Adam Richman first made a name for himself stuffing his face full of crap at various greasy-spoon eateries on the Travel Channel’s Man v. Food. The show had one of those uniquely American, instantly divisive concepts that at one point resulted in Richman getting into a feud with the Food Network’s Alton Brown, who considered the whole thing “disgusting” and “an embarrassment.” But Richman didn’t need the criticism of another reality TV star to remind him that undertaking competitive eating challenges season after season was probably ill-advised; he had his constantly expanding waistline to remind him of that. Which is why Adam Richman has now made a name for himself by losing about 70 pounds — because there’s apparently nothing our country is more fascinated by than people who lose weight.
Adam Richman’s weight loss has in some ways made him infinitely more insufferable than he was when he was jamming 100 chicken wings into his maw in ten minutes. He already posed nude with a nothing but a soccer ball concealing his own balls and he’s a constant presence on social media, reminding people that every week another couple of pounds fall off. He has reason to be proud, certainly; what he’s done is a herculean task that many people struggle with and if his goal is to inspire those who want to lose weight while staying healthy, then maybe more power to him. But it practically goes without saying that in the age of social justice call-out culture and the Outrage Industrial Complex, there are always going to be those watching carefully to make sure his glorification of his new physique doesn’t somehow cross the line into the dreaded realm of fat-shaming.
Enter the oh-so-cleverly titled blog “Adipose Activist,” run by a 27-year-old “anti-size discrimination” blogger named Amber.
Amber took issue with a recent Instagram post by Richman — one she claims was “brought to her attention,” presumably by someone equally vigilant in the never-ending war against sizeism — in which he showed off how much he needs to have a suit from a year ago taken in. Next to the image, he added the hashtag “#thinspiration.”
Hamfisted, sure, but otherwise pretty benign stuff, right? Except that it wasn’t, because little did Adam Richman know but the term “thinspiration” is apparently a trigger word. Or it’s offensive. Or something like that. Let’s let Language Police sergeant Amber explain:
Thinspiration? Oh really? Now for those of you not hip to the lingo, thinspiration is very popular in pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia circles, generally consisting of pictures of emaciated bodies, mantras like ‘what’s more important, that slice of pizza or a thigh gap?’ and suggestions, tips, and motivation to either starve or purge.
See? You and I — and apparently Adam Richman — see a thoroughly harmless pun. Amber sees a glaring linguistic land mine that Richman accidentally stepped on because he and most people are unaware of the shibboleths of the particular tiny subculture that Amber lives and breathes 24/7. She’s personally offended by the term because it’s somehow been adopted by an internet community most people aren’t even aware exists and therefore everyone needs to be brought up to speed in all the ways that term is now culturally not-okay. And that’s exactly what a friend of Amber’s apparently tried to do: educate Richman on the dark side of #thinspiration.
His response was less than gracious:
For the uninitiated, “DILLIGAF” is Twitter-speak for “do I look like I give a fuck?” It was at this point, with Richman choosing not to listen intently to the criticism of an anonymous unhappy internet person, that Amber apparently used her blog to urge everyone to “Tell (Richman) that eating disorders are not a joke and nothing to take lightly.” Because nothing gets the message across like a pissed-off internet pile-on.
It’s almost impossible to tell how many people began hounding Richman, but at some point he really unleashed hell on his accusers. The result was, admittedly, pretty ugly.
Now is it a good idea for even a C-list celebrity to call a woman a cunt and suggest she kill herself? No, it’s absolutely not. And it’s only because Adam Richman is inexplicably a somebody that this even happened or is worth mentioning now. Jezebel has already called the situation — wait for it — “problematic,” and Amber is now milking this for all it’s worth, lamenting how disappointed she is in Richman for “not learn(ing) anything” from what she almost certainly sees as a potential teachable moment for us all. In blogging about Richman’s angry response to his critics, she urges her readers to write to the Travel Channel and let the network know how they feel about one of its hosts behaving the way Richman did. Because, of course.
Despite his promise not to apologize, Adam Richman is of course doing just that — and as expected, his apology sounds somewhat half-assed. What happens from here on out with his career remains to be seen but it’s unlikely the Adipose Activist and the small mob of Twitter and Instagram scolds she conjured will get the full heft of the public’s sympathy on this one. What Richman did was wrong pretty much across the board, but in much the same way that the average person has no fucking clue that “thinspiration” is some kind of trigger word, they’re not likely to worry much about conforming to the strictures of the social justice warrior coterie that considers it such and concerns itself over it endlessly. After a while, trying to sidestep these dialectic Claymores becomes exhausting because it’s impossible to keep up with which activist subgroup considers which phrases to be explosive. There are now those who spend every minute of their days looking for things to be angry over and call out — and the rest of us are expected to present their secret handshake on demand or risk their wrath. It becomes an exercise in hoop-jumping futility in almost no time.
It should have been obvious from the beginning that not only did Adam Richman have no ill intent in his use of a harmless and somewhat ridiculous hashtag but that nobody in his or her right mind would have taken it that way. Richman wasn’t sending anorexics secret messages and if his comment had somehow roped him into that crowd everyone would have known instantly that he ended up there by mistake. In other words, other than satisfying your own personal need to be a pissy online zealot, there was never any need to “educate him” in the first place.
But God forbid we mind our fucking business and go on about our day without turning a nothing Instagram post into a cause for a crusade.
I can only imagine what’s going to happen once everyone finds out about “buxom wench.”