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Categorized | Fat in the Media

Seeking Token Fat Characters!

Seeking Token Fat Characters!

I am working on a Sooper Sekrit (ok, obviously not so secret) blog post for All The Weigh, and I need to tap into the wonderful hive mind of the Internets. Namely, I need some good, broad examples of portrayals of fat characters on TV and in the movies.

We all know who the Token Fat Girl is – the sassy sidekick, the mopey BFF; hell, she could even be the bad guy foil. I’m primarily looking for female characters, but, hey — good male ones are ok too (especially villain characters who are fat, and that aspect is made fun of/ a focus). I am NOT looking for books — the overweight girl has gotten some decent coverage in that arena, particularly in the chick-lit genre, and it isn’t as illustrative to my concept :)

So who are your favorites? The ones you noticed at the movie theater or on your TV set that made you go “ugh, not again,” because she was sassy/mopey/annoying/invisible and/or de-sexualized/always alone at the end? (because the only time the fat girl gets the guy is in Hairspray) Another classic I’m looking for: the fat girl who loses the weight miraculously and gets the Hot Girl Makeover and the her life is So Much Better.

Let’s not forget book adaptation fail: an overweight character from a book is cast in a movie or TV show by an actor/actress who doesn’t fit the body type at all (usually, thus, negating half of the character’s charm/point).

Some things I already have:

  • Bridget Jones (casting Renee Zellweger as Bridget)
  • In Her Shoes (I love Toni Collete, but we all know the Patron Saint of Fat Girls Jennifer Weiner wrote a bigger girl!)
  • Glee (Mercedes, Lauren, Quinn)

Sadly, that’s all I got right now. Brain fart or TOTAL LACK OF DECENT EXAMPLES IN POP CULTURE?

So, please, let it out — let’s talk about Token Fat Characters.

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37 Responses to “Seeking Token Fat Characters!”

  1. Kenlie says:

    I’m on it…..#searchingformythinkingcap

  2. Emily says:

    Are you looking for fat characters who are the butt of people’s jokes? Fat characters in general or characters who were considered fat on their shows?

    Do you want recurring characters? One-offs? Lifetime movie characters?

    I’m actually curious about this list because TV’s just now putting fat people on really. For the most part the de-sexualized best friend is a boobless brunette or curly-haired with glasses (my life).

    THOUGH. I don’t know if it helps but Fat Monica was a running gag on Friends throughout the series!

    • Sandi says:

      Emily,

      You are so right! I’m tired of the few fat people being shown as comic relief in the worst way, and I find the degrading attitude toward “Fat” Monica very offensive.

      It’s time for some intelligent, confident characters who just happen to be significantly overweight–but not defined by the point at which the needle stops on the scale1

  3. curvynerd says:

    @Emily It’s such a mixed bag! I agree that only in recent years are we seeing TRUE visibility, on both ends of the spectrum (ie: some good portrayals mixed with some not-so-good portrayals).

    Good call on the Monica on Friends! That’s a great example of the “lost all the weight and got happy” trope. I also thought of Fat Bastard from Austin Powers.

    Characters who were considered fat would be good, if you can think of any off-hand (especially if they weren’t actually fat). And, yes, fat characters who were the butt of jokes!

    And, re: de-sexualized best friend. LOL US NERDS. You’re right — she’s usually flat up and down and nerdy. GOOD CALL.

  4. Raven says:

    The tv shows:
    Gilmore Girls: the friend of the family and spunky chef Sookie St. James played by Melissa McCarthy.

    Roseanne & Dan Conner plus a slew of their friends were bigger

    Mimi from the drew carry show

    Movies:
    silent bob (kevin smith)
    chunk from the goonies
    I know there are ohers i’m totally forgetting

  5. stacye13 says:

    I like Phat Girlz with Monique.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0490196/

    I think there are a heck of a lot more African American chunky chicks that are seen as attractive than in your typical “white” folks movie. I liked this one b/c the two characters who meet their man are both plus sized. It’s comedy b/c it’s Monique but it’s trying to be more.

    There’s also Waiting to Exhale. One of the main characters in that movie was plus sized.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114885/

    I think that a plus sized woman is typically only seen as a whacky or funny love interest though. They do no play the plus sized woman in any way similar to the way the other 3 women are played in Waiting to Exhale anymore than in anything else.

    On the Comic side of things regarding guys you have Just Friends, for women it’s Shallow Hal, and Date Movie. The beginning scene in Date Movie where she’s dancing to Milkshake makes me cringe but laugh at the same time.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0433400/
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0256380/
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0466342/

  6. When Less Than Perfect premiered on ABC almost 10 years ago, Sara Rue got a lot of attention for being a lead character despite not being a size 0, and her character was single (although eventually getting a boyfriend on the show; I can’t remember how long it took). Sara Rue also lost around 25-30 pounds one summer between seasons.

    Margaret Cho based a whole stand up show about ABC execs telling her to lose weight when she had her sitcom All-American Girl in the mid-’90s. “We’re worried about the fullness of your face,” they told her.

    These spring to mind, although neither are super-recent.

  7. curvynerd says:

    @David I never watched Less Than Perfect, but that’s super interesting that she lost 25-30 lbs between seasons. It always begs the question: was she asked to lose weight? How did they address it on the show? My number one fear with Drop Dead Diva, which I love, is that Jane will lose weight and it will be a big to-do. So far, so good but…

    It’s good that they’re not super recent! It kind of proves my point that generation after generation has grown up with NO positive/decent “characters of size” on TV/in movies, and it has skewed how we see our bodies and how others view fat people. :)

  8. curvynerd says:

    @stacye13 OMG, Just Friends! How could I forget that movie? I own it, too.

    Very good point about body acceptance in the African American community and subsequent media. It is simultaneously more acceptable, BUT, as you point out, the characters, like the one in Waiting to Exhale, still doesn’t get the same kind of characterization/story as some of the other women.

  9. Sara Rue is also currently a Jenny Craig spokesperson (lost 50 pounds, I think), and recently hosted the CW weight loss show Shedding For The Wedding (which I didn’t watch). So her weight is connected to her career. I also saw her once at a piano bar in Silver Lake!

  10. Emily says:

    OMG! Yes! Roseanne! Wow, take back my TV degree for missing that one! Roseanne was like THE sitcom that best represented the average family!

  11. Emily says:

    Whoa. I just need to read the whole thread. Yes, and Sara Rue was also on the amazing and short-lived Popular! She was heavier then and it was a plot line at points. I loved her character on the show (very real) and she didn’t let the cheerleaders stop her.

  12. Amy says:

    I love Kirsten Vangsness who plays Penelope on Criminal Minds. I haven’t watched the show in a few years though so I’m not really sure what they’ve been doing with her character. When I was watching she was the IT guru and had a very independent and unique style sense.

    • curvynerd says:

      @Amy I loved her character! Very good example. At first she was under-used, but then they developed her nicely and gave her a love interest. Yay for good examples!

  13. Amy says:

    One more, I never watched the show but wasn’t Camryn Manheim fairly large when she was on The Practice?

  14. Oh yes. I could go on and on about this. The most recent example that got my attention was Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. I was actually kind of offended by her characterization as being weird and gross, and how her sexuality was used for “gross-out” effect. Kind of a female version of Zach Galifianakis’ character in The Hangover.

    Also (I think I’ve mentioned her before) – the Janet character on the short-lived show October Road. Her nickname was “Janet the Planet,” but the girl was NOT that fat. Maybe a size 14/16? Her entire storyline was about dating a super hot guy and being insecure about whether he could really be into her.

  15. Oh, and don’t forget Ugly Betty… who was never what I would call fat, but who lost serious weight as part of her overall makeover during the course of the series.

    Another one I just thought of – not exactly what you’re looking for, but it’s related. Remember the end of Love Actually where Colin Firth goes looking for his Portuguese housekeeper to declare his love? The father hopes he’s there for his other daughter, the fat one – because you know, what a blessing that would be for some man to want *her*.

  16. curvynerd says:

    @Cortney OMG, great examples! I actually gave up on Ugly Betty sometime after season two, so I didn’t get to see her makeover progression, though I did see in “real life” that America Fererra had slimmed down a lot. Related to that: I should include her character in Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

    I was kind of mixed about Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids. I’ll probably discuss it at length in a future post. I felt like what SHE was doing, and the FILM was doing (with the exception of the last scene with the sandwich) was just general comedy that was funny b/c her character was dressed down (and her being fat was just a bonus). I think the AUDIENCES and whomever cut the COMMERCIALS turned it into “let’s laugh at the narley fat chick being sexual.” Like… I have enough respect for MM and the tone of the film itself didn’t feel like “fat hate” that I don’t think they were intending the humor that way. (the audience I saw it with, however, it definitely felt like they were laughing at her weight)

    And OMG LOVE ACTUALLY. That’s a great, off-hand example — fat girl as unloveable as joke. Ugh.

  17. Nicole says:

    As far as fat villains, what about Newman from Seinfeld?
    Or comical buffoon, Donkeylips from Salute Your Shorts? (Gotta love old school Nickelodeon)
    Still trying to think of some female characters, besides the ones mentioned, who fit the bill.

  18. Rena says:

    Sookie (Melissa McCarthy) on Gilmore Girls is a prime example of the”fat friend” She was also a chef in the show.

  19. Lisa Lacroix says:

    Drop dead gorgeous. The main character is a skinny girl that dies in a car crash but ends up coming back in the body of a fat lawyer. Total typical fat girl on TV!

  20. Sue says:

    (Sorry for late reply) I have a small child, and there one character on Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie who is big. She is the BFF of daughter Teddy in the show. And don’t forget Rerun on the old sitcom What’s Happening. Oh, and how about Manny in Modern Family?

  21. fyrefly says:

    Kind of off-topic…but an example of mocking fat people on tv would be Jane from Drop Dead Diva.

    You know when someone is delivering a speech and doing it horribly? and it makes the audience uncomfortable?

    I find Drop Dead Diva’s Jane annoying in that way–she comes across as mentally retarded cause they are trying to get her to act all Legally Blonde while being over-weight. maybe another fat girl could play it better (based on the above comments, even Sarah Rue would be more entertaining to watch) but the girl playing Jane just makes it look like someone having a seizure while trying to play a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing act.
    I still watch it as i like the Ugly Betty meets Legally Blonde story and some of the other characters of the show. Really its the dumb attractive blonde who does steal the show again…the main character is often out-shined by her attractive friend Stacy…even though shes dumb, shes at least…normal.
    i think my biggest problem is Jane’s actress doesn’t do a good job of ‘owning’ the role.

  22. Rebecca says:

    Shallow Hal! Don’t forget that Monstrosity, and everything Jack Black is in he’s the fat friend.

  23. Yvette says:

    Queen Latifah is a great role model for curvy women, but is often portrayed as “one of the guys”. Hannah from the Glee project, and there was the lawyer from Boston Republic I think, she wrote a book.

    As far as villains there is Ursala from the little mermaid

  24. Sara says:

    Let’s not forget Ursula from Little Mermaid!

  25. Jen says:

    Hurly from Lost. He is a big guy, but he is also the heart of that whole show.

  26. Lola Colleen says:

    I don’t think its been mentioned yet but Sookie in the books is supposed to be a size 12 and shops at Walmart. She’s really the every woman which is what makes the books so great. I have given up on the tv show after the first episode of this season.

    I also agree that Melissa McCarthy’s character in Bridesmaids made me sad. But I still think she’s one of the funniest actresses.

    Ah! Anne hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada. I actually thought she was adorable and health looking. Recently she is waaaaaay too skinny. I blame her stylist.

    Oh speaking of Disney shows being super shallow. There’s a chunky boy character on A.n.t. farm who’s stereotypically obsessed with food. It was really disturbing to see such a character that kids would watch. He was the villian in most episodes as well as being the butt of every joke.

    This post reminds me of a friend who recently brought up the fact that geek girls are being more accepted lately but only if they skinny white and pretty(read: Olivia Minn, feliciaday day, etc.). I’m so glad I found your blog as a fellow “curvy nerd” it gives me hope!

    • curvynerd says:

      Sookie is supposed to be a size 12! Wow. That kind of changes my perspective on the series. I need to read the books!

      Anne used to be look much healthier — I think you’re right that since she’s gone super Hollywood and worked with Rachel Zoe, she’s lost some of that. And yet she’s still “bigger” than so many actresses! Sad. Specific to that movie, I was always kind of sad that the character dropped all those sizes and was so pleased with it. I’d be kind of upset if I dropped to a size 2 b/c I was mal-nourished LOL.

      I will have to check out that Disney show. It’s always disheartening when kids are given fat villain characters — it’s a common trope in kid movies.

      And YES, girls in geek culture is such a fascinating topic. 80% of the women I know who are into geek/nerd culture are overweight and don’t look like supermodels. All brilliant, quirky and awesome. But then you go to cons, or see accepted female geek figures on TV and they’re dressed like sexy Leia or they are Olivia Munn. I like the Felicia Day is a real geek girl who happens to be thin and pretty, whereas i have my doubts about Munn – I think she took on aspects of geek culture at G4 but was not/is not organically geeky.

      This is a really fantastic post on the subject, though being “of size” in geek culture would make for it’s own piece entirely! http://geekfeminism.org/2011/08/23/geek-girls-and-the-problem-of-self-objectification/

      • Lola Colleen says:

        Omg! The “friend” I mentioned, is the girl that wrote that blog. No joke, I’m at her apartment right now talking about Olivia Munn and geek culture. Soooo freaky that you linked that.

        And I concur. On all of the above.

  27. Lola Colleen says:

    And I remembered another example Brittany Murphy’s character in Clueless. Who was totally not fat to begin with then got the makeover that brought her all the attention. I also remember all the hype after she did that movie about her weight and probably contributed to her struggle.
    Which also brings up Sara Rue’s struggle with her weight. I know it’s already been covered a lot in the above comments, but I wanted to point out a time when she was not curvy but really scary. She guest starred in an episode of Two and a Half Men and looked ill to me. Recently in her little made for TV movie My Future Boyfriend she was adorable and curvy again. I hope she stays that way.
    Not related to what you’re trying to write about, but it would be interesting to look more deeply about how actresses in those roles struggle against hollywood’s expectations. Even the title of Less Than Perfect, that would give me issues about myself if I was the star.

  28. Lola Colleen says:

    The coach from Glee. Perfect example of everything you were looking for. They did a whole episode on the fact that she had never been kissed. Which brings up Never Been Kissed in which she’s supposed to be really hideous (yet she’s not!) and socially awkward (just because she’s smart and wants to succeed). Ok, I swear I’m done.

  29. Miss DEA says:

    Ok I know I’m probably a lil late on this but I have to add some of my two cents.
    Someone mentioned the African American potrayals all I’ve see were Queen Latifah, Loretta Devine, and Monique. Oh and Amber Riley from Glee. But I can give you some other examples that are interesting
    Another Monique film is Precious in which she won an Oscar. Also we have on the Disney Chanel show Good Luck Charlie the best friend of the Character Teddy as well as Raven Symone on her own show before she lost the weight. I thought she looked fine but she’s lost weight (and in my opinion direction) since the end of the show.

    Another curvy character but certainly not fat is the side kick of Selena Gomez on Wizards of Waverly Place.

    Oh and then there is the uncomparable Jill Scott in several roles. But most notably was the Tyler Perry films Why Did I Get Married and Why did I get Married Too? and while I’m mentioning Mr. Perry his potrayals of Madea are…interesting.

  30. M says:

    Terrible movie — and very late comment — but the “chunky bff” in Halle Berry’s Catwoman who kept flirting with her “hottie doctor” after she collapsed from using the evil Beau-Line skincare.

    :-)

    The Af-Am portraiture and differences in “size acceptance” … that’s … a long discussion. There may be some research updating you may want to do; things have kind of gone a different way from “Oh, Black women are just all more comfortable with their bodies/Black people are more in tune with size acceptance.” Black men are starting — well, have been for a while now — to bash Black women for being overweight.

    And actually, some Black women are too (bashing the women more than the men, where the men are actually more frequently overweight — just like in majority communities!) … but it’s also complicated by the fact that, because of things like food deserts and terrible work schedules, there are issues of diet and lack of opportunity to work out regularly that tend to impact minority communities’ rates of certain diseases (HBP and diabetes come most immediately to mind), hitting them harder than they do the majority community.

    (This is happening in many Latino/na communities as well, actually.)

    So it’s … complicated.

    /ramble

  31. Lilylucy says:

    If I remember Circle of Friends was a movie where the “fat girl,” who was portrayed by Mini Driver. Any movie with Queen Latifa in the lead or supporting role would also qualify–the movie Just Wright comes to mind. Also that awful show Mike and Molly is just one long-running fat joke.

  32. DorkyPear says:

    Anyone from the ABC Family show Huge. The show was about a “fat camp” for both boys and girls and it had characters of all different types and sizes that fall under the blanket-title of overweight. It did a pretty good job of including multiple personalities and not just stereotypes. Nikki Blonsky (the woman who showed me that even curvy chicks can snog someone alog the lines of the awesomeness that is Zac Efron) was the lead, but the show was unfourtunitly not brought back for another season because of a “negative viewer reaction”.

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