Spoiler and Fatphobic Writing Warning: Don’t keep reading if you don’t want to read specific instances of fatphobia or the identity of one of the villians from Yangsze Choo’s The Night Tiger, which is generally reviewed here.
I didn’t see the subtle fatphobia present while I was reading The Night Tiger, which I generally loved, but further analysis showed that Choo described one of the villians many times as looking like a pig. She refers to Koh Beng, a fellow orderly of Shin, as having a jowly face, like a cheerful piglet, and sweaty palms. He has a “friendly, porcine” face, and a “friendly, porky way”. I’m disappointed that she used the fatness of a character as a subtle way of making him evil. It’s complicated, because although he’s also described as “friendly” and “cheerful” to put us off the scent of thinking he is a killer, she uses the fact that he’s fat to justify his evilness and greed. Ji Lin realizes, too late, that Koh Beng kept eating when a nurse was discovered as having fallen over a ledge and the entire cafeteria rushed to her aid.
A couple of other times Choo simply referred to a driver as a “fat man” or a hotel clerk as maneuvering her “bulk” around the counter, which I thought were fairly neutral descriptions. I don’t have a problem with neutral descriptors, and I think it’s important for authors to describe all kinds of people in their novels, since there are all sizes of people in the world.
Ji Lin, when describing the value of her virginity, stated that a girl who had maintained it could still find a husband, “even if he were old and fat and ugly.” This description is fatphobic, of course, as it assumes that the most undesirable man can find a wife, but a woman who is not a virgin cannot find a husband.
When discussing why a ring was too big, the purchaser explained that “the way you eat, I thought you’d be fatter by now.” This description was more complicated. The purchaser of the ring loved the woman he purchased the ring for, and by saying this, it implies that he wouldn’t have cared whether she was fatter than before or not. So I didn’t have a problem with this description.
Even though I loved The Night Tiger, I was very disappointed in Choo’s use of fatphobia. There were some neutral descriptions, and possibly a fat accepting description, but I would still have to rate it as overall fatphobic.