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.