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Let's start with the obvious: when it's not painfully exploitative, fat humor in movies, on TV, or in two-minute intervals on YouTube can be funny. And the ubiquity of "fat jokes" in slick Hollywood creations (think: the work of Kevin James, Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, even Gwyneth Paltrow etc.) indicates just how mainstream it is to laugh at the plight of the obese. But what, exactly, draws audiences to this sort of humor?

Jessica Helfand, a senior critic at the Yale School of Art, recently posed that question in an essay for Design Observor. Why, "despite such alarming real-world statistics," does morbid obesity remain the stuff of comedy across the entertainment spectrum? She marshals a popular iPhone app, which allows users to envision what they would like like with a double-chin, in order to make her point:

This includes FatBooth, an iPhone app that lets you retrofit a portrait into a quick (but highly realistic) double-chin. It's silly and easy and provides a quick fix of what is essentially Schadenfreude: Thank God I don't really look like that, you tell yourself. [emphasis added] It's harmless, too: if you shake the phone, you lose those unwanted pounds in a flash. Think it’s ever really that easy? Fat chance.

[H/T: The Smart Set]

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