Canadian comedian/actress Nicole Arbour is having a very interesting week. First, she posted the now-infamous YouTube video “Dear Fat People,” in which she attempted to use humor to convince fat people that they should lose weight — fellow vlogger Meghan Tonjes dubbed it “Fat Shaming.” A few days later, “Fat People” was taken down and Arbour claimed “censorship.”
Now, as “Fat People” crosses the vaunted 3 million views threshold, Arbour is being fired from a movie job because her director is outraged over the video he calls “cruel and lame.”
“[I’m making] a dance movie, so obviously we needed a choreographer. We met with a woman who not only did traditional dance choreography, but was a cheerleader as well. She was fun and nice and had a lot of energy,” explains director Pat Mills in a statement to Zap2it. “‘[Arbour told me she] had a YouTube channel and identified as a ‘YouTuber.’ She seemed like a perfect fit for the project. I shared the script with her. She said she dug it and was excited to come on board.”
“I was supposed to get together with her this week for what she called a ‘choreo party’ to watch my favorite dance scenes and talk ideas,” says Mills, the director of 2014’s “Guidance.” “And then a crazy thing happened on Saturday — I saw something on the Internet that made me never want to see her again.”
As it turns out, Arbour’s video runs contrary to many of the things Mills hopes to achieve with “Don’t Talk to Irene,” the film she was slated to work on when it begins filming next month.
“It’s a body-positive teen dance movie set in a retirement home,” Mills says of the plot. “It’s about a 16-year-old girl who dreams of being a cheerleader, but she is constantly bullied for being fat. She learns that she doesn’t have to change anything about herself to be awesome because she already is.”
According to the filmmaker, Arbour’s video really hit home. “I’m gay. I was bullied a lot as a kid,” he reasons. “I am no stranger to ridicule and loneliness.”
“[‘Dear Fat People’] is an unfunny and cruel fat-shaming video that guises itself about being about ‘health’,” Mills says of the clip. “It’s fat phobic and awful. It went on for over for six minutes. I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I was so upset I was shaking like Shelley DuVall in the ‘The Shining’.”
“Bullies like Nicole Arbour are the reason I am making this movie,” he says. “I’m tired of body shaming. It’s everywhere.”
This latest development raises an interesting question. A self-professed comedian/actress like Arbour clearly operates her YouTube channel for self-promotion, and posting a vid like “Dear Fat People” aims at courting controversy (she even begins the clip with a mocking “Argh! Some people are already mad at this video!”) that falls in line with the old adage “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” But what good is 3 million views if it gets you fired from the job you aspire to?
“It’s very odd that we live in a world now where people post their opinions on YouTube (to get views), but they cannot say these opinions to our faces,” says Mills. “My film celebrates being different. It celebrates not fitting in. I want to arm teen girls of all sizes with confidence. People like Nicole Arbour strip this confidence away.”
At the end of his statement, Mills directs the YouTuber directly: “Nicole: Did you even read my script? It is a body positive teen movie. It has a message that is in direct opposition to your cruel and lame YouTube rant,” he says. “We will not be working together. You are not hired for ‘Don’t Talk to Irene’.”
UPDATE: In response to this report, both Nicole Arbour and Pat Mills spoke with TIME. “We never officially fired her because we never hired her because she never signed the contract,” Mills says of a debate that now seems to hinge on the meaning of the words “fired” vs. “not hired.” On an indie film that isn’t yet in production, such phrases are especially slippery.
“I have never been formally attached to this project,” Arbour says. “We had spoken of it, and last I heard the team was doing a re-write. Pat Mills is using my YouTube story as a reason to get a low budget film that has not yet even started production press.”
Regardless of the gray area between those two statements, the fact seems to be that if Arbour had never made “Dear Fat People,” Mills would have continued forward with his plans for them to collaborate. The comedian, for her part, continues to refuse making any apologies for the video.