When I think about the America that led me to emigrate from Canada, I think of iconoclasts like Hunter Thompson, Lester Bangs, and Thomas Jefferson. Where Canada and Britain are so worried about what you think that they form committees for every complaint, America was all about “Love it or leave it.”
Sadly, 15 years in, I see fewer and fewer mavericks willing to be frank enough to tell Scarlett they don’t give a damn. So imagine my surprise when I found all these traits in a gigantic black woman with a weird African name.
As far as I’m concerned, Gabourey Sidibe personifies the America we are losing. For the uninitiated, Sidibe is the titular fat girl in Precious; she looks like someone took an inflatable piece of dark chocolate and stopped filling it with air right before it popped. Said film is based on the book Push, which was written by a bald bisexual woman who once wrote a disturbingly sympathetic poem about the kid behind the Central Park murder of 1989.
You’d assume Sidibe would be just another liberal lardass who doesn’t understand why women are expected to be attractive while all men have to do is provide for their families. She’s the opposite of that. She doesn’t say being black held her back, she doesn’t talk about the glass ceiling looming over her head, and she doesn’t blame her weight for how unpopular she was as a kid. She blames her personality.
In May, Sidibe did a talk at the Gloria Awards and Gala that was unlike any manatee mantra I’ve ever heard.
“I walked around the class trying to hand out cookies to my class, until I ended up back at my desk with the same amount of cookies that I started with,” she told a room full of feminists, including Gloria Steinem celebrating her 80th birthday. “I had forgotten that everyone hated my guts. Why didn’t they like me? I was fat, yes. I had darker skin and weird hair, yes. But the truth is, this isn’t a story about bullying, or color, or weight. They hated me because ... I was an asshole!”
Pardon me? Did someone just take responsibility for themselves? Did an obese black woman just admit that her lot in life is based on her own behavior? She sure did.
Sidibe further explained that she was always a realist, because she grew up in a stable family with educated parents who supported her—but they also made it very clear she was ginormous. She went to school in working-class Brooklyn, where ask is pronounced “axe” and even the teachers are illiterate. In this humorless monoculture she was seen as a freak for attempting sarcasm, but her attitude was “Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.”
She wasn’t a victim. She was what she calls “bossy,” a word the PC movement is trying to ban. When kids asked her if she was adopted by white people, she would eloquently explain that her command of the English language was better than theirs because she read these things called books. You’re not paranoid if people really are out to get you, and you’re not arrogant if you really are superior. Perhaps it’s because her father was from Senegal, but Sidibe always saw America as a meritocracy: if you’re good at your job, you get paid.
At the cookie party in question, Sidibe got up on her desk, jumped off, and danced around the people who hated her. She didn’t care what the fun police thought because she knew their world was boring. In that sense, she was a human hatefact.
We are living in a culture where educated people and even police officers would rather get dominated by extremist Islam than make anyone uncomfortable. While the oppressed scream from their cribs and blame their problems on us, we run around frantically looking for a pacifier. America used to be a lot more Sidibe and a lot less Precious. We used to show people the door when they complained. Now we send kids home if they wear an American flag shirt to school. We’re offended by our own existence.
Gabourey Sidibe, however, is un-offendable. When Jimmy Kimmel made his movie parody Movie: The Movie, he was hard-pressed to find someone willing to wear the Hitler costume. (Swastikas aren’t very popular in Hollywood, especially if you’re not Mel Brooks.) Without hesitation, Sidibe took the role as Black Hitler and couldn’t wait to get her costume on. I know people who work there and they told me she refused to return it after the shoot and insisted on wearing it home. What I wouldn’t do for video footage of her waving hello to her neighbor in a gigantic Nazi brown shirt and Hitler mustache. It’s been decades since the cookie party and she’s still a proud asshole.
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