Celebrity Fat Shaming: 1965 and 2021

Fat shaming is an ugly part of our current culture. People who are deemed overweight – even if that is not the true and accurate case – can be targeted for their weight. Of course, many celebrities have been fat shamed in this era of social media, internet, and 24/7 cable news shows. These attacks can be vicious; some times they are unfounded and the celebrity is not overweight at all.

Recently, in the February 27, 2021 edition of the New York Daily News there was an article about Oscar-nominated actor Jonah Hill titled “Jonah Hill Says He’s Done Feeling Fat-Shamed in a Body Positive Post”. The article dealt with how the actor has had to deal with fat shaming during his career. Hill stated that it was until in his mid-30’s that he took off his shirt at the pool in front of family and friends. The actor stated, “It probably would have happened sooner if my childhood insecurities weren’t exacerbated by years of public mockery about my body by press and interviewers.” Wow! That is a harsh statement. The abuse that Jonah Hill has faced in the media because of his body shape is just one example of countless celebrities viciously mocked.

It is likely that the first example of a modern day celebrity being fat shame and having it affect the celebrity was John Lennon in the early days of Beatlemania. In 1965, a music critic referred to Lennon as “the fat Beatle”, setting Lennon on a life journey of starvation and near-aneroxia. In that period in 1965 Lennon did gain weight as he was disillusioned with the fast fame and fortune brought on by Beatlemania. Looking back on the making of the Help! album, Lennon later said, “I was fat and depressed, and I was crying out for help,” though he also masked his misery with the song’s chirpy tempo. Adds McCartney, “He didn’t say, ‘I’m now fat and I’m feeling miserable.’ He said, ‘When I was younger, so much younger than today.’ In other words, he blustered his way through. We all felt the same way. But looking back on it, John was always looking for help.

By 1966, it was obvious that the reporter’s comment had resonated as John had noticeably slimmed down, and would continue to do so. Ironically, the band stopped the use of marijuana, which drives one to eat more, as more sophisticated drugs were available to the band.

(Editor’s note: this blog post will be greatly expanded soon)