Winners and Losers

September 8, 2015
What you gonna do with the blessings you were given?

I’m getting really tired of a-holes of privilege & advantage flaunting their blessings and good fortune in everyone’s faces. You know the kind of people I’m talking about… those beautiful, fit, well-off young people who ridicule, mock, or shame those who’s lives and bodies aren’t as breathtakingly gorgeous as their own. They think of themselves as winners. To them, we poor saps who weren’t born with perfect proportions, good genes, talent, or impeccable social pedigree are just hapless targets for their jokes, satire, or pity. Or as they like to think of us… losers.

This categorization of winners & losers is everywhere, these days. Every beer commercial that portrays a group of healthy, beautiful people laughing and celebrating something or other (probably celebrating being young & beautiful) is really saying “Your sad and lonely life can be wonderful like this if you buy our beer.” Travel ads that show a handsome, fit, clearly wealthy older couple living in the lap of luxury at some exotic tropical resort are tempting you to spend your money on an expensive trip that you probably can’t afford on the off chance that you’ll somehow end up looking and living like them. Good luck with that. And car ads that advertise that for “only $65,000” you can’t afford not to own one of their luxury sedans, are offering you false prestige for a price. Here’s a suggestion. Next time you’re on the road, look at the drivers in any of those luxury cars you see cruising past. I guarantee that few of them will look anything like the well-coiffed, well-dressed, good-looking models in those car ads. They’ll be regular shlubs like you and me, except that they’ll have spent a small fortune on their cars.

I blame the media and advertisers for this warped distortion of our social values. They’re the ones who elevate those individuals blessed with an overabundance of health, wealth, and beauty to the status of superstars. Because it sells the dream. The dream of being a winner. That’s all advertisements are… our dreams & wishes temptingly trotted out in front of us in tantalizing, high-gloss colour. That’s what is pushing the move to higher and higher definition TV. If you display it, they will buy. The media caters to our wishes through sports, entertainment, and public life. Superficial appearance, glitz, and glamour win out over substance almost every time. So much so that, whenever true talent or ability does come along, if it doesn’t come in a pretty package (or can’t be doctored to look like it) then it’s either rejected outright, or it has a short shelf life. How many plain or homely singers or entertainers can you think of that are at the top of the trade?

The trouble is, many shallow young people buy into this consumer myth that beauty, wealth, and health are better… convinced that because they possess them they are superior to the rest of us. They think their bountiful assets give them the right to pass judgement on us, to ridicule us, taunt us and shame us, thus bolstering their elevated sense of themselves. It’s a form of self-celebration with them as the winners and the rest of us as the losers.

Celebrating, it would seem then, is only for winners. If you’re young & beautiful, then celebrate your youth & beauty with a wild poolside party (and for gawd sake, whatever you do, don’t invite any ugly people). If you’re fit & athletic, celebrate your strength & physical prowess by jet skiing at a famous friend’s million dollar cottage (but don’t invite anyone with a handicap or disability to join in). If you’re wealthy & privileged, celebrate your advantage at an expensive island resort (and make sure it’s so ritzy that the riffraff can’t afford to come). Privilege, wealth, and good looks, it would seem, are perceived as the keys to an exclusive lifestyle. And so much the better if all the poor, unattractive wannabees are outside the gates looking in, envying, longing, and living vicariously through you on shows like Entertainment Tonight or eTalk Daily.

Perhaps if those with perfect skin and teeth would be humble about their blessings, and modest in their lifestyles, it might not be so bad. The rest of us might even appreciate them for their good fortune. But when they publicly flaunt their luck or, even worse, mock those of us who suffer from that sad scourge called reality, then they deserve to lose our respect.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about all those lucky people out there. I know lots of attractive and accomplished people who are decent and humble, and truly grateful for their blessings. No, I’m talking about those of visible advantage who brazenly lord their assets over the less outwardly gifted. Jerks who’s over-inflated opinions of themselves make them think their advantages in life give them the right to pass harsh, hurtful, and condescending judgement over others of lesser advantage.

People like Canadian entertainer Nicole Arbour, a young & beautiful (what did you expect?) rapper/comedienne who has chosen to openly mock and shame those of ample weight. Her recent “Dear Fat People” web video was meant to be a comedy routine, but instead cruelly mocks and shames obese people. The nearly 6-minute video claims that “fat shaming is not a thing” (oh, really?) and compares overweight people to slow-moving zombies. “What you gonna do about it? What are you gonna do?” she taunts in the video. “You gonna chase me? Really? I can get away from you by walking at a reasonable pace.” Mocking the recent body image movement, she adds that “If you want to be positive to your body, work out and eat well.” That’s easy for her to say.

Arbour has received a huge backlash about her attack, yet remains unapologetic, even arguing that her video is actually being kind to less attractive people, offering them some “friendly” advice on how they can improve themselves. Just exercise and eat properly, she says, and you too can be attractive like me. This kind of naive and medically uninformed ignorance reminds me of those old Jane Fonda workout videos that boldly claimed “If you just follow my exercise regime for 30 minutes a day you too can look like me.” Really? And I’ll bet that if I just wash my face, brush my teeth, and comb my hair more often I can look like George Clooney. Years ago this kind of ignorance was just funny, if not a bit sad. Today it’s downright rude, insulting, and cruel. It just shows that good looks and fame don’t always come with brains, compassion, or grace.

Arbour’s reason for not backing down is obvious. She has accomplished exactly what she set out to accomplish. She’s used a hot-button issue to propel herself into the limelight. On the backs and low self-esteem of the helpless and faceless, she has gained a notoriety that money just can’t buy. All for cheap laughs at someone’s expense. It apparently doesn’t matter to her that there may be physiological, psychological, and sociological reasons why some people are heavy and have difficulty losing weight. Subjecting them to public ridicule doesn’t help. But as far as Arbour is concerned, she’s young, beautiful, and popular, so she has every right to spout her venom without reprisal or repercussion. She has lowered herself to the level of hate-monger in order to bolster her career. Quite honestly, I’m ashamed that she’s a Canadian. I thought we were better people than that.

Unfortunately the media perpetuates the myth that beauty, health, and wealth are the only true measures of personal worth. If you’re not beautiful, healthy, and wealthy then you’re a nobody… you’re a loser. And sadly, the world of normal people with less than perfect skin, with bodies that aren’t perfectly proportioned, with aches & pains, and with bank accounts that bleed money, buy into this crap, wishing and dreaming that they too could live the lives of the rich, famous, and gorgeous. They desperately cling to encouraging stories of those rare few who jump the social fence… the Susan Boyles of the world who, through talent and opportunity, have somehow defied the glass wall and gotten discovered despite their appearance. But stories like hers are a novelty, a rarity… like winning the lottery. The fact is, most of us will remain the way we are for the rest of our lives. That said, don’t you always dream that you too might be able to break that glass wall every time you buy a lottery ticket? Yeah, me too.

The sad truth is, we are enablers of these so-called winners in our world. We stroke their already overly-inflated egos with our adoring, drooling attention. We strengthen their power over us with our envious looks and applause. To them, our behaviour is nothing short of proof that they are the winners and we are the losers (albeit, a paying public of losers). The more we idolize them the more justified they feel in flaunting their success and privilege in our faces.

There’s no real solution to this problem. It’s just human nature for people like Nicole Arbour to be sore winners. Like Taylor Swift sings, “haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate”. Egotistical, vain, and tactless people aren’t going to suddenly become humble about their beauty & advantage, and respectful of those who weren’t born with their good genes or opportunities. Ain’t never gonna happen. But as long as we put people like her up on pedestals as examples of what we aspire to, as long as we attend their performances and pay attention to their antics, then we are simply going to continue to enable and empower their greedy, selfish, and self-centred attitudes, and to encourage their socially unacceptable behaviour.

I just hope that someday the Nicole Arbours of the world will look in the mirror and realize that they’ve been given a great gift. One they can use to gloat, mock, and hurt others with, or one they can use to make the world a better place by leading through example. It’s their choice.

I’m just sayin’.