Teaching on the Screen

Still from film "The Tale of Timmy Two Chins"

A still from The Tale of Timmy Two Chins used in accompanying educational materials depicts an emotional scene from the film.

Amy Farrell, professor of American studies and women's & gender studies, recently attended the gala premiere in New York for The Tale of Timmy Two Chins, a new Showtime Showcase short film she helped bring to the screen. The film, which examines body image, gender stereotypes, bullying and fat-shaming, tells the story of a high-school boy trying to get a girl to notice him while his weight makes him the source of unrelenting teasing from his classmates. In the end, through trials and tribulations, Timmy realizes being a man is not about muscles but about accepting himself regardless of his weight.

"It's the most common form of bullying," says Farrell, who also holds the John J. Curley '60 and Ann Conser Curley '63 Faculty Chair in the Liberal Arts and served as an educational consultant on the film. Showing a young male protagonist in a role about body image and fat-shaming and the film's educative approach to the subject matter, she notes, are quite innovative. "This is the next generation: a film with a curricular component for high-school teachers that is developed by students for students based on a social issue they are facing in their school—that's new."

As an educational consultant and expert on the culture of fat-stigmatizing in the U.S., Farrell was involved early in the process. Beginning with script review, she worked to eliminate representations of fat-shaming, continuing for several months as the team developed educational materials and lesson plans to accompany the film. She served along with a panel of experts that included physicians, physiologists, researchers, scientists and teachers. Some of them, including Farrell, were interviewed for the film materials.

Written by Luis Hernandez, The Tale of Timmy Two Chins is loosely based on his teen years growing up in Brooklyn, where he weighed 300 pounds as a high-school freshman. The 18-year-old is headed to the University of Southern California next fall to study film. Hernandez's film was created by the nonprofit program Scenarios USA, which brings together high-school students and Hollywood filmmakers to make a social impact. The film will be part of a larger educational curriculum that helps about 7,000 students from 220 schools in New York City, Cleveland and Chicago find their voices through storytelling.

The Tale of Timmy Two Chins premiered April 24 on Showtime Showcase at 8 p.m. EDT.

Published April 24, 2013