On the 4th of February Maddie Zahm released a song called ‘Fat Funny Friend’. A song about small acts of Fatphobia that fat people have to deal with daily and the inner monologue it creates about themselves. Affecting their lives even if they lose weight.
I had known about this song weeks, maybe even a month, before its release due to discovering it on TikTok and connecting with it in a way that I don’t feel I have ever connected with a song before. This feeling clearly wasn’t exclusive to me. The reception that Fat Funny Friend received on TikTok was a testament to how the song made a particular group of people feel truly seen for one of the first times in their lives. The initial snippet of the song Maddie posted on TikTok before its release now has 23.3k videos under it.
Maddie Zahm is a former American Idol contestant turned singer/songwriter. The 23-year-old has been very open on her social media about her experiences of fatphobia, how that made her feel about herself and how this still has an impact on her now even after she has lost weight. As she states in the song: “I’ve done every diet to make me look thinner, so why do I still feel so goddamn inferior?”
Maddie has made many TikToks using her song, one example being a video documenting her weight loss journey and how it made her feel no less bad about her body. Underneath this video, she commented “it’s really hard to articulate how much being fat in today’s society messes with someone. I want so badly for this to be talked about.”
The song contains lyrics that as a person that has often felt like the ‘Fat Funny Friend’ I resonate deeply with, and they seem to have had this same impact on many other people. These lyrics seemed to confirm for people that these experiences they had been having aren’t just isolated to themselves but are instead experiences others share with them. One TikTok user wrote: “I’m just happier knowing I’m not the only one who feels EXACTLY like this.”
One shared experience that seems to stand out to people from the song is “I’ve drawn out in Sharpie where I’d take the scissors, if that’s what it took for me to look in the mirror.” We all seemed to have shared this one wish that we’d be able to cut our stomachs away and that this would for some reason make our lives instantly better.
Another pertinent lyric in the song is “Do they keep me around, so their flaws just seem silly?”. This seemed to resonate with a lot of TikTok users who could all remember feeling this way during their friendships. Many draw on experiences of their thinner friends complaining about how they looked or felt fat. One writing: “with every ‘I look/feel fat’ my thin friends say to me, I am reminded that looking anything like me would be their worst nightmare.”
The Fat Funny Friend is a trope that can often be found in television and film. From Fat Amy in the Pitch Perfect franchise to Ned in Marvel Spider-Man films, it can be seen in all genres of media. Characters that have ‘big’ personalities but very little character development. Alongside this, their weight is often the butt of jokes throughout the film.
This sends a clear message about fat bodies and how they shouldn’t be taken seriously by people, and this message starts to be given at a young age. Ivy Park in Good Luck Charlie, Trish De la Rosa in Austin and Ally and Rowley Jefferson in Diary of a Wimpy kid- all examples of children’s media containing this trope. As Maddie Zahm states in her song “The girl gets the guy while I’m standing off screen, so I’ll wait for my cue to be comedic relief.”
Fatphobia is apparent in society in many ways. Doctors brush off problems as being caused by your weight and refuse to look any further into it until you’ve lost weight. Small comments by strangers on the street as you walk past. Finding yourself having no pictures with your friends because they always ask you to be the one behind the camera.
Awful portrayals of fat bodies in the media add to the stigma surrounding them, especially when using fat suites. These are just a few of the acts that undeniably affect the way that plus-sized people see and think about themselves and their bodies.
Maddie Zahm and her song has not only shed light on some of these issues but has also let plus-sized people know they aren’t alone. These experiences are ones we all share. She has created a song that provides a cathartic experience for many.
A song that fat people can sing at the top of their lungs when they’re frustrated with life and how they’re treated. A song that can be cried to when that’s the emotional release you need.
As well as this Maddie also continues to create a safe space in her TikTok comment sections for plus-sized people to express their frustrations and sadness about the fatphobia that they experience daily. Maybe if people like Maddie continue to create these conversations, there will eventually be a whole generation of fat people who won’t have to have the shared experience of wanting to harm their bodies just to be able to love them.
Words by: Carla Booth
Edited by: Yasmine Moro Virion