I recently watched the latest Aronofsky film, The Whale. He managed to dismantle a new tabou by bringing up a murky subject that I’ve personally infrequently seen in movies. It is about Charlie, a severely obese English teacher hiding in his apartment awaiting death. With one final attempt at atonement, he is desperate to get in touch with his teenage daughter. Throughout the course of the two hours that made up this movie, I went through a range of emotions. I found myself clinging desperately to the faint hope that things would turn out better for the protagonist throughout the story’s extremely realistic plot. I felt a strong desire for his recovery as if he were a loved one. And every time my expectations were dashed, I felt an intense sense of disappointment
The amazing aspect of this film is that it made me discover new aspects of myself. As a young girl who considers herself to be a relatively open-minded person in 2023, I maintain a somewhat ambiguous relationship with obesity or, at the very least, a judgemental stance that was indirectly interiorized within me through nowadays’s prejudicial societies. Yet, gradually, throughout the film, this discriminatory filter began to slip, and instead of condemning Charlie, for what he was putting himself through, I began to embrace his decisions and consequently accept them. Obesity is a mental condition, not a sign of sloth or gluttony.
Brendan Fraser brilliantly connected with his audience, making us feel an ironic combination of revulsion and empathy toward him. This “victim” persona, who incessantly apologizes for his existence and yet does nothing about it, appeared to be the ideal scapegoat for the unhappy people around him. It was plainly apparent throughout the entire film, after all, what would he do?
Aronofsky reveals a basic but unpleasant truth about human nature: we constantly make snap judgments, and the overweight persona, directly dismissed as lazy or weak, is always the one to blame. Through the supporting characters, Aronofsky skillfully illustrated the variety of human behaviors to obesity. And even though some of them were really callous and merciless toward the protagonist, he was able to subtly depict this brutal yet common conduct. Indeed, digging deeper revealed that all of the individuals who were harsh on the protagonist mirrored how much they similarly blamed themselves.
My closing comment about The Whale is that it has the power to alter perceptions and ultimately save lives.
Written by Mayar Abdelsaid