Fat Television

A lot of fat issues on television right now. A puzzling little convergance considering how shut out fat people normally are.

The worst is the disgusting new reality show NBC is debuting next Tuesday, The Biggest Loser. A far more apt title than they realize. Alas, the US is finally getting hit with the diet competition reality show. A concept which spiked then flopped in Europe and I can only hope hurries up and dies here. Its getting to where I can hardly watch NBC. I tried recording or downloading the NBC shows I watch to avoid the insulting promos for Loser, but now they are doing these in-episode promots that are beyond obnoxious. Used to be they'd put a little text and maybe a little graphic in the corner of the screen. For Loser they are putting a full cast photo that fills up about a quarter of the screen. It should stop when it premieres, but it can't happen soon enough for me. Here is to hoping it is an enormous failure so we don't have to deal with this nonsense. It reminds me of my favorite diet analogy. Losing weight is as easy as holding your breath. Maintaining the weight loss is as as easy as continuing to hold your breath.

In a slightly less insulting development, the FX show Rescue Me has been doing a storyline involving a moderately fat character. Moderately fat is quite a big deal for TV considering what passes for fat. (and for more on that, see my last item) The show focuses on a group of New York City Firefighters, one of whom ends up in a relationship with a fat woman. In the first episode of the story arc, he's hesitant towards her initially but she eventually tempts his curiosity and they have sex. Suffice to say, he is entirely pleased with the experience and describes it as the best he's ever had. But he also still seems to be generally concerned with what other people will say, although by the end of the show it seems clear that he is developing genuine feelings for her. We also see the first hints of what will define her character in the second episode when she mentions that she was so hungry during their date because she hadn't eat all day. This would get a pay off in the second episode when its revealed that the woman is bulimic. A somewhat annoying development, I'd say. Why is it so hard to simply have a young, cute, fat woman who is sexual and confident without giving her a flaw. All of that is a unique enough character, something wildly unexplored in popular media. But no. She has to be bulimic. Indeed, a very successful bulimic as its suggested she used to weigh 400lbs or so. Which is not exactly realistic since the actress weighs around 250 at the most. Bulimia doesn't really work like that. Still, I'm holding out hope that they could do something with this. They aren't establishing her bulimia as a good thing and indeed she is visably upset when her firefighter boyfriend is supportive and doesn't challenge her about her eating disorder. And fat people do have eating disorders and it would be interesting to explore the way they are permited to act in such an unhealthy manner so long as it is in service of a thinner body and the way it doesn't change their life. The other firefighters see the couple together and make a series of rather vicious jokes. The only counterpoint was someone saying that its nice that he says past her body. Normally, that is the best a fat woman can hope for on a TV show, but not here. He is absolutely thrilled with her body, so I think there is an interesting dynamic here. He also clearly is not supportive of her bulimia despite his actions, but doesn't seem to know what to do with it. Like I said, I'm holding out hope, but stories like this almost always end badly for the fat positive perspective, so I'm not getting my hopes up.

Amazingly, though, Rescue Me is not the only show with a conventionally attractive young male expressing a preference for a larger woman. Sure, the other show is more a matter of TV fat as opposed to actually fat, but its something. On ABC's new Life As We Know It, we see another guy who desires a larger woman but is concerned with what his friends will think of him. So he spends most of the episode being a real dick about it before finally getting over himself. Alas, the fat girl is Kelly Osbourne, which is by no realistic definition fat. Not emaciated, sure, but I'd still liked to have seen something a bit more challenging. Still, even TV fat tends to be slimmer than Kelly and they didn't run for her fat. For most of the second act she was wearing a snug fitting blue t-shirt that rather clearly displayed her belly. Downright shocking most weeks, but with Rescue Me setting the bar a bit high this week, its pleasantly normal. That is how girls in high school dress. Even the moderately chubby ones. And here, we get a resolution all in the pilot episode as he quickly learns that despite his friends less than cheriable remarks about Kelly Osbourne's character, they ultimately don't really give a damn who he dates. Though those less than cheritable remarks were annoyingly cruel considering how not fat she was and how these friends are the co-stars of the show and supposed to be likeable. Also, Kelly's character was established as little more than a fat girl, but she is a regular cast member so presumably more will come. She's also not a bad actor.

Interestingly enough, this wasn't even all Life As We Know It did last week. In a seperate story we see a dance troupe rehearsing at school. Very contemporary hip hop stuff. I happened to notice that at least one of the dancers was conspiciously not thin. But she was up there dancing with everyone else, purely background. And while the outline of Kelly's belly was shown, the chubby dancer was baring it as she wore a revealing outfit perfectly in-line with the other dancers. Now that was shocking. I'm usually happy if a fat girl is even allowed to be a background extra in a high school show. Here, one is a lead and another is an extra in a role normally fat girls aren't allowed to be seen in. A welcome dose of reality, I must say.