So, one of my favorite new shows, the medical drama House, had a fat patient on this week. I know the show isn't really about the patients, but on the heels of CSI's take on fat people, I had really been dreading this show. Have to say, though, in spite of a couple nit-picks I'm generally quite pleased. I could hardly hope for a perfect show, but this was light years ahead of what others have done.
Some of it was heavy-handed, no doubt. Fat kids are treated very cruelly growing up, but the level of cruelty here was pretty extreme. Sadly, not unheard of, though. But the feelings of the child were handled realistically and appropriately. It was also nice to doctors treating a fat patient as a patient and not simply as a fat patient. A lot of fat people get ignored by doctors who simply don't pay attention to them because they assume any problem they have is caused by being fat and being fat is entirely their fault. The mother's indignation at being told the cure was "diet and excercise" was quite well played and gave an insight into the feelings of a lot of fat people who do everything right but are still treated as liars because they don't become thin. An impact soften by the magic bullet ending, but I don't think it completely undid that point. Especially since two of the show's doctors were both sympathetic to the idea that the fat wasn't the girl's fault early on. The one doctor who was hostile, sadly, was also realistic. "Of course you're sick, you're fat" is all too common an attitude from doctors who are trained to view fat as a moral failing. His hatred is something encouraged and largely unquestioned in the medical establishments. Doctors who do raise valid questions about the strength of the anti-fat arguement are routinely belittled and mocked with a lot more venom than hostie doc ever portrayed. It was realistic and I'm glad it was played out like his attitude was unassailable.
The main nitpicks I had are with the casting of the mom. Thought she was great and all, but the notion that she was clearly fat puzzled me. She seemed quite entirely normal to me. But the characterization was so strong that I don't much care. Its refreshing to see a parent so genuinely supportive, not to mention entirely right. Given that parents and patients on House tend to be pathological liars, it was nice to see the reversal here. I'm more concerned with the magical and instantanious weight loss at the end. It did seem to give the idea that all of her suffering was wrong not because it was just wrong but because she wasn't meant to be fat. It doesn't hit us over the head with that idea, though, but I'm always cautious about happy endings for fat characters that involve them no longer being fat. I would have been happier if we didn't have that epilogue at all as it seemed to just be intended to validate the girl as an innocent when she would have been no matter what. It also justified the casting of a thin actress for a fat character, which is always annoying. While the make-up was better than some, it was still pretty obvious and I realized 5 minutes in that the girl was going to be thin by the end of the show. Especially given the necessary timeline, the epilogue just didn't make sense to me. Still, we got the great line from the mom to counteract the hostile doc's unknowningly obnoxious line, so that redeems it a bit. But the fewer fat suits on TV, the better.
As a bonus, there was a side plot involving a fat woman who didn't want to have a rather large benign tumor removed because she liked her size. While her reason seemed to be mostly sexual vanity, it was a cute bit nonetheless, and an attitude sorely lacking from most of pop culture.