When I’m reading a book or watching a movie I often wonder if the details of a character’s description or the peccadilloes he quietly busies himself with are necessary to who the character is. I feel like, on occasion, the particulars of a person can come off as a writer’s arbitrary decision, a superfluous exercise in making a them more interesting regardless of if it makes them more complete.
It’s with that question in mind that I came up with the following list, 9 characters from books and movies that had to be fat.
9. Sheldon Anapol, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – The ignominious boss that turns the title characters’ creativity into a an endless pile of money and source of unhappiness doesn’t swell alongside his coffers as you might expect him to, but he struggles, physically and emotionally, against his own tendency towards excess right from the beginning. All those syllables aside, if he wasn’t always sweating from one thing or another, he wouldn’t have been Sheldon Anapol.
8. Uncle Buck, Uncle Buck – As a foil to the tightly wound center of a quiet suburban family choking on its own precepts, Uncle Buck needed to be larger than life in every way shape and form to break down a few walls and shake things loose. From his giant, mind-blowing pancakes, to his bulbous, chainsaw toting silhouette, he’s a necessarily swollen symbol of the idea that sometimes it’s much better to do before you think.
7. Jabba the Hutt, Star Wars – He or she (we really don’t know that it’s not an amorphous lesbian blob) had to be big to fit its name and role as the oozing arbiter of a hedonistic desert oasis. Plus the underlying chance that it would eat anyone that crossed it made it all the more terrifying and awesome.
6. Falstaff, Various Plays by Shakespeare – It wasn’t that Falstaff needed to be physically large to be the overindulgent, goofy, mistake-making, drunkard he was, but the fact that he was one of the first great ‘laugh with, laugh at’ characters informed the archetype for generations to come.
5. Tommy Callahan, Tommy Boy – Not only would the world not have the ‘fat guy in a little coat’ scene and therefore be that much poorer, but a whole slew of other scenes wouldn’t have ever existed. Just for fun, flip-flop the David Spade/Chris Farley roles for a second and imagine the movie. Case in point.
4. Eric Cartman, South Park – Cartman is, along with many other things, a social commentary on the ‘give them everything’ style of parenting that’s been producing a sub-generation of uber-brats across the country. He wouldn’t be an accurate commentary if that didn’t include letting him scarf down Cheesy Poofs and High-Fructose everything in between insulting his wonderfully obtuse and hilariously slutty Mom.
3. Oscar Wao, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Oscar’s weight does more than round out his typecast as a fantasy novel obsessed turbo-nerd, it serves at time as a barometer for his emotional condition, and it sets up the idea that much of life happens to us, making it that much better when Oscar happens to his life.
2. Chunk, Goonies – Chunk maybe could have just been a clumsy kid, an irresponsible clutz who gets left behind and befriends the gentle, abused giant chained in the house. But without the truffle shuffle or the fat camp story or the ice cream or the Baby Ruth or…wait, he couldn’t have been anything else but exactly what he was.
1. Ignatius J. Reilly, A Confederacy of Dunces – There is no main character in any form of fiction for whom appetites, both for food and self-satisfaction, are more important. And there is no character in a book or movie who ceases to exist in a more complete manner than Ignatius J. Reilly when you take away all those pounds. Hot dogs to you, Iggy, you wouldn’t have been the same without them.