Chris Christie, Republican candidate for New Jersey governor, has been at the center of a controversy which has propelled him from the favorite to win to merely sitting on the knife’s edge of public opinion. What was the propellant?
His opponent’s focus on his fat (see Rachel’s excellent post on the subject).
But there are some who are claiming Christie may have turned the tide recently by doing nothing except coming out and defining that focus which has been weighting him down in the polls, as it were:
I found Chris Christie’s new tack very smart. He called out his opponent for the ads in a subtle, humorous way: by basically coming forward and owning his fat. “I’m fat, Don.”
Imus went on to, in mainstream media fashion, probe Christie for the numbers that would best determine whether or not he fell into some socially-shunned BMI category (which is why not allowing yourself to be labeled by such numbers is so important). Christie gave his height, but when Imus asked:
“How much do you weigh?”
Christie responded: “550 pounds.” (followed by laughter)
The point Christie was making wasn’t that 550 pounds was comically huge, but that he might as well weigh any number that is “large enough” to put him into some socially-shunned BMI category, since that was the way he was being treated, simply based on his appearance. The actual number isn’t the point. The point is that he falls into what is currently considered to be “too large,” and being too large to be taken seriously was what he was trying to own. He subtly expressed the ridiculousness of the importance of that number to his political campaign, while at the same time acknowledging that his opponent wants it to be important.
The Christie vs. Corzine race should be watched closely by those interested in fat politics. Whatever your affiliation (or lack thereof), this race could set the precedent for future races involving fat candidates of any party. If Christie is able to turn the ownership of his fat to his advantage, future campaigns against fat opponents might be less willing to utilize fatphobia in their platforms. If he isn’t, it is still an important case study, and could be a depressing sign that the moral panic against the obesity folkdevil has not yet reached its climax.