Euphoria’s Kat is Right; You Can’t Love Yourself Out of Fatphobia
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Like many others, I am enthralled with the themes and cultural nuances HBO’s “teenage” drama, “Euphoria,” explores. From addiction to gender and sexuality to class stratification. It seems like East Highland High (the fictional school in “Euphoria”) contains a full mini-society where adolescents are forced to grapple with the big questions about life pretty regularly. As a fat woman/femme, one character who instantly grabbed my attention was Kat Hernandez.
Played by plus-size model and actress Barbie Ferreira, Hernandez’s season one storyline is rife with “body positivity” and empowerment messaging. The teen discovers sexuality and desire, and it gives her a serious shot of confidence (which we find out in this past Sunday’s episode was a facade). In her now-iconic speech from episode 5 of season 1, “‘03 Bonny and Clyde”(which had its viral TikTok moment in the sun), she laments:
I spent my whole life afraid people were going to find out that I was fat. But honestly, who gives a shit. There’s nothing more powerful than a fat girl who doesn’t give a f*ck.
Bloggers rejoiced! fat influencers hurrahed! Editors and writers raced to their keyboards to proclaim Kat “not your typical fat friend!”
But, it seems at the outset of season 2, Baby Kat has learned something ALL people living in fat bodies eventually learn: you can’t outdress, over-sexualize, or confidently walk your way out of fatphobia.
In a fantastical scene halfway through the episode where Kat can't seem to figure out WHY she doesn’t love her cute and affectionate boyfriend Ethan, she comes to the realization that she hates herself.
And then comes the models. “Kat, you’re one of the bravest, most beautiful human beings I have ever seen,” says a tall, blonde scantily-clad model suddenly standing in Kat’s bathroom. “I wish I had your confidence,” she continues (using a phrase every fat and disabled person on the internet is 1000% tired of hearing — what the hell did I do that was so confident? wear a crop top?).
More models and other women appear, aggressively spurning Kat to just love herself and stop trying to conform to “white, cis-male, heteronormative” beauty standards.
But that’s the rub; those are the standards that run the society we have to function in. And no amount of self-confidence or spunky Dolls Kill outfits can change that. To me, even the omnipresent narrator got it wrong in this scene: it’s not about a self-help cult of people who have vilified the phrase “I hate myself.” Living in a fat body is absolutely exhausting, no wonder Kat can’t seem to get it right. You're reminded every day that you take up too much space, you demand too many resources, that your body is a problem. That YOU are a problem.
But a nearly 20-year digital body positivity campaign has put the onus on fat people to simply love ourselves.
Your favorite brand doesn’t make clothes in your size? Just love yourself.
Got a man who will f*ck you in private but refuses to be seen with you in public? Just love yourself.
Does your doctor refuse to take you seriously until you lose 50 pounds? Just love yourself.
Rather than deal with the far-reaching effects of a society that simply hates fat people, we are expected to summon Herculean-sized mental strength and practice self-love. Yes, we need to talk about toxic positivity, but when are we going to talk about how much so many of you (yes, reader, I mean even you) hate fat people? Even if you yourself are fat…?
I won’t be the only person who writes about this scene; I mean, it was a really great scene in an award-winning series. But I may be the only person who tells you it’s deeper than self-help, or online discourse around wellness and body image. Kat’s story is intrinsically tied to fatphobia (and diet culture but I am not sure even Euphoria writer’s room is ready to tackle that). The hatred we have towards fat people is simply deeper than any love can touch. And that’s the problem.
No, Kat, you cannot “love yourself” out of fatphobia.