Why I won’t see any more Adam Sandler movies
As many as a full third of adult men suffer from gynaecomastia, or, to put it crudely, “man boobs”, with as many as sixty percent of men having suffered from it at some point in their lives. It most commonly starts during puberty and most of the time goes away after a few years. However, for the men that it doesn’t go away for, usually nothing short of surgical removal will correct the problem (in part because it usually goes unreported until it’s far to late).
I think that first it’s very important to note that this has nothing to do with being fat. Gynaecomastic breasts are not made of fat — they are glandular tissue and are not dramatically affected by weight loss. Many men will purposely gain weight to hide the fact that they are real breasts, since being thin makes them difficult to hide.
Boys with gynaecomastia are usually teased mercilessly by their peers, with the passive support of adults who don’t understand the condition. I’ll briefly recount the story of a friend who suffered with this all through highschool. Like most boys, he’d been teased about it and from that point on hid the condition, never taking his shirt off in public and never going swimming and only having sexual contact in total darkness. Even though he was fit and healthy, not knowing anything about the condition, he just assumed that he was obese and started to exercise aggressively.
As he lost weight, not only did his breasts become more obvious, but they were also exaggerated by his now prominent pectoral muscles. No matter what he did, the problem got worse, and one day his parents found him unconscious, a victim of a drug overdose, desperate to escape the pain of the never-ending teasing that he couldn’t stop. Thankfully he survived, but it wasn’t until expensive and dangerous surgery that he was able to look at himself in the mirror with any semblance of pride.
Men with gynaecomastia have usually been tormented so much that they are not even comfortable being naked around their life-partners — ask yourself, how comfortable would you be if you had spent your entire life from puberty being told not only that you’re ugly, but that you’re not even fully the gender you think you are? That you’re a poor excuse for a man?
Adam Sandler’s new animated movie Eight Crazy Nights (which he both co-produced and wrote) was heavily advertised with commercials that show the following dialogue from the movie between Davey (Adam Sandler’s “naughty” character, who has been assigned the community service task of helping coach youth basketball), Whitey (the “nice” character, an old man), and a chubby gym student with obvious gynaecomastia:
The disturbing message this sends to children is that not only is it funny to torture people because of the way they look (let me again emphasize that there is often nothing that a person can do to stop this disease short of surgery), but that it’s entirely acceptable. Yes, Adam Sandler’s “naughty” character does a lot of things people shouldn’t do — but tormenting kids suffering from gynaecomastia is confirmed by the “moral” characters as totally permissable, with those suffering from it being characterized as pathetic soft fat girlie-boys.
I mention this on BME for a few reasons. First of all, because this condition destroyed a part of my youth (and quite likely played a roll in drawing me to body modification, where I was able to dictate what my body would look like). Second, because BME is concerned with body image issues and has a mandate to encourage people to accept and enjoy their own and other people’s bodies. Third, because many men who suffer from this condition also develop body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) which often pushes them into body modifications they don’t really want in order to distract attention from their disease. Finally, because it’s cruel to torture children (and adults) and it’s simply morally wrong.
I call Adam Sandler out on this because this is the most public ridiculing of this disease (and condoning of that ridiculing) that I’ve ever seen. It is unacceptable to market a movie to children when it will have the end result of hurting children. I hope that Adam Sandler realizes how much pain he’s brought into the world from this movie. I hope that he knows that children seeing those ads on television are at the end of it not feeling like they want to see the movie, but simply feeling miserable. This is no better than a movie that teaches children that it is funny to dehumanize people for being black.
Our bodies are there for us to use and enjoy. As decent people we need to let others know that that torturing people over medical conditions that are out of their control is no more acceptable than torturing people for their race or gender. It’s who they are, and nothing to be ashamed of. When we defile that truth, we steal something special from people.
PS. A couple useful links: The gynaecomastia infomation page on keepkidshealthy.com (an excellent introduction for parents), and Gynecomastia.org (it has excellent support forums as well as lots of information).
Next week: “Is it a world record?”