Title: Fat Farm: Memories of 6 East, Episode 1
Creator: Max Airborne
Physical Description: Quarter-page sized zine with 16 pages of comic drawings
Source: Max Airborne
Links: [PDF] [Buy Paper Copies]
Fat Farm: Memories of 6 East (Episode 1)
By Max Airborne, 2003
This is the first in a series of mini comics about my experiences as a fat, white, queer young person living in a psychiatric institution.
Content note: this comic portrays violence against fat children and psychiatric abuse.
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This is a multi-page comic that was hand drawn in black ink on white paper, on wide rectangular pages. Image descriptions are below. In some descriptions I use the pronouns ki and kin, gender-neutral pronouns offered by Potawatomi ecologist Robin Wall Kimmerer.
Front Cover. [A goat with soulful dark eyes, horns and a long beard chews on some grass, and looks directly at you. The words “Fat Farm” overlay the goat, filling the frame with fat, rounded letters that a hippie might have carved out of wood. The small words “by Max Airborne” climb up the left side of the word “Farm.”]
Page 1: [A canister of film opens at the top, the film supporting the words “Memories of six east, episode 1 by Max Airborne.”] Ever since I saw “The Magdalene Sisters” I’ve been flooded with memories of having been locked up in a mental hospital for a year and a half, when I was a teenager (ages 13–15). [A movie theater with a sparse audience looks at a movie screen with an evil looking Catholic nun looming over a naked teenage girl.] This one I’m about to tell you now starts with me here, sitting at my desk writing writing writing the same sentence over and over again. See, I fucked up the other day. But that’s not what this story is about… [A fat hand holds a pen to paper, writing in cursive, “Ma’am knows best and I will do as she says.”]
Page 2. Frame 1: “Your hands look thinner. I can see the weight coming off.” Frame 2: [A 14-year old Max emerges from darkness, palms forward with fingers up. Gold bars of 5 and 10 oz fall from Max’s hands.] Frame 3: [Max’s head, facing forward with droopy eyelids. Behind kin is a notebook filled with writing, a pen, and a clock that shows 3:11. Lyrics float through the air: “people are strange…”] Frame 4: What?! I’d spent the weekend transcribing song lyrics I wanted to learn, into the wee hours until my hands ached,
Page 3. Frame 1: so stiff I couldn’t drop the pen. I’d been at my mom’s on a weekend pass, revelling in luxuries like record players, my well-loved record collection, my waterbed with rainbow sheets. Frame 2: [A messy bedroom with a waterbed, a record player on top of milk crates filled with records, a teddy bear, some socks, a rotary phone, a guitar, a bong, and a Pink Floyd poster on the wall.] Frame 3: “What!?!?” I asked, incredulous. “Your hands. They’re looking nice. They’re getting thin.” [A bottle of Palmolive dish soap next to a bowl filled with water. A thin, feminine model’s hand bends at the wrist, dipping into the bowl.] Frame 4: The doctor’s comment took me by surprise. I hated him. Yet… in his twisted way he was expressing pride in me, and I wanted it, which pissed me off.
Page 4. Frame 1: The word “Oh.” surrounded by darkness. Frame 2: [A round tower with oval windows stands among other, squarer hospital buildings. The street can be seen under a pedestrian bridge between buildings. In one of the oval windows a lone fat face looks out.] Frame 3: [A medical scale labeled “DETECTO METER” has a small round speaker, which blares out “YOU GAINED 5 POUNDS!”] Frame 4: “But the scale tells a different story. You gained weight over the weekend. WHAT’S YOUR EXPLANATION, YOUNG LADY?”
Page 5. Frame 1: My shrink. [A man with rat-like facial features: whiskers, a long pointy nose, bulging eyes and huge, hairy ears, wearing a suit and tie, drinks from a bottle of Ex Lax.] Frame 2: He was so uptight you had to wonder if he ever took a dump. He was always hyper, authoritarian, and on the brink of being pissed off. There was no love in this little man. Frame 3: “I don’t know.” Frame 4: The shrink baring his pointy fangs, wagging his finger and his tie flipping up, yells: “LISTEN YOUNG LADY! ‘I don’t know’ is not a sufficient answer! I know you’re lying! WHY DID YOU GAIN FIVE POUNDS OVER THE WEEKEND?!”]
Page 6. Frame 1: I could feel the punishment coming. [A terrified Max in front of a strange contraption. Clouds overhead, from which emerge a hand wielding an axe over Max’s head, and a bolt of lightning that strikes the contraption. Frame 2: You see, I was on a diet. A BIG DIET. I was allowed 500 calories a day. Every privilege I had was contingent on the numbers revealed by the scale. The funny thing was, those numbers didn’t always reflect what I had eaten. Frame 3: This weekend, however, I had been drinking. And HE KNEW, he knew something. Bored with the game, knowing I’d lost, I confessed. Frame 4: [Max with a speech bubble that says “I had a few drinks” and shows two cans of beer, and a thought bubble that shows two bottles of booze and a joint.]
Page 7. Frame 1: [A wide-open mouth with sharp fangs and whiskers screams: “You’re really pushing it, young lady! If you ever want to get out of here, you’ll learn some self-discipline! No passes for you for a month!] Frame 2: They: Frame 3: Had determined that I was unhappy because I was fat. [A naked fat Max from chest to knees, tears falling, hands clutching belly fat. A measuring tape.] Frame 4: Wanted me to be happy. [A twig-skinny Barbie doll in a box, a male-female heterosexual symbol, a bra, and a fluffy sheep.]
Page 8. Frame 1: [Pointy faces labeled “Father,” “Mother,” “Stepmother,” and a rat labeled “Psychiatrist.”] Frame 2: Kept me locked up and starving because they thought it would save me, because they could. Because I was 13. [Max sits in a corner on the floor, one ankle shackled to a wall, arms hugging ki’s knees. Ki daydreams about food: fried eggs, toast, pie.] Frame 3: “FINE!” I left and slammed the door behind me. Frame 4: [A door slams shut. The placard on the door, which reads “B. Rat Shit, MD,” rattles.]
Page 9. Frame 1: Outside the shrink’s office, Bernadette was standing in the doorway of the nurse’s station. Frame 2: [Fisheye view of the nurse’s station, Rx cabinet with a padlock, shelves of binders and books, and a white woman with big hair and cat-eye glasses in the doorway.] Frame 3: [Bernadette saying “Hey kiddo, do you wanna talk?”] Frame 4: She was the nerdy “mental health worker” who really wanted me to like her. Hmmm.
Page 10. Frame 1: [Max’s face looking depressed.] Frame 2: “Buy me a Tab?” I asked her, with a pathetic look on my face. Frame 3: I knew she would. It was how she got me out of bed in the morning, her bribe, a cold can of Tab from the machine. Frame 4: [Max lying in bed saying “Mrph. Go away.” A hand reaching in the doorway with a can of Tab, bubbles rising up from the top.]
Page 11. Frame 1: [Max with exploding rage face, fangs and angry eyes.] Frame 2: Now, it was no secret that the bribe was mine. She’d seen me slam the door, and she’d seen me in a door-slamming mood before. Frame 3: The Tab was my implied agreement not to go there. Frame 4: [Max with a halo, smiling innocently and holding a piece of paper with cursive writing that says, “I promise to be good, Signed…”]
Page 12. Frame 1: [A hand with long nails inserts a coin into a slot labeled “Insert $25.”] Frame 2: “CLINK” She slipped a quarter into the machine. Frame 3: With a metallic THUD, out dropped the thing that, in this place, felt like my only luxury. [A can of Sugar-Free Tab.] Frame 4: [Max sits on the floor in the corner between the vending machine and the locked Rx cabinet, barefoot and nursing a can of Tab.]
Back cover. [Circle-framed head shot of adult Max with shaved head, cowboy hat, pointy glasses, big double chin, and bib overalls. Beneath Max is typed “2003.”]