The list of “Fat TV” shows keeps on growing

Reality TV is so passé.

Ladies and gentlemen, make room for Fat TV.

Granted, this post has been a long time coming, but as usual, the geniuses over at Jezebel finally prompted me to write it.

Yesterday, they blogged about the new A&E show, Heavy, which, unlike other shows, doesn’t involve competitions, makeovers, or the alarming brutality of Jillian Michaels. It’s simply a “docudrama” on people struggling with obesity.

As Dodai at Jezebel puts it, “Do we really need yet another show that reinforces the idea that the most important thing about fat people is not that they’re people, but that they’re fat?”

I don’t know — you tell me. Here is at least a partial list of the fat-centric shows that have recently filled up TV time slots: Huge, More To Love, The Biggest Loser, Mike & Molly, Ruby, Drop Dead Diva, I Used to Be Fat, Dance Your Ass Off, and of course, the upcoming plus-sized version of The Bad Girl’s Club.

In 2009, The F-Word.org cited a television study that found, “while some 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, only 24 percent of male characters and 13 percent of female characters were fat. And the roles are as token as the actors, especially for women and even more starkly, for black women. Fat characters are more likely to be in minor roles, less likely to be involved in romantic relationships, have fewer positive interactions than thin characters, and were often made the butt of jokes.”

So, has the overwhelming onslaught of Fat TV programming improved the situation?

It’s hard to tell. But blogger Bonnie Erbe wrote, “I don’t agree, however, that it’s a ‘sudden fascination with fat.’ Remember Roseanne on ABC that launched 21 years ago and enjoyed a nine-year run?”

That’s funny, I thought Roseanne was a comedy about the realities of middle class family life. I don’t remember an episode arc focused on Roseanne’s struggle to fit into skinny jeans or Dan’s tireless quest for a six-pack (unless it was, of course, an actual six-pack of beer).

I’m not sure whether Fat TV is helping or hurting the (mis)representation of various shapes and sizes in American entertainment. All I know is, we could probably use some more shows like Glee that incorporate cast members of all kinds, and don’t feel the need to pat themselves on the back or declare their diversity in attention-grabbing ways.

Besides, all those montages of strenuous workouts are really annoying to watch while vegging out on the couch.

Michelle Konstantinovsky is a student at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and an avid admirer of shiny objects and preteen entertainment. It would be nice if you visited her website: www.michellekmedia.com. Also, she may learn to use Twitter more effectively if you follow her @michelley415.

8 thoughts on “The list of “Fat TV” shows keeps on growing

  1. You forgot one…TLC was doing a special edition of Say Yes to the Dress called “Say Yes to the Dress: Big Bliss” about overweight women buying wedding gowns. I couldn’t watch it, I was so disgusted…I don’t know if it’s still on, but I know it existed for at least a time. SO AWFUL.

  2. I have finally made my mind up that I am full on against fat focused TV shows. It only encourages our weight obsessed culture to even more obsess over weight, whether it be about being thin, dieting or losing weight, or being fat. Just no. No more!

  3. I have just started watching re-runs of Roseanne and absolutely love it. I’ve been remembering how, at the time it first came out, a big deal was made about Roseanne’s weight. Now I look at it and think “what was the fuss about?” It’s wonderful to see people off all shapes and sizes on the tv that are just living their lives, not spending every moment talking about their weight.

  4. With so many TV shows aimed at getting away from fat, there is a sure focus on being skinny. With all the hype of losing weight I think this idea of being skinny is seen by all shapes, not just over weight people.

    When all the talk is be smaller and lose weight, what kind of ideal is already slim people seeing. What about adolescents who are “loosing baby weight?” Is there a limit to being skinny? Is the ideal of the US people that we all need to be skinnier, not just the people we see on the TV?

  5. While I agree that TV is sensationalist and sends all the wrong messages out to people (and enjoyed this article), I think that this probably is not new to most of us. In addition, while I myself am an avid Glee fan, even Glee this season has been focused more on stereotypes than characters.

  6. Fat reality shows. Fat people longing to be thin. The only dreams and desires they have are to be thin, thin, thin. So much, that other things in life, like work and relationships, family and hobbies diminish in the light of something WAY more important than living – BEING THIN!!!
    I do not watch any of these ridiculous shows that only perpetuate fat hate and self loathing. They make me sick!

  7. While I agree there needs to be more focus on who fat people are, rather than it being about being fat. I found Heavy to be a positive, and realistic portrayal of how to become healthy.

    Yes inevitably, as with all these shows, it’s about the weight lost. However, I applaud A&E for finding fitness experts who have understanding and compassion for their clients.

    If anything positive comes of this show, it will be showing there are professional trainers that care and will take your limits into consideration, vs being bullying like Jillian. At least that should make professional trainers, and people seeking them out feel less anxious about meeting and working out.

    Also, i didn’t know the show just started airing, they already had a few episodes available on Zune.

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