Tag Archive | "fat on tv"

The Invisible (Horrible, Lazy, Unattractive) Fat Person

The Invisible (Horrible, Lazy, Unattractive) Fat Person

This post originally was posted on All The Weigh on June 16, 2011. I am reposting it here for posterity :) If this is new to you, please comment! But also do read the original discussion in the comments on ATW — there’s some good stuff there!

When Kenlie asked me to write a guest post on one of my favorite topics — fat hate in society and the strong influence of media — I was honored and excited. Then I tried to write. Needless to say, this enormous, weighty (ha!) issue ballooned into a post of monstrous proportions. So, I shall preface the following by saying: I edited it down. A lot. I hope to expand on many of the topics I’ve merely touched on in future posts, and through discussion.

For many of you, especially if you’ve lived any portion of your life overweight, that society hates and discriminates against fat people may be horribly obvious and my statements redundant. However, I find that sometimes stating what seems blatantly obvious can set off light-bulbs for others, and yourself. It’s especially important to second-guess the media and how it portrays reality — is something so because the media reflects reality, or because it SHAPES how we perceive and create the world around us?

People like to associate a variety of negative words with "fat people." Most are not true. All of them are hurtful and cruel.

No one likes to talk about discrimination against fat people

We’re a progressive society, constantly making strides against disgusting and demoralizing practices such as racism and homophobia. Minority and underrepresented groups, including but certainly not limited to blacks, Hispanics, Asians and LGBTQ, are becoming increasingly (and rightfully) visible on TV, in film, in music, media and advertising.

Yet hatred continues to be spewed against fat people, in the most extreme incarnation (see: Internet comments). And, more subversively, poking fun at fat people (see: token fat character); making assertions about their bodies, eating, health and fitness habits (fatsplaining, “fat as a lifestyle choice”); and, simply, not including them AT ALL in media, rage in society and culture. Fat people are simultaneously invisible and derided for possessing a number of negative characteristics, thrust upon them by virtue of how they look on the outside.

Fat hate — so bad, we even hate ourselves

The hate that is lobbied against fat people is staggering, pervasive and subversive. It’s so omni-present in media and society that most people don’t notice it, or if they do, they explain it away. Like misogyny which is also so entrenched in society that women themselves don’t realize it most of the time, people tend to have a laundry list of excuses and reasons for why it’s “not that bad” or “you’re just whining” or “you’re too sensitive” when you call them out on fat hate. Fat hate is so pervasive, fat people hate fat people.

No, really. If you are now or have ever been fat, overweight, obese — whatever you want to call it — have a nice, honest think about your past interactions with other fat people. Do you see another fat person — usually one who is bigger than you are — and smugly think to yourself “well, I’d never let myself get that bad!” or “Ugh, they clearly don’t exercise or try to eat right. Put down the cheeseburger.” Or, the slightly more innocuous but just as damning “how did *she* get such a hot guy — she’s fatter than I am!”

Many of these Schadenfreude-esque thoughts are somewhat natural — everyone does it, to almost everyone else — but many people take it beyond the “fleeting, dark thoughts” territory. If a fat person speaks out about discrimination, you certainly do see other large people call that person out for being a whiner, or making waves. Fat people are just as likely to guilt and fat shame as thin people — they do it on The Biggest Loser!

It’s often the fat person who reinforces the fat = bad; thin = good trope, because all our lives, this is what we are taught. One of the best places for this in popular culture? Shows like The Biggest Loser do a lot of good, but next time you watch a season, look at the adjectives the contestants use at the beginning vs. the end, and the clips editors choose to use. I’m not saying obese people can’t be miserable, but the subtle language of weight loss makeover programs is beginning/fat = bad, bad, bad, MISERABLE, unhappy, alone, bad, bad, bad which slowly transitions to thin = I AM SO PRETTY AND HAPPY AND NOTHING IN MY LIFE COULD EVER BE BAD AGAIN.

This just isn’t true! It’s not that you can’t want to be thinner and healthier. But equating being thin with happiness is dangerous. You will have good and happy moments in your life when you are fat, and you will have good and happy moments in your life when you’re thin. Same can be said for misery and feeling rotten.

Why do we think this about ourselves and our lives?

We are taught through relentless skinny images & media messaging that fat = bad... and thin is never thin enou

Blame the media! (no, really, let’s blame the media)

This is because we are taught, through every minutiae of our interaction with each other, through media — TV, film, music, advertisements, magazines, newscasts, etc. — that fat is Ugly. Fat is Bad. Fat is Stupid. Fat is Lazy. Thin (and sexy) = GOOD, LOVELY, AWESOME, BETTER. Most of the time, fat people are invisible. We don’t see people like us in magazines (Plus Size models = size ten. SIZE TEN), or on TV, or in movies. There aren’t fat newscasters (even the friendly, rotund weather man Al Roker is now a Skinny Thing), fat book heroines are few and far between (though better than TV) and, generally, TV and film are a barren wasteland of fat people. We are sent a message every day by the absence of larger people in these positive, informative, fantasy and “beautiful” roles.

Women, especially, rarely see representations of themselves. Teen comedies & dramas feature waif-thin beautiful people having Beautiful People Problems like juggling three boyfriends and finding the perfect dress for Prom. The intrepid, neurotic romantic heroines of rom coms are invariably a size 6 (whittled down the requisite size zero, nowadays), and even when they are meant to be “overweight,” they do it Bridget Jones style and have a size 2 actress “balloon up” to, what?, an eight? There being exceptions to every rule, I concede recent glimmers of hope: Drop Dead Diva & Huge (oh list, you are a short one. And also half cancelled).

In cases where we do see visible fat people, they only come in two “sizes”: trying to lose weight/makeover project and Negative Horrible Foil/Unloveable Sidekick. How many times have you seen the plump, dumpy sidekick crack jokes and end up alone? Invariably, either way, Token Fat Character eats. All the time. Whereas most characters on TV and in movies NEVER EAT (as in, actually chew food)… or use the bathroom (ever notice that?), we always see fat characters chowing down. On Glee, token fat girl Lauren DEMANDS A BRIBE of Cadbury Creme Eggs to join Glee Club. Fellow curvaceous character Mercedes was given an entire plot line about eating cafeteria tater tots. I mean… come on!

Probably the only positive plus size character I can think of from the last 27 years I’ve been on earth is Tracy Turnblad from Hairspray.

Fat girls = 1;Thin People: ELEVENTY-BILLION.

In the one arena where arguably Americans get to see overweight women in highly visible roles — daytime talk show hosts — we get a) Oprah (on a perpetual diet cycle) b) Ricki Lake (couldn’t get work post-Hairspray/fat; starved herself to get her show) c) Star Jones (evil wench who got gastric bypass) d) Rosie O’Donnell (ridiculed in pop-culture for being fat/unattractive when she came out as a lesbian). Yes, we all love Oprah (and her positive contributions to fat issues I think are notable), but she’s Oprah. Daytime TV’s Goddess can be any damn size she wants. Everyone else? Get skinny, then maybe you’ll get work.

I mean, REALLY?

In the end, the message that not only fat people, but thin people get is: fat people are invisible/bad, and only thin, beautiful people deserve happiness/love/positive attention. It trickles down and is pervasive (and equally tied to disturbing trends of misogyny in society), and leads to the real problem: the Othering of fat people, and the rise of flat-out hatred of them.

People are horrible; aka: the Internet kills the filter of basic human decency

You don’t have to go far to see this ugly, judgmental attitude in people — just read the comments on any mainstream article relating to weight loss topics. On my blog, The Curvy Nerd, rather than engage with asinine comments on blogs such as The Huffington Post, Gawker and The Daily Beast, I highlight and poke fun at the worst of the worst — feel free to browse through some of my finds, so far.

Generally, you see the same key phrases over and over again: “fat is a choice,” (aka: Fat As A Lifestyle Choice) “eat less, exercise more,” “I don’t want a fat person to infringe on MY space/life/whatever”.

It’s amazing how little empathy people have for overweight & obese people. They don’t hesitate to dehumanize, denigrate and attack fat people, usually with comments that draw the most outrageous conclusions about fat people in general as well as specific larger individuals (usually in response to commenters and/or public figures who appear to be or confess to be large). These things include, but are certainly not limited to: that you are unhealthy, lazy, ugly, miserable, stupid, entitled (no, really!), dirty, sexless, alone and undeserving of love. Many people will flat out say these things.

Then there are the “concern trolls.” These are people who Don’t Like Fat People, but they translate this into acceptable terms, ie: Fat Is Unhealthy. Then they fatsplain to you/fat people how being fat should make you feel, how it’s essential you Get Healthy and Stop Being Fat. Because they care about you, they do!

People we love can also communicate the message that fat = bad, though generally they do not hate fat people, or you, and will unconsciously say things that hurt you. My favorite is “you’re not fat, you’re beautiful!” Translation (on your end): you’re not fat! Fat is BAD, and you are NICE and I LIKE you… so let’s talk about how BEAUTIFUL you are (to me). I didn’t realize what an insidious phrase this was until recently. I do it too! We need to divorce the ideas that being fat = bad. But it’s a deeply ingrained thought within society (see; media).

Let’s get academic for a moment

Beyond the anecdotal evidence of people being hateful on the Internet, numerous studies have been done on the attitudes people hold towards the obese. One study found that children not only ascribed patently negative attributes to fat people (and positive ones to thin people), but that their views were reflective of their parents (who also participated in the study). An indicative pull-quote:

“Specifically, research shows that children are reluctant to play with overweight peers and are more likely to assign negative adjectives such as lonely, lazy, sad, stupid, ugly, and dirty to an overweight child than to an average weight or lean child.”

We pick up these attitudes young, and hold them for life.

More gems to illustrate a wide-spread trend of discrimination and hatred held against fat people:

Where does all this leave us? Well, the current trend is Let’s Beat Everyone Over The Head With Obesity As A Health Epidemic and OMGSHITTONS of fat reality shows. Instead of approaching the core issue of people hating fat people, the cycle of negativity, issues of food/eating portrayal in advertising, and Healthy At Any Size, we are trying to SHAME fat people into being less fat. Oi vey. But that’s another topic for another (LONG) post. :)

So thank you for having me, and sorry for the essay! I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts — what has your personal experience been, with the media and with other people’s attitudes and expectations?

Posted in Fat Identity, Fat in the Media, Fat Shaming, Featured, Meta/Personal, TVComments (2)

Curvy Girl Dating – Robin Kassner, & humiliating the fat chick

Curvy Girl Dating – Robin Kassner, & humiliating the fat chick

Robin Kassner‘s disastrous turn on The Millionaire Matchmaker is old news, but last week she won a Soup Award, which reminded me of the debacle. I think it’s an excellent example of how overweight women are made to seem ridiculous and pathetic in a romantic situation, especially with “hot guys.”

Millionaire Matchmaker Patti Stanger seems to have issues with women in general, holding her female clients up to a more stringent standard (especially when it comes to who is/isn’t “in their league”) and generally having a hostile attitude towards them from the word go. But in the fourth season’s 11th episode (which aired January 2011), Patti displayed a special level of contempt for her client, Robin Kassner, an overweight PR guru. Patti calls her a “plumpty dumpty” and ridicules Kassner for wanting to date a Matthew McConaughey type.

Now, to be fair, Matthew McConaughey? Does that mean Kassner wants the smelly naked bongo playing bits, too? </joke>

Stanger tells Kassner she’s dreaming out of her league, and designs one of her social experiments on mixer night to put her in her place. She recruits Luke, a purportedly attractive (if you like cocky beefcakes) plumber with nothing in common with Kassner, who gives quips to camera along the lines of him not being attracted to Kassner, but up for letting her buy him things. In the other corner, we have a nice-guy, stocky, slightly awkward looking cop, who has tons in common with Kassner and seems to like her.

Now, as a viewer, I was rooting for the cop (Anthony), or really anyone *but* Luke. Not because I didn’t think a big girl like Robin deserved a “hot” guy, but because he played the part of the asshole (whether it was at the producer’s request is a legitimate question) and they literally had NULL in common. That said, I did think the cop was a bit of a under-reach — Patty says she think Robin needs to aim for a “5″ not a “10,” and the cop was just a bit… meh. Are we surprised that Robin chose a young guy with a full head of hair… while she was drunk? Yeah, me neither. Who is Patty to tell Robin who she has to be attracted to? Yes, it’s key to not be superficial when seeking out mates, but what is it with people forcing fatties to downgrade? Patty *says* there aren’t that many 10s falling from the sky for people at any size. I call bullshit — she finds 10s ALL THE TIME, especially for her aging, pervy male clients.

Here’s the problem, with Stanger, the show and Kassner. Stanger thinks that Robin’s a silly fat girl who needs to lower her body/physicality standards. The show loads her up with alcohol (on camera they say there’s a limit; in post-show interviews Kassner has said they “force fed” her booze), and Kassner is apparently a light-weight. And then Kassner, who does have elements of the shallow and ridiculous about her, a sad parody of a young New York woman desperate to live out her Sex in the City fantasy, opens her tipsy/drunk mouth and makes a complete fool of herself. She simpers to a circle of men about thinking they’re all hot whilst sipping her cocktail, and talking about Hello Kitty, her pink apartment and her two dogs, Bruiser and Paris Hilton (no, really).

(Jezebel has the only clips I could find of Patty’s comments & the mixer. I can’t seem to embed them, so click to watch. See the ridiculousness that is Patty’s fat hating + Robin making a fool of herself)

And the date is a TRAIN WRECK. Happily, Hulu has a high-res clip of it:

Pretty bad, no? According to Kassner, much of it is a work of fiction. From an interview with her after the show aired:

They told Luke to be nasty to me. They told him to be obnoxious, that it was his role. I never said I wanted to have sex with him, they dubbed that in. I never offered him sex or a hand job. Me and Patti were talking about sex, and they dubbed that in to the middle of my date.

Regardless of whether or not Kassner is a little shallow, more than a bit ridiculous and a horrible drunk, the picture we get from this episode of The Millionaire Matchmaker is the sad, fat single girl who thinks she can throw money at an attractive (out of her league) guy so he will love her. She’s “easy” because she is fat and desperate. And we are meant to laugh and ridicule her, through well-cut montages and editing.

Kassner herself said it best: “It was both misogynistic and against curvy women.”

Bingo.

The message is the same one we get everywhere else — that if you’re fat, let alone a “millionaire” that you should take what you get. You’re over-reaching for a “10″ — “5″ or lower is where you should be. Any attractive man who goes out with you doesn’t actually find you attractive, and in fact is laughing at you behind your back. Other women, especially formerly “plumpty dumpty” women like Stanger, will be the most cruel to you in this respect. To wit:

Silly fat girl; love is for thins!

You can’t help but feel bad for Kassner, who probably went into this experience thinking she’d get some nice PR for herself and a date, and came out a national laughing stock; the latest poster girl for the silly, stupid fat woman with a dream. She’s still trying to milk her moment, including appearing on The Soup and trying to make fun of herself, but as she says the funny lines, her eyes are dead and you can just feel her sense of disappointment, and that hysterical despair we all feel every once in a while — everyone is laughing at me, because I dare to be fat and want love?

Funnily enough, The Soup is filmed in my building. I wish I had known Kassner was going to be here, because I would have gone down and given her a hug. I think she needs one.

Resources: Robin Kassner interview BEFORE she saw the show | Robin Kassner interview AFTER she saw the show

Posted in Dating, Fat Identity, Fat in the Media, Featured, Gender Politics & Feminism, TVComments (26)

Fat girls & Glee: Lauren/Puck = gross?

Fat girls & Glee: Lauren/Puck = gross?

A few weeks ago, TV.com writer Seth Abramovich wrote a post entitled “Is It Okay to Find Glee‘s Plus-Sized Character, Lauren Zizes, Gross?” , which I filed away under “I hate people” and moved on. But it’s stuck with me, much like Moira Kelly’s Mike & Molly “fat people + relationships = gross” hoopla. I have a lot to say when it comes to Glee’s new token fat girl, Lauren, but that’s another topic for another post. I think it’s worth talking about Abramovich’s knee jerk reaction to a fat person + (sexual) relationship storyline, and it’s deeper implications, as spring board to a series of posts I’ll be making.

First of all, to answer Abramovich’s question: “No, it’s not ok.” It’s perfectly COMMON, but definitely not OK. The reasoning behind the post? On the recent “Sexy” episode of Glee, Lauren announced to Puck that she’d like to make a sex tape. Abramovich wrote in response:

“There was something really gross about this plot to me. And so I had to ask myself: Why? Was it any grosser than any of the other romantic entanglements between the more conventionally attractive couples of Glee? Or was some kind of deep-seated prejudice I harbor against fat people bubbling up? I mean, as far as I know, I have no issue with fat people, and there are plenty of skinny people out there who I would prefer not to see naked. So why does Puck and Lauren’s relationship always make me want to hurl?”

I will give full kudos to Abramovich – he gets a leg up on Moira Kelly for conditional phrasing. He goes on to say that his reaction is because Lauren’s character is an asshole, not because she’s fat. I don’t disagree about the problematic portrayal of Lauren Zizes on Glee, but “So why does Puck and Lauren’s relationship always make me want to hurl?” doesn’t say “Lauren is an asshole” to me. It reads as fat person + sexual plotline = vomit. Would he get a pass if he wrote the same thing about the Kurt/Blaine storyline and added the condition that, actually, it’s because he finds Blaine to be an asshole? I don’t think so. Homophobia and fatphobia are cousins in the family of discrimination. I can’t just give a pass on this one because it just so happens the fat girl is unlikeable.

Abramovich aside, this reaction is frustratingly common: overt sexualization of an overweight and/or obese person is met with physical recoil/sickening from people. Fat people having a sexual identity, or even just being in a romantic & presumed to be sexual relationship is unacceptable, and often met with finger pointing and exclamations of “ewww, gross!” First Mike & Molly, now Glee. I think the only reason we didn’t hear this about Huge was that “normal” (fat hating) people weren’t watching it. (Incidentally, Lauren Zizes actress Ashley Fink also played a sexually active character on that show… but her character had more depth) That the two shows that have recently spawned fat-hating articles are about shows airing on the “big five” is no coincidence – mainstream America isn’t used to fat on their TVs, and they’re certainly not used to normalized fat (though, I’d argue, Lauren Zizes is NOT this).

On the unfortunate flip side, we have the fetishizing of fat women, which is equally damaging. Puck, in fact, does this to Lauren on Glee (man, it’s really time to write that “Fat on Glee” post, isn’t it?). If you’re a fat person, when it comes to sex, you’re either invisible, gross or a fetish — why can you just a person?

In Abramovich’s defense, I do genuinely believe that he doesn’t hate fat people. But I don’t think his reaction is rooted in Lauren being unlikeable as a character, though it may play a part. Assholes being seen as sexual generally doesn’t make people want to hurl. Unfortunate, fat people being seen as sexual all too often does.

Recommended Reading: Sex and the Fat Girl. Amazing blog by Tasha Fierce, who also writes the Sex and the Fat Girl series for Bitch Magazine.

Posted in Fat in the Media, Featured, TVComments (0)

Heavy vs. The Biggest Loser – is reality “fat” TV any good for us?

A part of my “diet plan” this time around is to watch reality shows that show obese people triumphing over fat, uttering cliches into the camera, tears and sweat running down their chubby faces as music swells in the background. Why? A mixture of positive and negative reinforcement, watching something like The Biggest Loser reminds me that a) I’m lucky I only have 70 pounds to lose b) yes, Virginia, there are fat people and c) that dropping 150 lbs on a reality show in six months is extremely unhealthy and unrealistic, so go easy on yourself, kiddo.

The juggernaut of reality TV weight loss

I’ve always had an inherent issue with The Biggest Loser, and have never made it past the first few episodes of a given season. Two hours each week of fat people sweating and crying is a bit much, and pitting them against each other in a weight loss battle seems a bit cruel. “You didn’t lose enough, go home” doesn’t exactly solve the problem, though NBC does give the ousted contestants personal trainers (they must) until the finale show airs, and we see the “losers” paraded in front of us — “look, they did it at home!!!” Despite the swells of uplifting music and the sob stories, The Biggest Loser is, at heart, all about fat shaming. Fat is Not Okay, you are Unhealthy and Unfit and so you Must Change. Ok, so it’s also TRUE — the contestants are generally unhealthy, unfit and need to change. But the method and the messaging of the journey is such: these people are miserable and unhappy fat. They are going to die. Look! They lost 150 pounds! Now they are Happy and Perfect.

Reality check: losing a ton of weight doesn’t solve all of your problems. Weight loss is not a fix-all. Food issues are forever. And I doubt all these contestants keep their weight off after the show. The Biggest Loser doesn’t focus much on eating habits and food issues; they push the (much needed) fitness angle and while, yes, if you do a lifestyle change and become a work-out nut, you likely won’t become obese again, but how many of the contestants really become fitness nuts? Plus, losing massive amounts of weight each week is NOT HEALTHY or sustainable. While of course the contestants have an abnormally high start weight, 10, 15, 20 pounds in a week is not normal, even for the chronically obese. The only way to achieve such drastic weight loss is to have these people on a starvation diet plus 5-6 hours of working out each day. How can you sustain that post-show? You can’t.

The fat shaming that goes on in the weigh-ins has me yelling at the TV each week. Contestants are shamed about losing 6lbs in a week. Or 4. Or 8. Doctors recommend you lose 1-2 pounds a week for healthy weight loss. But these people are made to feel ashamed of losing what is, for even the heaviest of people, an abnormally high number in a single week, after many progressive weeks of similar or higher weight loss. It’s not sustainable! Frankly, if a contestant who “worked their butt off that week” “only” loses 6 pounds, or 4, or, God forbid, GAINS, I’m thinking their body is telling them something: IT’S THE APOCALYPSE, WE’RE STARVING, HOLD ON TO THE FAT. That’s what your body does when you’re starving — holds on to the fat. However, when this happens on the show, the trainers belittle the contestants (Bob told someone this week “4 pounds is nothing to be proud of.” This same contestant lost 31 POUNDS his first week), and the host speaks to them in a condescending, judgmental tone. It’s awful.

Heavy doesn't have a competition element to its weight loss chronicle

But, yes, I’m watching it. Cynically, though! Now there’s Heavy on A&E, which takes the appeal of The Biggest Loser — seeing morbidly obese people lose weight — and puts a gritty spin on it. There’s no competition, just “reality.” Each week, two people from the same city are profiled. Over six months, they will be buddied together for support, and given the tools to change their life around. They spend the first month at a weight loss camp (fat camp for adults!), the Hilton Head Health Institute, where personal trainers and nutrionalists help them jump-start their journey. Then they head home, where the show provides them with a personal trainer for the remaining five months. If they don’t make progress, they have to go back to Hilton Head.

So far, I’m impressed with Heavy. It’s not just fat people with sob stories. It’s fat people with REAL sob stories, and struggles. Jodi and her husband’s marriage is on the rocks. Her mother (who is also fat) fat shames her and they don’t have a good relationship. Arnold is surrounded by a family who enables him to eat more than 6,000 calories a day, and not work (because he’s so large he can’t). Arnold relapses after he goes home, gaining 23 pounds back, and has to go back to Hilton Head for the rest of the program. Jodi kicks her mom out of the house and she and her husband attend therapy sessions. And at the end of the six months, while both have lost a considerable amount of weight (Jodi 77 lbs, Arnold about 150 lbs), they are both still obese and have significant life issues to tackle. The weight loss and the A&E program haven’t solved their life problems and made them happy. Maybe, once the cameras are off and the personal trainers aren’t free, they will lose the rest of their weight. Or maybe they’ll gain it back. Who knows. My only nitpick on the participants of episode one: neither appears to have a job. When that is the case, it’s a lot easier to dedicate yourself fully to going to “fat camp” and working out with a trainer every day. It will be interesting to see if in future episodes, people have jobs and other such life obstacles.

This is the reality of fat in America, and losing the weight. It’s hard, it’s nuanced, it’s expensive (normal people can’t afford personal trainers or the TIME you need to dedicate to these work out routines) and fixing one thing won’t fix another. Heavy has a leg-up on The Biggest Loser in showing the realistic journey, but unfortunately what NBC does do brilliantly is the big pay-off. I can tell myself a hundred times that The Biggest Loser isn’t healthy or realistic, but it’s still a thrill to see someone go from 400 pounds to 150.  The montage rolls and the music swells, and you think to yourself “I want that!” It’s intoxicating as much as it is wrong, but it’s also proving to be a pretty good motivational tool.

The Big Reveal is intoxicating

 

Posted in Fat in the Media, TVComments (2)

RIP: ABC Family’s Huge

Huge is a surprisingly deep look into fat kids and body image

Man, the fat kids are taking over TV! Ok, not really, but first Drop Dead Diva and now ABC Family’s new teen drama Huge, about a bunch of kids at fat camp. I had to watch it because, well, epic fat kid here. Ok, I was never that big as a kid, but ‘fat’ is totally in your head… and I can relate to this show like woah.

Which is what makes its cancellation by ABC Family so upsetting and disappointing. I wrote up this post originally to put up as a post-season one positive review with hope for the future. I neglected to post it prior to my move, however.

ABC Family cancelled Huge on October 4th, 2010.

So here is my original text, altered slightly, posted as an RIP for a great show. Jezebel has started a petition to bring Huge back, so all hope is not lost. It’s just unlikely. Please sign it if you love the show, or even if you want to support realistic depictions of overweight people on TV!

Huge stars Hairspray’s breakout star Nikki Blonsky as Will (short for Wilhelmina), whose parents have sent her packing to fat camp, though their threat of sending her to military boot camp should she fail indicate she’s been sent more for her attitude than her size. She’s pissed off and she’s “packing”… sweets and snacks, which she sells off to the other kids on the sly. Will befriends the shy Becca, and clashes with Amber — blond, beautiful and the thinnest girl at fat camp. If Amber looks familiar, it’s because she should — she’s played by Hayley Hasselhoff, offspring of the Hoff and a teen plus size model. As is pretty standard with plus-size models, Hasselhoff is not fat — she’s probably a size 10/12, but fat is in your mind, and part of Amber’s character is her low self-esteem and feeling that she’s fat.

Funnily enough, Amber is my favorite character, because I do find her more relatable than the others. It’s frustrating being “thinner” than your fat compatriots, but still too fat for mainstream society… and the notice of boys. ABC Family, I think you’re regressing me to 16… dammit! XD

The kids’ ages are hazy but I presume they’re meant to be high school age, even though they pretty much all look old enough to be in college.

I find Amber personally relatable

It’s good stuff, and surprisingly heavy… in an ABC family kind of way. One very likable character disappears mid-way through episode one, kicked out of camp for being bulimic. A tense scene between her cabin mates ensues about the seriousness of the disease, and whether or not her friends knew (they did). There’s fodder here for serious issues, and depending on their treatment of them, ABC Family could have a real winner on their hands for teaching young girls about body issues.

Now, the real win: EPISODE THREE IS ALL ABOUT LARPING. Um, YES. So this is not only a fat kid show, but a NERDY fat kid show… I think I’m in love. Further episodes cover esteem issues, romance, sex and a love-hate relationship with the scale — if you know the feeling of getting on the scale and feeling like you’ve done well, but not losing any weight? Huge covers that. Just so many of the lines and stories ring true for me personally, and I can imagine for others as well. A heart-breaking one-liner from 4th episode: “Sometimes I can’t even comprehend this is what I really look like.” PAINNNNN (but so true).

I’m just impressed by the broad spectrum of issues, views and feelings about body image and weight that the show portrays. There are characters gradually revealed to be the “after” — Dr. Rand has an eating disorder that she battles on a daily basis — and of course the majority struggling with the “now,” as teens. Some are waiting to “become the new them,” others don’t like the idea that they have to change to be accepted. It’s a dozen different variations on the theme of “the fantasy of being thin,” and society’s obsession with weight. It’s real and diverse and an enthralling watch.

I’m really pleased — there is not a lot of visible fat on TV, and it’s especially good to see a family channel producing this for kids and teens to watch and relate to. Several fellow “fat kids,” I’ve mentioned Huge to immediately expressed disdain — it’s sounds awful, they can’t watch that, no. I felt the same way at first — we’ve all seen fat shaming on TV and in the movies passed off as “empowering” — but just like with Drop Dead Diva, I was quickly won over.

Please, fat or thin, give Huge a chance. It’s above average TV (rare), and helps make fat characters and actors more visible — always a good thing. Yes, change is the name of the game, but I think the writing deals with the idea that these kids “need” to lose weight very evenly.

Also, I recommend Jezebel’s Huge tag – their recaps point out some of the highlights from each ep, with videos!

Go back and watch Huge, if you can. And please sign the petition. If any show deserves a second season, and the opportunity to change fat on TV forever, it’s Huge.

Posted in Fat in the Media, TVComments (3)

Marie Claire’s Maura Kelly puts her big fat foot in her skinny little mouth

Marie Claire columnist Maura Kelly is "grossed out" by Mike and Molly making out, existing

Ok, so apparently she used to be anorexic, and that makes it ok for Marie Claire columnist Maura Kelly to say that obese people are “disgusting” and “gross her out.”? Shows like Mike and Molly are “implicitly promoting obesity”?

Has anyone pointed out to Maura that TV is FULL of happy, lovely, romantically entangled skinny people but, um, NO FATTIES DOING THE SAME? I haven’t watched Mike and Molly, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value.

Ms. Maura Kelly is playing the relativity game of “my illness is less gross than your illness,” and dude, really? Anorexics and obese over-eaters have some of the same issues — why is she picking on the fatties?

“To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.”

Ok, because she thinks they are on par with heroine addicts. Wow.

No words. Just rage. And cookies.

(and her apology? Pfft)

… and this just means I MUST post my RIP Huge post, ASAP. Sigh.

Posted in Fat in the Media, In the NewsComments (2)

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution vs. Jamie’s School Dinners (fat vs. unhealthy!)

Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution vs. Jamie’s School Dinners (fat vs. unhealthy!)

Food Revolution airs on ABCs on Fridays. You can also stream it on ABC.com

This past weekend, I got hooked on ABC’s Food Revolution, a reality program in which British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver invades Huntington, West Virginia, said to be the most unhealthy town in America, to reform their school lunch program and general health. The show is a typical mix of actual documentary film-making and a truck-load of over-the-top, schmalzy tear-jerking shlock. But as The Biggest Loser and Celebrity Fit Club have shown, audiences love a bit of fat exploitation and reform, and Food Revolution has it in spades.

But the truly fascinating thing, for those who know about Jamie Oliver’s UK program that inspired this U.S. mega reboot, is looking at the differences between the two programs, campaigns and countries. Living in the UK in 2005, I knew all about Jamie’s School Dinners and “Feed Me Better” campaign, though I never watched the program. Jamie’s campaign was more limited in scope — redesign the “school dinners” (aka: hot lunch) at all the schools in one London school borough (Greenwich) — but was emminently more successful than his American one will likely be, and watching the two back-to-back is interesting. In an effort to explore some of the key talking points of Food Revolution, I’d like to examine and compare with Jamie’s School Dinners.

The UK's turkey twizzlers. BLECH.

1) British school dinners are/were more unhealthy than U.S. school lunches

Hands down, the Brits win when it comes to the shockingly bad quality of their hot lunches. On Jamie’s School Dinners, the menu at schools in Greenwich look like this: burgers, fries, chicken nuggets, pizza, spam cutlets (no, really), “smileys” (fried potato treats) and the ghastly turkey twizzlers (imagine a cross between sausage in the shape of curly fries… but with less meat, more filler). That’s it, every day — no variance or alternating daily menus, just disgusting junk on offer every day. The saving grace (over America)? The kids were given smaller portions of the junk than Americans kids would be.

The American school lunches shown, on the other hand, involve a revolving door of junk (ie: junk varies day to day), which the exception of fries and pizza, which seem to be available daily. Under the auspices of the USDA guidelines, fruit, milk (albeit flavored), bread and “vegetables” are available every day. But bear in mind that FRIES COUNT AS A VEGETABLE. The big issues with America’s school lunches? Portions & carb/junk overload.  While US schools may technically offer salads and fruit, kids don’t eat them, and both the pizza and french fry portions seem on students trays are, predictably, way larger than needed for an 8-year-old. Plus why do kids need TWO servings of bread a day? Answer: they don’t.

2) In the U.S. ridiculous “rules” and loop-holes mean fatter, unhealthier kids (even if the UK has a more exclusive spread of junk)

Read the full story

Posted in Fat in the Media, TVComments (6)

Dropping in on Drop Dead Diva

Dropping in on Drop Dead Diva

As I blogged a few weeks ago, I’ve been watching the new Lifetime show Drop Dead Diva. After initial hesitation, my verdict was this: despite the potentially disastrous premise, the show is incredibly charming BUT someday would surely drop pretense, and have the overweight heroine conform to societal standards of beauty.

Since my post, the show has done two diet-and-body-image centric episodes. One two weeks ago, entitled The Magic Bullet, about a mom whose diet-pill popping daughter develops an arrhythmia so she sues, and this week’s episode The Dress, where Jane herself sues a clothing company for not making any clothing over a size 10. The beginning of the end, right? Wrong. Drop Dead Diva continues strong, and continues to flat out surprise me.

Jane’s storyline starts in Pretty Woman style, except the protagonist is fat instead of a prostitute. Both entirely unacceptable in high end Beverly Hills boutiques, apparently. Read the full story

Posted in Fat in the Media, TVComments (0)

Drop Dead Diva… the fat girl’s dilemma

Drop Dead Diva… the fat girl’s dilemma

There is nothing like the fat girl feminist dilemma. In general, I go round and round about (post?) modern feminist issues — what does it mean to be a “good” feminist? How do I balance my femininity, and wanting “traditional” elements of gender roles (I’d like to get married and have children, I enjoy cooking, etc.), whilst still maintaining my values? Being self-aware about feminist issues, and those of equality, plus standing my ground on certain issues (I will have your babies, and cook dinner, but only because I want to — tell me I’m expected to do something, and I won’t, ha!), I think I balance my personal value system with living out in the “real world.” It’s not easy, and makes for a pretty pathetic dating life, but I know what makes me happy, and that eventually (hopefully?) the rest of the world will catch up.

But where I struggle is enjoying things that are for the masses, that do horrible, awful things to women, that I enjoy, regardless. I may know better, but does everyone else who enjoys the tv shows, music, movies, book etc. that degrade women and reinforce stereotypes and gender roles that just become further ingrained in the subconscious of the media ingesters (men and women alike)? I take away very different things from The Devil Wears Prada, Grey’s Anatomy, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Sex in the City, etc, in ad finitum, as the average person. Mostly I put my brain, and my values, on hold for a few hours at a time and try not to let the (largely anti-feminist) lessons of these things seep into my subconscious. I remind myself that the fabulous (terribly too thin) woman being presented to me aren’t real, aren’t healthy, and that I’m happy the way I am. It’s a slippery slope. And thus comes my many guilty pleasures, the most recent of which is the Lifetime show, Drop Dead Diva.

Get this for a premise: Deb, an aspiring model with a “perfect” life — big audition, dreamy lawyer boyfriend (who we find out is about to propose), fun life, fabulous friends — gets into a car crash on the way to an audition, and is zipped up to the pearly gates to have her fate decided. Her “case worker” Fred inputs some information into a computer (in a very technologically advanced afterlife) to determine which way she’ll go — up or down — based on her life’s deeds. But apparently the very sweet Deb is just that — sweet, simple and rather shallow, and rates a “zero” on the scale: she is neither good nor bad. Deb doesn’t like being called a zero, and in an act of defiance, hits the “return” button the computer… only to be returned back to earth and deposited in the body of a recently deceased woman named Jane.

Insert situation comedy-drama: formerly blonde, thin, young, ditzy Deb is now in the body of overweight, brunette, brilliant, lonely 30-something lawyer Jane. In a bizarre plot contrivance, Deb retains her memories, but inherits Jane’s intelligence, and ends up working at the same law firm as her former fiance.

It sounds awful. The potential for mixed messaging is rampant — a blonde, thin pretty, stupid girl ends up in the body of a fat smart girl? Most “walk a mile in the other man’s shoes” stories have the potential for insult, but this one is most potent.

But amazingly, Drop Dead Diva is good. Really good. Charming, even. Read the full story

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Posted in Fat in the Media, TVComments (1)



Before & During

Weight & Inches