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Fat TV

June 25, 2010

Shorter CNN:

New show about fat kids could be appeal to fat teens we are concerned that it may forget to remind them to hate themselves. Oh.. uh.. For their health.

They pretty much exactly say this actually:

But will “Huge” provide role models for overweight kids and inspire them to lose weight and get healthy? Or will the show skip obesity’s physical risks to focus on thepsychological and social drama?

Because obviously a show about fat kids has to be about how fat kids are losing weight, I mean like, why would we want a TV show with a bunch of people just being fat at us? That sounds terrible.

I don’t know if I will watch this new show, I’ll probably catch an episode. But to be honest it doesn’t really appeal to me.

I think that the portrayal of marginalized groups in any form of media is INCREDIBLY problematic. Not just fat people, but pretty much any people. It’s sortof a damned if you do damned if you don’t prospect. No matter what choice the show/film/book makes their is probably another better different choice that some member of said marginalized group will wish they had made.

I remember some conversations that happend when The Princess and the Frog came out about the race of the villain and the prince, and it struck me that even if they had moved the races around arguments could still be made against those choices. No matter what they do someone will be unhappy.

And what is happening with fat people on TV right now is one of those choices that makes me personally unhappy. We now have a whole “Fat TV” sub genre. Rather than creating shows that incorperate fat characters in a sympathetic and non stereotypical way, we have shows that make fat the central issue of the show.

I do think it is GREAT to have more fat people on TV, but I’d rather have fat people incorporated in such a way that it wasn’t about them being fat. I mean, being fat should come up, but it should not be their whole deal. Say what you want about GLEE, but I actually appreciate that there are a lot of plots involving Mercedes that have nothing to do with her being fat.

I watch a lot of procedural stuff, Leverage and Lie to me are this summer’s shows, House, Bones, I don’t remember my DVR list right now. Anyway, the thing about these shows is that they sometimes have fat people on them, and whenever there are fat people on them the show is then ABOUT THESE PEOPLE BEING FAT.

No one is just, y’know, a lawyer investigating a government coverup of tobacco industry crimes, who also happens to be fat. Or even just a CSI who is fat, Fatness always has to factor into the plot or be a big part of their identity. And I guess everyone who is not a thin able bodied white christian straight guy gets this too some extent.

It still drives me crazy. I don’t want to see shows specially made to talk about fat, or special fat issues of my favorite shows. I want fat people to show up on TV the same way they do in real life. (About 30% of the time.)

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10 Comments
  1. Miriam Heddy permalink

    It’s funny you should mention CSI, because I’d say that’s a show where the old lead (William Petersen) and the new lead (Laurence Fishburn) are both fat guys and the show pretty much never mentions it. Likewise, the now defunct Without a Trace had Anthony LaPaglia–a fat guy.

    I think it’s pretty common to see dramas (especially police/legal procedurals) with fat characters. They’re nearly always men, though.

    • Good point. I guess that Elenor Frutt in The Practice was the exception.

  2. Kate permalink

    Vincent D’Onofrio gained some weight towards the end of his run on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, but that just made him yummier. I was amused when he stopped wearing ties because of the weight gain, because ties are not the large man’s friend.

    Melissa’ McCarthy’s character on The Gilmore Girls, Sookie, never had her weight talked about. I loved that she was a chef, but there weren’t any fat chef jokes, or anything else. The closest I can remember to her weight being an issue is when Sookie and Lorelai got in a fight over Sookie giving relationship advice when she hadn’t been in a relationship in a long time. Sookie’s weight wasn’t addressed directly as the reason she hadn’t been in a relationship in a long time, I think that was my fat girl defensiveness rising.

  3. Piffle permalink

    One of my favorite shows is Criminal Minds, where my favorite character is Penelope Garcia, who is fat. And they don’t make a big deal of it. What they emphasize is her mad computer skills, her tender heart, and her flirtiness. Plus she gets to wear the cutest outfits. I don’t recall them ever putting her on a diet or anyone commenting on her weight at all.

    Another show with fatter people, though not really fat fat people is Medium. One of the secondary characters is a lawyer married to a cop; and she is an inbetweenie, fat for TV in other words. She is portrayed as sexy and competent. One of the main character’s kids is also a plump girl, and it’s not a big deal. One warning, the show’s premise is remarkably silly; but I adore the family dynamics, and the husband, Joe DuBois, is simply yummy.

    • I have seen a few episodes of Criminal Minds but I couldn’t remember which show it was! She is SUPER cute.

  4. Jeanne permalink

    “I mean, being fat should come up, but it should not be their whole deal.”

    I was wary of Drop Dead Diva because of it’s premise, but it actually does a pretty good job in this regard. Jane’s (the main character) weight is brought up, but it doesn’t define her. She has romance, family issues, her work, etc. She’s a fat woman, and the show acknowledges that it sometimes affects her life and the way people treat her, but her fat isn’t treated like a personality trait.

    Kathy Bates has a new show coming out called Harry’s Law. It’s another David E. Kelley legal drama, and, judging from the previews, I don’t think her weight is going to be a big focus. Boston Legal (also Kelley) had some fat characters, and The Practice (Kelley again) had two, as well.

    @Kate
    You speak the truth. Fat!Vincent D’Onofrio is pretty much the only reason I ever watch Law and Order: Criminal Intent. He just does it for me.

    @Piffle
    I think Patricia Arquette is TV fat, too, as is the actor who plays the district attorney. I love that they have a fat kid on the show and her parents never mention her weight.

  5. wriggles permalink

    But will “Huge” provide role models for overweight kids and inspire them to lose weight and get healthy? Or will the show skip obesity’s physical risks to focus on thepsychological and social drama?

    Er, could the writer be a little bit more condescending, because I don’t think that’s quite patronizing enough.

  6. Jackie permalink

    Interesting comments! I just read the review of “Huge” on the new york times and got so pissed off that I wrote the author of the article a letter. She totally dismisses fat acceptance by claiming that forced feeding/gaining is what we’re all about. Haven’t watched the show yet, but looking forward to just seeing more big faces. I watched yesterday’s episode of Drop Dead Diva and was really struck at how strange it felt to watch a fat woman make out with a hottie in a normal way. I’ve made out with a person in such a way and I’m fat, but I’ve never seen it performed before me as normal–it was really powerful!

  7. Hi! This is a quite a bit of a late reply. I recently watched the entire season of HUGE, and I think it’s an amazing show. Unfortunately for me, ABC decided to can the show.

    The show revolves around a summer at a weight loss camp, so of course “fat issues” will come up. But now that I’ve seen the show, I have to disagree that it’s only about this. It’s really more about being a (often lost) teenager, and with respect to my own experiences growing up, I think it is one of the most genuine representations of that.

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