Sunday, September 26, 2010


Many years ago a friend sent me some tapes of the Gilmore Girls. She was convinced I would love the show. She was right. I loved the cultural hipness, the town full of characters, the mother daughter relationships and maybe most of all I loved how many fat people were in the show. There were fat people and I only remember one fat joke in all of the episodes.
I especially loved Suki. Suki was the best friend, business partner and chef extraordinaire. Her working kitchen was always charming (although unrealistic). Her enthusiasm for cooking was big fun. And she had a flirtation that became a relationship and a marriage. She had two kids and was pregnant with her third when the show ended. In other words she had a full life and there was never any mention of her weight.
I don't think the actor, Mellisa McCarthy, was particularly fat radical. I don't really follow entertainment news but I think I would have heard if she was advocating for the fat revolution and I never have. And truthfully, I don't really care. I love fat radicals but I don't think every fat person has to represent. Still, I have watched for McCarthy and was happy to hear that she had a new show. What a disappointment.
I knew the show was about two people who meet at an OE meeting, which was problematic but I hoped for some amount of rebelliousness to offset all of that. The show is filled with mean spirited jokes most of which are aimed at the two main fat characters. And really, meanness is rarely funny to me. There are exceptions, times when a mean character brings something to the whole but it's rare.
Melissa McCarthy is an actor trying to make a living. And I suspect she sees her weight as a problem. Sad. Frustrating. But it's her life. I watched the show because of her but I won't continue to watch.
I ended up loving Huge. It never seemed to me that they were shilling for weight loss. In fact I think they portrayed how problematic a focus on weight loss can be. And an exchange between the head of the fat camp and our rebel grrrl was sweet and revealing. What did the leader get out of weight loss? She hated herself a little less. Is that all there is? Yep. The show tapped into a lot of social dynamics and I liked it.
I usually try to watch any show in which fat people are represented, even the weight loss shows. I can't usually watch those for more than a few minutes. They aren't useful. I have watched a bit of Too Fat for Fifteen, which portrays a real life fat camp. Hard to bear but there was a moment that stuck with me.
One of the teens has an illness ( the name of which I don't know), which has caused her knees to grow inward. She's had a lot of surgeries and spent a lot of time in bed as a result. She loves to read. She's the largest camper and she's fierce. She wanted to participate in a race and the medical adviser said she couldn't. I suspect there were concerns about her strength and stamina. There are two exercise councilors, one male and one female. The female councilor was upset about the decision. The male councilor accused the medical adviser of trying to cover her own ass. I was struck by how unwilling they were to consider a medical condition. For them it was all about pushing the kids. However, the woman councilor seemed to believe that the girls could do the race and was sincerely frustrated. She was in tears.
So Michele Obama, Jaime Oliver, all the well meaning people who talk in terms of childhood obesity and this councilor make me so sad. They do not get it. I support kids eating better food. I support kids getting exercise. I don't think they need to become athletes. Any amount of exercise will benefit any of us. Pushing kids to be something they aren't is hurtful.
I was that kid who would rather be reading. I always loved swimming. I always loved dancing. We never had a car so walked everywhere and I loved walking. I never liked team sports. I was never any good at them and I had no interest in learning. I loved yoga from the minute I learned about it. Different people. Different weights. It's about diversity and nature and teaching kids to ind their own truth. One of the kids on that show had a gall bladder attack. Rabid weight loss is associated with gall bladder illness. Why not just teach the kids how to raise and cook great food and enjoy their bodies in motion and bag the weight loss focus? Is it really about health? Or is it about hate?
Something about seeing "Suki" as a self hating fat woman breaks my heart. I realize these are both characters on a television show. I also realize that there's a fat actor who seems to devolved. The people who write the mean jokes are the haters I've always had in my life. They're boring and not worth much energy. Representation matters and fat hatred has become so ramped up. It's exhausting.


Rachele from The Nearsighted Owl said...

Very well written! I thought the same thing when I watched the first episode of Mike & Molly. I was very sad and disappointed because I loved Suki sooo much.

Tish said...

Thanks! I watched it a few more times but it never got better.