TV says it. Magazines say it. American society commands it. You must be thin. You must be young. Fad diets. Fat-purging pills. Fitness clubs. Liposuction. Breast implants. Steroids.
In the tomorrow of Thinner Than Thou, the cult of the body has become the one true religion. The Dedicated Sisters are a religious order sworn to help anorexic, bulimic, and morbidly obese youth. Throughout the land, houses of worship have been replaced by the health clubs of the Crossed Triceps. And through hypnotically powerful evangelical infomercials, the Reverend Earl preaches the heaven of the Afterfat, where you will look like a Greek god and eat anything you want. Just sign over your life savings and come to Sylphania, the most luxurious weight-loss spa in the world, where the Reverend himself will personally supervise your attainment of physical perfection.
But the glory of youth and thinness that America worships conceals a hidden world where teens train for the competitive eating circuit, where fat porn and obese strippers feed people's dark desires, and where an underground railroad of rebellious religions remember when people worshipped God instead of the Afterfat.
As Annie, an anorexic, and her friend Kelly, who is so massive she can barely walk, find out, the tender promises of the Dedicated Sisters are fulfilled by forced feedings and enforced starvation in hidden prisons.
As middle-aged Jeremy discovers, Sylphania is a concentration camp where failure to lose weight and tone up leads to brutal punishment.
The Rev. Earl's public sympathy for the overweight conceals a private contempt . . . and, beneath that, a terrible longing known only to a select few.
The inevitable decay of old age is the only thing keeping mankind from reaching perfection. Luckily, Reverend Earl has a plan that will take care of that . . . .
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Reed (@expectations) rips into the dangerous pursuit of body perfection at the expense of the soul in this stinging and mordantly witty satire. In the too-near future (watch out, Dr. Phil!), the Reverend Earl, a godlike "guru of the good life," broadcasts from his Glass Cathedral, promoting the nirvana of the "Afterfat," which can only be achieved by following his bible's formula of relentless exercise, cosmetic interventions and use of his special dietary supplement. A cast of delicious characters, caught like insects in day-glo amber, features bewildered twin teens Betz and Danny Abercrombie. The brothers are searching for their anorexic sister Annie, who's been shipped off to a convent created by Earl for sinners with eating disorders and run by the very scary Dedicated Sisters. Their confused but well-meaning mom turns for help to an eccentric underground railroad of religious clerics of various denominations who would love to see Earl destroyed before he launches his next program, Solutions. In the rousing endgame, aging stockbroker Jeremy Devlin enters Earl's high-ticket desert spa to lose weight and discovers the dark heart at the core of Earl's empire. With this sharp-eyed look at America's obsession with image, Reed provides much food for thought and reaffirms her position as one of our brightest cultural commentators.