Saturday, May 26, 2007

Fear of b-roll planet

In the news biz whenever we are talking about something -- but not someone -- in particular we use what is known as b-roll. You all know what I'm talking about. High school kids with their faces obscured, a close-up of a cigarette that only shows the mouth and hand, the blurred women reaching for a pack of condoms in a drug store. And, of course, there is the mother of all b-roll clips -- the headless fat person.

I don't think there has been a news cycle in the past five years where some shot of headless fat people hasn't
been used to illustrate a health problem or a diet fad or the concern over the fact that all of America has a fat ass. Oh, using shots of fat people walking away is okay too... just as long as you can't see their faces. That way no release has to be signed and forever more those larger faceless folks can appear on the news all over the world.

Do we really think people don't recognize their own legs?

About five months ago the station got a call from one of these "b-roll people." He wasn't fat -- but a smoker -- now a former smoker. He wanted us to stop using the b-roll because even though we didn't show all of his face we showed just enough so that his family could identify him and wonder if he was smoking again. He described his lips and we all instantly knew what clip he was talking about. Of course people would recognize him -- he had a very bad mustache. I don't know if the video ever got deleted from the archive, but it got me thinking. What about the fat people? Every time we show their headless bodies or faceless backs are we just inflicting junior high school like torment? Or, does anyone ever recognize themselves and think "I felt really good that day" or "My favorite jeans make me look fat?" Because I know how I feel when I catch the wrong angle in the mirror -- and would be horrified if that mirror were being broadcast across the country.

Now, before you start thinking I am worried about this on a purely altruistic level -- know that there is a deeper force at work -- vanity. Every time I use one of these generic fat people clips I fear I am just daring karma to have a camera pointed at me the next time I'm at the mall so when the footage airs I can gaze in horror at my now famous fat ass. Oh, the humanity.

So, here is what I propose. Fat people show your faces. If you see a camera pointed in your direction -- even a block away make sure your face is visible. Or better yet start waving your arms or dancing. It makes the footage unusable. Get the word out -- let's make fat b-roll a museum piece. And remember, you aren't doing it for you, you aren't doing it for fat people everywhere, you are doing it for me, my size 12 pants and my love of all things fried...


Amanda said...

Those are my legs!