My TV

30 June 2010

Fat Shows, the biggest problem since Skinny Shows

By // TV

This week was the premiere of a new ABC family show called Huge. It’s basically an hour each week in which rebellious Will (you know she’s a rebel because she’s got blue hair) obnoxiously fights against losing weight at fat camp. Oh boy. I cannot wait. The premiere alone was chock a block full of nasty stereotypes, whether it wanted to be or not. At some point someone in Hollywood’s gonna realize that being fat doesn’t mean you worship food, right? Somebody’s got to realize that eventually because if I see one more sequence in which someone describes a chocolate milkshake in such detail that they begins to moan I’m gonna lose it. If I see one more character willing to get kicked out of camp for a chocolate bar I’m gonna scream. And the next time someone says “it’s hard being without my favourite foods” I’m going to declare war on this show full of unrealistic fat people invented in the minds of skinny ones.  

Huge is pulling from 2 sides: it wants Will to just give in and try to “change her life” as Gina Torres’ fatcamp director character (with secrets!) urges, but it also needs Will there to spout the standard after school special “why should I have to change to meet your standards?… there’s more to the world than looks” lines. Neither side is very endearing. Someone thinking fat camp is stupid is not the same thing as, what did Torres’ character call it? Oh yeah, “risking your life rather than changing it”. But Will doesn’t stand for anything. She has no reason to fight against the camp. She’s just being rebellious for rebellion’s sake. Well that’s pretty stupid. Every character in Huge is defined by their body. There are the skinny ones who are obsessed with being skinny. There are the fat ones who are obsessed with being skinny. And then there’s Will, who needs her fat because it gives her some sort of outsider edge. She’s rebelling against the mainstream by refusing to look like their ideal. Aren’t there better ways to rebel against the mainstream? Why would you actively try to gain weight? I understand not actively trying to lose it, that takes a lot of time and energy that could just as easily be spent on more interesting things. But to actively fight against it, that makes you as boring as the people who spend all their time counting calories- you’re counting too, just in the other direction.

It seems to me that TV right now is obsessed with weight. Top Chef just did a challenge designed around childhood obesity. The newest in the string of dance shows is called Dance Your Ass Off. Last year they made The Bachelor for Fat People (it’s unofficial title). There’s a sitcom slated for the fall about people who meet at Overeaters Anonymous. For crying out loud, The Biggest Loser got it’s own spinoff!

For awhile there I thought Glee might have the right idea; Mercedes, an overweight teen, was the reigning diva of the school and pretty darn self assured. Then came the episode when a cheerleading uniform managed to unseat every shred of self worth Ms. Divarific had and she had to be set straight by little pregnant angel Quinn. And then they sang Christina Aguilera, because why wouldn’t they? After finding that episode personally offensive I pretty much gave up on Glee ever having the right idea.

Drop Dead Diva‘s on the right track when dealing with the issue of fatness. There’s a whole episode about not being afraid of the word fat. About accepting that the average woman in America does not look like a TV character. About treating people equally. That’s definitely the right idea, that’s how it should go. Don’t be afraid of the word fat but don’t worship it either. “Fat” to me is about as interesting as “tall” or “blue-eyed” or “brunette”, but for some reason it matters more to everyone else. Even the Fat Shows (yes, that’s what I’m calling them), Diva aside, which are, in theory, helping to move the nation in the right direction in terms of standards of beauty and treatment of others, are doing nothing more or less than making it a big deal. Again. Even more. How is that helpful?

Gilmore Girls married off Sookie (Melissa McCarthy’s overweight character) to a charming, average guy named Jackson. I say average and I don’t mean average in the sense of everyone else is a TV hunk and he’s an average Joe, I mean average, like standard in the world of Stars Hollow, like what average actually means. Sookie’s weight wasn’t a big deal, it was about as interesting as her height or her eye colour or (and here’s another thing I think should be handled similarly) her race. Why shouldn’t Jackson fall in love with Sookie? Sookie’s awesome. Last season on 90210 Navid started dating a girl who was a bit larger than average (aka severly chubby by 90210 standards) but very pretty. Absolutely nothing was made of it. She was a real threat to Adriana, a real love interest to Navid and a character with many more interesting things about her than her weight. I know, 90210, who’da thunk, but it showed real progress.

Huge is a step backwards. A big step backwards. Maybe that’s what the title means, “we’re taking a HUGE step backwards”. Otherwise it’s pretty much just a tasteless title.  Star Nikki Blonsky (Will) had her big Hollywood breakthrough in Hairspray, a role so anti-huge I can’t even believe it. Tracy Turnblad has nothing in common with Will. Will wants to stand on the outside and shout at those on the in, take anything she can get to make her different (read: superior for being different) whether it’s her weight or her hair and fly it as a flag that stands for nothing. All Tracy wanted was to get to join the party; she thought everyone should be invited. She wasn’t going to lose weight to get in, she wouldn’t even change her hairdo when it got her put in detention. She was fine just the way she was, but Tracy also thought everyone else was fine, no matter how skinny, fat, tall, short, black or white they were. She assumed Link would fall in love with her because her weight’s not nearly as important as her other qualities, and he did, because those other qualities were pretty great “no matter what [she] weighs”. TV needs to get over the fact that the issue of fat is anything huge (forgive the terrible pun). Fat needs to be an adjective that carries about as much weight as all the other ones. I’d like to see TV characters who get to be nouns, not adjectives.

Let’s have people who look like people and treat them as such. Let’s have tall people AND short people, people with straight hair AND with curls; let’s have white people, black people, asian people, hispanic people, people with freckles, people with moles, redheads, brunettes, blonds, skinny people, fat people and all the people in between. Let’s have them all, and let that be okay.

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