Ricky Gervais, the creator of The Office, got himself in a bit of media trouble because of a few lines from a recent audiobook, “The Ricky Gervais Guide to MEDICINE”, which is the first of a series of “guides” he tends to release. The offending lines as recorded by The Telegraph were:
“I really don’t know why a doctor under a hippocratic oath takes the risk of something going badly wrong, sometimes with general anaesthetic, because someone can’t be bothered to go for a f—ing run.
“They have bits sliced off and tied up and sucked out. I want to say to them, ‘You lazy f—ing fat pig. Just go for a run and stop eating burgers. You might f—ing die’.
“Some things are not worth the risk. When someone’s facial surgery goes wrong because they wanted plumper lips or a little nose, I think they’re a f—ing idiot.
“If your arse is too f—ing fat, stop eating and go for a run.”
I can see why people would take offense, but I firmly side with Ricky here.
Obesity is a major collective action problem, especially in richer nations like the United States, where the general population has easy access to food. And while certainly not the only problem in our health care system, it is a predictive factor for numerous diseases such as atherosclerosis, and heart disease is a major cause of illness death and health care cost (my own grandfather had quintuple bypass surgery two years ago).
Taking another Gervais quote from the Telegraph article:
“I don’t think there’s enough stigma. With all the political correctness now, and the fact that food is so refined, there’s no stigma any more.”
Stigma is one of the societal tools that we’ve had for a long time that is actually pretty effective when put into practice. However, the problem is that many of those who have the greatest stake in and thus are often the most present in guiding the narrative in this regard are those who sell food. And a secondary group, and the one I suspect is mostly responsible for this story are those who are already obese.
So, my take on what is ultimately a puff piece that’s been circling the media outlets recently is that Gervais should be commended, not shamed for making such strong statements in this regard. Sometimes the wisest people in the room are comedians