One Good Thing to Come Out of the “Bridgegate” Scandal

Chris Christie, New JerseyFor those just catching up on the week in headline news: Republican politician Chris Christie, currently governor of New Jersey but intermittently mentioned in hushed tones among optimistic rank-‘n’-file as a possible party savior in the 2016 Presidential race, has been accused of directing his subordinates to pull transportation strings and create a four-day traffic snarl where the George Washington Bridge connects Manhattan to the New Jersey town of Fort Lee, allegedly because its mayor hadn’t fallen in lockstep with his party colleagues and publicly endorsed Christie’s future endeavors.

Or something like that. I’ve missed some finer details. Political stories don’t stick with me for long. (When I first began noticing heated debates in my circles about Benghazi, my only reaction was, “Is that Ian MacKaye’s new band?”) Bridgegate was unusual enough and filled with enough bipartisan hot-button issues — political extortion, abuse of power, petty vengeance — that I finally relented and read an article or two about it. At this point it’s now all about denials, apologies, firings, and now I’m seeing the word “subpoena” creeping onto the battlefield. I imagine this brouhaha is only in its infancy and in no danger of falling off the main page anytime soon.

I am grateful for one noticeable change that’s a direct result of Bridgegate: over the past two days, whenever internet users were overwhelmed with the urge to take potshots at Christie, the jokes were no longer about his weight.

I may be one of the least politically savvy people I know, but when a trend that pervasive infects my environment, it’s tough to let it fade into the background static unnoticed. In recent months everywhere I turned, there it was — from talk-show hosts to comedians to Twitter users, anytime Christie made a move or uttered a sentence that worked its way into the daily news roundup, the most common response was a variation on “It’s funny ’cause he’s FAT!” complete with Likes, Favorites, and canned laughter from undiscerning audiences.

Yeah, he’s a politician. Yeah, he’s a Republican. Yeah, his beliefs and philosophies (whatever they are, I wouldn’t know) probably differ from those held by the loudest pundits and commentators. Yeah, he’s the man currently in charge of New Jersey, America’s favorite scapegoat.** One could nitpick any number of aspects of his life, were one so inclined.

But that’s not what I’ve been hearing. All I ever hear are fat jokes.

No, I’m not sharing examples. I don’t memorize them and I certainly don’t write them down.

Full disclosure: I’m not thin. Maybe that’s why it’s more noticeable and more aggravating to me. If his party affiliation affects you personally, by all means, feel free to divulge your disagreement. If he’s failing at his job on some kind of mind-boggling Rob Ford level, the world ought to know. If every Bridgegate accusation is true, that’s a substantial, terrifying crime deserving of scorn.

I’m unclear on what any of that has to do with his weight.

Are all Democrats and Libertarians rail-thin? Was there a scientific study that proved beyond reasonable doubt that corrupt politicians are notorious pasta addicts? How many people have been clutching onto their old, battered copies of the Truly Tasteless Jokes series just in case they needed verbal ammunition against some upsetting overweight guy? Why do so many professional late-night hosts and amateur court jesters agree that in Christie’s case fat jokes are totally okay?

Evil or not, New Jersey or not, politician or not: insulting one of us about our weight is insulting all of us.

You don’t get the privilege of cherry-picking five beloved 300-pound celebrities and declaring that your weightist repartee applies only to Chris Christie and not to them. “But we love John Goodman!” “But George R. R. Martin is awesome!” “But Melissa McCarthy killed in Bridesmaids!”

Not how it works. Either fat is funny or it isn’t. For me, it’s utterly not, no matter who the target is.

So thanks, Bridgegate, for diverting the snark stream in a different, more substantial direction at the moment. Too bad it’s only temporary and by February we’ll be back to “YO GOVERNOR IS SO FAT!” contests once more.

(** More full disclosure: I’ve been to New Jersey. The section of Newark that we saw because of a wrong turn was every Jersey joke come to life, crossed with the movie Colors. On the other hand, we met up with friends in Whippany, which appeared nicer, cleaner, and more upscale than 90% of my home state. A case could be made for a speech against those hoary New Jersey generalizations as well.)

[photo credit: ChairWomanMay via photopin cc]

5 responses

  1. I think it’s interesting (but not a good thing) that physical appearance has come into play for men now after decades of having to hear about hairstyles and dresses and arms. I find jokes about fat to be tiresome, cheap and easy. It’s become the new -ism is this country and I find people who joke or poke fun at weight to be unintelligent and unremarkable.


    • I endured them as a kid, but I’d hoped that the passing of a few decades would’ve been long enough for them to fade from everyone’s repertoire, and that maybe at least one form of body-shaming could be retired for good, not to mention all the other forms. Once again America proves I’m sometimes too optimistic for my own good.

      I wouldn’t’ve been so surprised if all the jokes were from twentysomething “edgy” stand-up comedian wannabes, but some of the yuks were coming from guys who’ve been in the biz for decades.


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