Your Fat Friend is a film by Jeanie Finlay which follows the journey of writer and activist Aubrey Gordon from anonymous blogger to published author and award winning podcast host.
The film reportedly took six years to bring together, and explores the anxiety of going from anonymous to known. Gordon is open about the abuse she has received online. One of the emotional centres of the film (amongst many) comes when she is doxxed – her full name, address, and social security number are posted online. Terrifying for anyone, but even more so when you’ve been receiving death threats for years.
Gordon, as the subject of the documentary, is charming, funny, and refreshing. Her writing took off when she published an eloquent, moving essay titled A request from your fat friend: what I need when we talk about bodies. She gave a much needed voice to a critically underrepresented population. She is generous with the camera and her rich laughter is contagious.
Despite receiving acclaim online, the film reveals that the hardest people to reach are some of the closest. Gordon’s father, Rusty, can’t even say “fat”. Her mum, dad, and step-mum all admit to not having read much of her writing.
In an interview with UK Film Review, Finlay said that at the crux of the film is a question:
“What does it mean to have a massive ambition of changing the world and having that deep audience connection that means that you actually do, versus can you have the messy conversations with the people that live in your house? Cause often the cry is coming from inside the house.”
This dichotomy truly lies at the heart of the film. Family friends quip at thanksgiving, “tonight, turn your scales back 15 pounds.” Rusty emphasises that the cake he got for Aubrey’s birthday is sugar free.
Finlay uses the relationship built up with Gordon and her family to probe and capture the difficult, nuanced process of understanding an experience wholly different to your own. Finlay also explores the effects that being on camera has on people. It’s extremely intelligent film making. Finlay understands her role behind the camera with a depth many documentarians could learn from.
The film makes excellent use of the beauty of Portland, Oregan, where Aubrey Gordon has lived for most of her life. Beautiful shots of the city and its surrounds and overlaid with Gordon’s words and voice. She narrates parts of her writing, in a strong but imploring way. The score is emotive and moving.
Your Fat Friend is part of a vital ongoing conversation about fatness and the way we treat other people’s bodies. Gordon speaks extremely effectively on this subject and the film offers a much needed reminder that she too is still figuring things out; “I get all these emails from all these people asking how do I do it? And I don’t know cause I am still in it”.