place a high value on their elders, with the qualities of age marking a person as wise and experienced. Ours writes off these things in favor of "youthful energy" and sexual desirability. I don't know whether its the extreme sexual repression that causes us to turn everyone else into a sexual object, but I think it's a huge contributor.

That's a huge issue for fat activism in general, of course: Facing our own mortality and aging, and shutting down the notion that everyone around you has to be sexually desirable. The only person I need to sexually desire is my chosen partner. It is none of my business if Val Kilmer, your mother, or that random guy walking down the street is sexually desirable to me. The fact that so many people in the US believe otherwise needs to change. So you saw a fat person. Big deal, get over it. Not everyone in your view has to be your ideal--not even Val Kilmer!


thejunkyswife said...

I saw one picture of him that was supposed to scandalize me. I liked it, though. I like the way he looks REAL, and approachable, and cool.

Thorny said...

Interestingly enough, a corpse is presumably less sexy than a fat person, but do we hear complaints that James Dean has "let himself go" by dying?

This is because James Dean, unlike ZOMG! Val Kilmer!, has the good sense not to be seen in public anymore. I'm sure if he did, the tabloids would treat us to many scandalizing before-and-after photos demonstrating how much Zombie James Dean has let himself go. ;)

Seriously, I think it's all about fuckability in this bass-ackwards repressive culture. If you can't have sex, or be sexualized, then as far as the culture is concerned, you might as well be dead.