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Nobody Loves a Fat Man

Fatty Arbuckle and Conspicuous Consumption in Nineteen Twenties America

Alan J. Bilton


Pages 51 - 66



The article examines the career of silent film comedian Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle in the light of early twentieth-century concerns with weight, appetite and conspicuous consumption in American culture. It examines the appeal of Arbuckle’s films in terms of their ‘willed regression’ and indulgence in infantile play, and then examines the backlash against Arbuckle (including, most obviously, the infamous court case of 1921) as an exploration of wider cultural anxieties regarding feminization, infantilization and the masculine body. The essay thus explores the dieting craze of the early 1920’s, youth-culture’s disdain for the corpulent, and fears regarding unchecked consumption and over-abundance as contributing factors in Arbuckle’s spectacular fall from grace, arguing that Roscoe’s real misfortune was to embody a comic persona who made the key components of consumerism (regression, materialism, uninhibited carvings) simply too conspicuous for a popular audience to accept.

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