James Gandolfini: An “Unlikely” Sex Symbol? Yup; Men Get Fat-Shamed, Too

by Hallie Marks

The death of the actor James Gandolfini has raised an unexpected debate on weight. Sizeism, fat-shaming, and body acceptance are hot topics today, and can be found anywhere from feminist publications to health magazines to major news networks. As much as we love that these issues are being addressed, there is one major aspect that is largely being ignored: the focus on female body acceptance and ignorance of male weight stigma.

Certainly there are many reasons for this: female bodies are more intensely scrutinized, women suffer from eating disorders more frequently, more women are over-sexualized and objectified than men, and the list goes on. However, men’s bodies are also held to high physical standards are shamed for not meeting those expectations. We shouldn’t reduce the conversation about women but we should engage conversations about men and their bodies.

What does this have to do with Gandolfini, you ask? In many of his obituaries, it was pointed out that he was an “improbable” and “unlikely” sex symbol. Okay, cool, let’s give backhanded compliments to recently deceased people. Plus if he’s so widely recognized as a sex symbol that it’s included in his obituary, why is it necessary to mention that it was surprising?

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The ever-respectful Twitter community didn’t hesitate to point out why he died: his weight, of course.

Yes, how dare he be fat and expect to live!


It’s time we stop this fat hate in our society. You would think that by now, people would know that fat ≠unhealthy, lazy, and immoral. Weight is a personal, private issue, not a public one. Yes, Gandolfini was a public figure, but that does not mean his weight is a matter of public debate. In our culture, weight is a moral problem posing as a health epidemic. There are certainly overweight people that are unhealthy and there are definitely underweight people who are unhealthy. Gandolfini died from a heart attack, but I’m not a doctor, much less his doctor, so I have no knowledge of what brought that on, and I’m pretty sure the majority of people in the world don’t know either.

As sex and erotica author Rachel Kramer Bussel points out, women do indeed get all hot and bothered over fat men. Bussel makes an insightful observation about how fat-shaming men only makes it even more difficult for women overcome the fat-hate and body shame. For example, former Playgirl editor Ronnie Koenig argued that although attractive women are often paired with fat men on television and movies, most ladies “want to be visually attracted to their partner.” Bussel’s critique of this statement is dead-on: “It’s this casual dismissal of a whole slew of men based on how they look a hewing to the conventional standards so many are fighting against when it comes to female bodies, that’s problematic.”

Although men face fat-shaming, there has been a shift lately to change that. The website Chubstr is a positive community for big men and this recent article on XOJane praises the sexiness of fat men.The Adipositivity gallery is working to promote size acceptance, and Nick Offerman, Seth Rogen, and Louis C.K. are common fuller-figured celeb crushes by people around the world. 

Sexiest Man Alive? 

Hopefully by talking about weight stigmas against all people, we can start to strip away the fat-shame from all bodies. Doing so would make way for more fat sex symbols. 

What do you think about the comments on Gandolfini’s weight? Have you or anyone you know (men especially) experienced fat-shaming first hand? 

Thanks to medium.com

Images from: newyorker.com,chubstr.com, parksandrecreationnbc.blogspot.

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