Cynicism still a winning bet

I've been watching the Huge blogging from afar wanting to think it was justifying the optimism that its been inspiring among fat positive viewers. While the setting always struck me as mine-field with no up-side, the notion of fat people just being on TV is incredibly radical and of course I wanted that to be a good thing. Withoutscene over at BFB, however, spots a pretty good sign of where the show really lies with an essay contest for a fat-stigmatization program scholarship.


I mean, this just pisses me off. I may be inclined to be cynical about shows like this, but it doesn't mean I want to be. It doesn't mean I don't sit around eager to proven wrong. Which, I guess, isn't really cynicism for reals, so much as a defensive mechanism.

Just... damnit.

See, here is my worst fear about Huge. That it would talk like it was body positive for a long while before pulling the switch. Only, it would take this inversion of body positivity and insist that it is actually the true end-result of body-positivity. In that, it would cut Fat Acceptance down in the same its been done before. By taking everything we say and repeating it only changing the ending to be one which serves fat stigmatization. And people have gotten away with this BS before, no matter how implausible. Soon we'll hear self-righteously about how wanting to lose weight is the obvious end result of loving yourself at any size. Doesn't matter that it makes no sense. It'll take hold and fat acceptance will be further marginalized while the only people who get to debate fatness are those with differing opinions on how to stigmatize us.


This is not a good sign, but I hesitate to say it betrays the show that a lot of people have felt positively about up until now. The people behind the show, after all, know how it turns out already. Is this a mis-guided effort at cross-marketing or have they betrayed the show's intent? We'll have to wait to see, but some people know. And I wouldn't be the least bit shocked to see them through Fat Acceptance under the bus.

Its perverse, really. What is Fat Acceptance? Its a very loose community of individual activists using their own time, money, and resources to advocate for a better life for themselves and for others by ending fat stigmatization. We're incredibly marginalized, underfunded, and disadvantaged. Yet there seems to be no end of people who want to self-righteously lump us in with those who make billions off selling fat hatred to all corners of our society. People who hate fat, but want to pretend that they are somehow more moral about it than the Me!Me!'s of the world by pulling this "a pox on both their houses" bullshit. They grandstand to soothe their ego, but at the end of the day what they call for and what the lunatic fringe of fat stigmatization call for isn't very different. Both of them want to make it unsafe to question fat stigmatization. Both of them want to disenfranchise fat activists. I'm sick of it. Whether intended by its producers or not, this product synergy with Huge will ensure no shortage of others happy to pull this act on us.

We're going to be self-righteously told to keep in our place. Don't we know fat is wrong? Don't we know we are wrong? They'll just keep asserting again and again and again how implausible and how unthinkable it is for us to think this way. We'll be disregarded into irrelevance. Any gains we might have seen from Huge would have just set up a more thorough burying.

Well, I'm sick and tired of this. If Huge is about something different, it should repudiate this contest. If it really is just an elaborate and poisonous infomercial for weight-loss camps, then it should be straight about it. Because I'm sick and tired of people using me and my beliefs to prop up their fat hatred. If you think body positivity leads to body hatred, you're insulting us.

UPDATE: Huge Co-Creator Shannon Dooley commented about this at Fatshionista. I certainly suggest you check that out, but the jist is that she is denying that there is any commercial tie-in planned between fat-stigmatization programs and the show and takes a few swipes at program at issue. This is good news, but it doesn't mean this is all about nothing, either. Whether it indicated the creator's intent or not, the show has been leveraged to promote fat hatred and this is troubling for many reasons outside of the concern that this would be reflected in the text of the program.


Anonymous said...

Agreed on all counts. I was pretty nervous about HUGE when I first started watching it, and though my pleasure at seeing fat people interact like normal teenagers with all the angst, love, attraction, suspicion, etc of the 'normal' kids soon overcame my trepidation, the feeling that I would be betrayed always remained. Truly, the novel off of which the show is based isn't exactly fat positive (though some would claim it wasn't particular fat negative, either). I guess it's too be expected --- when all the other successful shows on TV featuring fat people are about how fat is negative (unhealthy, unattractive, etc), what can one expect from network?

I also feel like the old bait & switch will be employed fairly soon. The happy Becca who is now losing weight, who is coming out of her 'shell' (I like her booky, introspective shell better, thanks), the Will who is one voice 'agin' in a chorus of pro-weight-loss messages, the growing interest of Dr. Rand in Will's progress (like Will is turning into Dr. Rand's own little personal project, some way to prove to herself that she's worthwhile and assuage her own body hatred and uncertainty), etc.

I'm waiting for Will to have some kind of "break through" where she realizes that Camp Victory has changed her and now she's going to be some thin (or at the least, smaller, acceptably 'healthy-looking' fat) basketball star who is best friends with Dr. Shay on the Outside and comes back years later to be a camp counselor, etc etc. Gah.

rebecca said...

Truly, the novel off of which the show is based isn't exactly fat positive (though some would claim it wasn't particular fat negative, either).

I'm surprised to hear you say the latter part of that -- I found it pretty much an advertisement for fat camp, with virulent fatphobia running through every aspects of it.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised to hear you say the latter part of that -- I found it pretty much an advertisement for fat camp, with virulent fatphobia running through every aspects of it.

;) I wasn't one of the "some." I was referring to the Amazon reviews.

Brian said...

The one thing that was most assuaging my dread over Huge is that these are fat people playing the part of fat characters. They can't make them thin to serve the story. I actually have the same response to "Mike and Molly", in spite of its far less nuanced approach to the subject. Short of subjecting the cast to a Biggest Loser like hell during a hiatus, the producers can't force those kinds of "happy" endings down our throats. They can't do what a book can, an evidently did in the case of Huge, and presenting perfectly scripted weight loss.

The biggest concern, of course, is that actual fat acceptance is profoundly marginalized and I have little reason to expect anyone on that show, stars included, really doubts that fat people are wrong for being fat. This is an internalized belief for most fat people. Something everyone accepts without question. They see no disconnect between what FA has to say and still concluding that fat hostility is obviously correct. THAT worries me, because it will deeply confuse the point we are trying to get across to a lot of people. We deal with that already from so many sources, but it could easily torch any benefit from the visibility of fat people if it just reinforces the same fat stigmatizing attitudes but with a fresh veneer to make it seem someone different and new, more enlightened.

rebecca said...

Ah, gotcha, bigliberty. It's the same "some" that wouldn't know fatphobia if it bit them on the ass. :)

Notblueatall said...

Yeah, I so wasn't expecting this at all. I went in blindly and love the hell out of each episode and then I read her post on BFB and...DAMN!
Perhaps this won't be part of the show though. I mean, I can still hope, yes?

Miriam Heddy said...

Brian, I actually figured they *could* make the fat actors thinner, if not thin. Most fat people can be made thinner, if only temporarily and at great cost.

Actors often voluntarily do all sorts of things to their bodies, and the actors who signed on may well have been told from the outset that they would be asked to lose weight. One of them may have even promised to lose a great deal of weight (and all it would take would be one of them doing it while the others were dressed and made-up to look thinner.

And yes, I am and remain deeply cynical about this show.

Brian said...

For the time being, I'm assuming that's decidedly outside of the show's budget, though. But if I was being really cynical, I'd remember that if they did want to do that, they'd just film it as a companion reality show.

Amy said...

It just seems along the same lines as the usual "how can you be for acceptance when you won't accept people wanting to lose weight, you hypocrites!" bullshit.

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