Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fat TV

Since the previews for the fall season started up, I've had something on my mind but haven't been able to find the words to get it out on the blog. Then I read a CNN article and a Marie Claire post. And I decided it was time to share those thoughts. As I watched the ads for "Mike & Molly," one thought kept sticking with me. What would happen if one of those actors lost a lot of weight very rapidly? I thought back to "Roseanne" and Roseanne and Dan were overweight characters. Jokes were made about their size. Health issues came up because of their weight and bad eating habits. I don't think the characters had to be obese actors but it was almost refreshing to see real people in real bodies on TV. The thing that has bothered me about "Mike & Molly" is that part of the entire premise of the show is that they are fat. They meet at Overeaters Anonymous. There are scenes of Molly on an elliptical or treadmill. Trying to be healthy but obviously struggling. What would happen if one of those actors truly put effort into losing weight? What if one of those actors dropped 50 pounds in 2 months while reruns were airing? Are we paying for these people to be obese? Is that how they are earning their salaries? I get that we want to see all body shapes and sizes on TV. We all want to feel like we are represented. In a world of skinny model reality shows and plasticized faces and bodies... so many of us want to see ourselves in the characters on TV. But why does being fat have to be the main plot point for the fat characters? Why can't they just be people who happen to be fat? And why do there have to be extremes? Why do women on TV have to either be a size 2 or a size 20? Why aren't we seeing more actresses / characters that are normal sizes like 8 or 10 or 12? Even the ABC Family show "Huge," which received praise for having a cast of plus sized characters, was based on those characters being fat. As for "Mike & Molly," are the actors being paid a bonus to stay in a certain weight range? Do they have to sit on a couch a certain number of hours each day? Are there dietary requirements with calorie counts as high as Michael Phelps on a high intensity training day? Is it possible that their jobs are forcing them to stay fat and unhealthy? Maybe "Mike & Molly" will have a different premise. Maybe the actors will start to truly be healthy and that gets written into the show. Maybe the plan is that Overeaters Anon is successful for the characters. Maybe.



Unknown said...

I don't know what show that is. I am sooooo glad there are all types of people on tv. Sometimes I feel like its just full of skinny and perfect people. It makes me sad.

Joanie said...

I remember when Oprah Winfrey was cast as Sofia in The Color Purple. She told the story where she happened to be vacationing at a fat farm. Steven Spielberg called her and told her not to lose one single pound or she'd lose the role!

Also the role of Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray (the play and the movie) are always played by fat girls.

Imagine losing your job because you're getting healthy! As Tevya would say, "Sounds crazy, no?"

Karen M. Peterson said...

I've thought about this very same thing a lot. I think it's absolutely true that just as some actors are paid to stay ridiculously skinny or hulking and muscular, others are paid to stay fat.

Hollywood is pretty screwed up.

No wonder body image is such a problem.

kbiermom said...

Right, and what about the actors/actresses who have to lose and gain weight rapidly for different roles?

Hopefully, there's a clause in their contracts that their bosses are willing to let the wardrobe and makeup department fill in the image that's appropriate for the storyline. Doubt it, because that raises production costs, but it would be possible.

On the question of why don't we see more average-sized people? IMO, because extreme behavior and images get our attention. We pay money to see people or characters whose lives seem way better or way worse than our own. As a society, we need to grow up and stop being baited by sensationalistic images and news.

Alison said...

Good points. I would love to see them slowly get healthy. And I would also love to see a couple on tv who aren't both obese...or both black...or both Asian...etc.

On the other hand, way to go Drew Carey, eh? Maybe he should guest star on Mike & Molly.

Barnmaven said...

I think people want to see people on TV who look like themselves. I am sick and tired of seeing anorectic women held up as a standard of beauty. Does that mean we should encourage people to be fat? No. But we should recognize that for all people who are fat, its not as simple as diet and exercise. There might be medical issues, PTSD, rebound issues from extreme dieting, self-image problems, recovery issues, genetics -- many things play into a person's size. We have to address the whole person, not just the weight. And in the meantime, we need to understand that people have value *just as they are*. Not just when they get thin.

As a parent I want my children to be healthy and I'll do my best to teach them what that means. But I also want my children to believe that I will love them the same whether they are fat or thin or average, gay or straight, rich or poor. If we believe that fat people shouldn't be on TV, what message do we send to people who are fat? You only have value if you're a certain size? You're not pretty if you're fat? You're not funny if you're fat?

Did you read Maura Kelly's piece at Marie Claire on how disgusting she thinks it is to see fat actors kiss on television? I almost punched my computer screen.

Momza said...

I saw "Mike and Molly"--even watched it with my husband and the writing was embarrassing to me. Over the top...esp the scene from the "morning after". Awkward.
I missed the beginning, with how they met...but I was wondering the same thing--how did the casting directors choose the actors? By the fattest ones they could find?
Too weird.
I won't be watching again.

Unknown said...

I like both of the actors in the show, so I thought I would try it. I watched the first episode and was immediately turned off at all the "fat jokes". I thought I would give it another try. Two shows later and it's just as bad if not worse. I will not be watching it any longer.

Shell said...

I haven't watched this show- b/c it's on at the same time as other things that we watch. But, I did hear all the fuss on twitter yesterday about the article.

I like how you took a different view of this instead of adding fuel to the hate. So, thank you for that.

And I think you're right. I don't know what would happen if these actors starting losing weight. If, a year or two from now, they were both at a "normal" or "thin" weight, would the show still go on?

Unknown said...

I refuse to watch this show or any like it. I'm so sick of this world being so hung up on body image. Everybody is shaped different!

Anonymous said...

I hate it too, that characters are either one extreme or another. I am constantly pointing this out to Emily. as in "That is WAY too thin."

Hate it.

How bout a size 8 or a 10? That is real.