Fatty TV: OMGWTFBBW!

I’ve got a feature about “More to Love” and “Drop Dead Diva” up at Salon today, and since I’m not putting myself through the agony of dealing with comments there, I’d love to hear what you guys think here.

I had to cut a lot of things out of that because I am so long-winded it’s not even funny, and I worry a bit that my argument ended up muddled. (Also, it started as a trend piece on how I actually am seeing little positive signs that pop culture is getting fat-friendlier, but once we decided it should be pegged to “More to Love,” that kind of went out the window.) Basically, the question I was dealing with was: Is some representation better than no representation? And I’m inclined to say yes, even if the representation we get is loaded with negative stereotypes. It seems to me that getting fat people on TV in noteworthy numbers at ALL is at least a step in the right direction, and given how much fat hate permeates our culture, I am so utterly unsurprised by the shitty parts that I can’t even be outraged. So I’m not as interested in how these particular shows are representing fatties as I am in what will come next, based on how they do. Will the point-and-laugh market get priority, so we’ll see yet more humiliation of fat people? Does simply having more fat people on TV humanize us a bit  – in that at least we’re seeing fatties as different individuals with their own personalities — or are the stereotypes and nasty editing in the reality shows just dehumanizing us in larger numbers? Will these shows tank and only reaffirm the idea that no one wants to watch fat people on TV, for reasons positive or negative? I don’t really know yet, but I know that before this fatty programming boomlet, there was no opportunity to even ask those questions. 

As to the specific shows, having watched 2 episodes of “Drop Dead Diva” and one of “More to Love,” I’d put the former at about 70% fat positive and the latter at about 20%. But shit, the fact that the 20% was even there in “More to Love” surprised me. One thing I ended up cutting in the Salon article is that in the introductory interviews, some of the women espoused basic fat acceptance principles. One talked about how she realized that she had to learn to love her body in order to be ready for a healthy relationship. Another one, identified as a fitness trainer, was like, “Look, some people just aren’t going to end up thin, no matter what they do” — and she said it in a very “whatever” way, not a “woe is me” way. HAES 101 might have just slipped into Fox prime time! Granted, more women than not cried about all the romantic disappointments they attributed to their weight, one wished she could lose 50 lbs., one said she rejects the label “fat,” one has some fucked-up antifeminist fantasy of being appreciated for her “wifey-mom skills,” and some of the ones who express confidence seem like they’re posturing. The flipside of 20% good is, of course, 80% suck. But I was so primed for 110% suck, the parts that didn’t make me cringe were actually impressive. 

One thing I did say in the article, but wish I could have elaborated on, is that it’s a little mind-blowing to see the “star” of the show going on and on about how amazingly beautiful he thinks all these women are — and even just getting to see 20 fat women who do, in fact, look fantastic on a television screen. Unfortunately, being objectified just like thin women can’t exactly be considered a victory, and they’re all made up to conform to conventional beauty standards as much as possible, and yes, some of the audience will not only mock the fat girls in their pretty dresses but the dude who actually thinks they’re hot. Despite all that, it’s something we’ve never seen on TV before, so I think there’s at least a modicum of value in it. 

As for “Drop Dead Diva,” I think my biggest problem with it is that it’s a pretty standard Lifetime show. (I may belong to their target demographic, but I’m not really who their programming is made for.) But even with the stereotypical bullshit regarding food and exercise, by the second episode, I was convinced that they’re genuinely trying to do something positive here, and at least partially pulling it off. This is one where I think feedback could actually have an effect — if we tell them we’ll watch and promote it if they axe the fucking donut and easy cheese jokes, they might actually listen. Unlike “More to Love,” which really only gets points for not immediately sending me into a blind rage, I think “Drop Dead Diva” actually has potential. 

Shapelings, what do you think about all this?

Update: Forgot to mention Marianne did a fab review of “More to Love” for The Daily Beast, and Lesley will be recapping it at Fatshionista, which I am so excited for, I can’t even tell you. (Also, I added the subtitle to this post after recalling a conversation with Marianne regarding her comments about the connection between Luke’s barbecue lust and the likelihood that he’s into BBW porn.)

126 thoughts on “Fatty TV: OMGWTFBBW!

  1. I’m new to this site, and curious about your thoughts on “Drop Dead Diva” co-star Margaret Cho, who once said in a standup special, “For me, being 10 lbs thinner is a full-time job, and I am handing in my notice and walking out the door!”…. and then lost probably 20 pounds, if not more.

  2. I agree that Drop Dead Diva has potential. I cringed at the donut jokes, too, but even there I think they were at least *trying* to make a serious point along with the bad joke. I think that the show affirms the idea that even if spending life on the treadmill eating celery would make one thin, it is preferable to do other constructive things with your life rather than making being thin your full-time job. I think particularly for people who believe that they would be thin if they just tried enough, that could be a pretty empowering message.

  3. I refuse to watch More to Love, but I agree about DDD. I was VERY hesitant to watch, but aside from the points you’ve made, I, too, think that it has potential. I was especially pleased with the 2nd episode’s acknowledgment of the ‘fat as a disability’ issue. And the 3rd episode was *almost* a tv show with a fat character like any other character. Almost. Again, I am going to keep watching to see where it goes. I tend to not watch sitcoms, especially on Lifetime, but it’s just SO NICE to see a fat woman on tv. So nice.

  4. I cringed at the donut jokes, too, but even there I think they were at least *trying* to make a serious point along with the bad joke.

    Yeah, I do think that in some ways, it’s good that they present the thin women as going to ludicrous extremes to remain so, prioritizing calorie-counting and exercising to the exclusion of having full lives. It’s just that we’re so conditioned to seeing calorie-counting and exercise as “healthy” and fatness (regardless of eating and exercise habits) as “unhealthy,” that may be too subtle for a lot of the audience.

  5. I missed the first episode of Drop Dead Diva, but watched the second and third…it does definitely have potential. I’m fairly sure that at least one of the writers (or whomever) has a basic grasp of FA ; the bit in the second episode about euphemisms for fat and that fat is an adjective, not an insult was at least 102 level! So if they manage to have more scenes like that and fewer donut jokes, that would be awesome. Also, I hope they give Margaret Cho more to do. :)

  6. I thought the point you made about plus sized people on the normal Bachelor getting axed immediately was interesting, and It reminded me a bit of America’s Next Top Model, which I used to watch. I always got very frustrated that the not at all fat “plus” sized models had some serious issues. I think it would be interesting to see actually fat women in some kind of beauty competition, but then… it would be a beauty competition so that’s less good. Or maybe a designing show that completely eschewed the use of size 0 models? That’d be pretty interesting.

    Also, one of these shows should star Me because I’m tired of having a desk job.

  7. I think it would be interesting to see actually fat women in some kind of beauty competition, but then… it would be a beauty competition so that’s less good.

    Mo’nique’s Fat Chance did that, but I didn’t watch, so I can’t tell you how good it was.

  8. “since I’m not putting myself through the agony of dealing with comments there”

    At what point does one learn to stop doing things she knows will make her crazy? Because I always read comments, even when I’ve been warned, even when I could predict what people will be spewing, even when I’ve already been pissed off several times that day and have reached my quotient for righteous but pointless ire.

    Oh, right, topic: for you I will watch Lifetime and report back. It does seem promising, although if an economically privileged fat lawyer isn’t getting the good cheese, I despair.

  9. Mo’nique’s Fat Chance did that, but I didn’t watch, so I can’t tell you how good it was.

    I tried to watch it, and I recall disliking it, but I could also be confusing that with Charm School, which I also didn’t like.

  10. Kate wrote:
    “Yeah, I do think that in some ways, it’s good that they present the thin women as going to ludicrous extremes to remain so, prioritizing calorie-counting and exercising to the exclusion of having full lives.”

    Hrmmm… that’s actually the part of the show that really bothered me. While some thin women do that, I suspect that most of them don’t. Just like most fat women don’t drool over cheese whiz every chance they get. I don’t care for the dichotomies they’re setting up, women are either thin and shallow or thin and bitchy or they’re fat and smart and nice. It’s a little cringe inducing for me.

    I’d really like a show where woman are seen as, you know, people whose internal characteristics are largely independent of their external appearance.

    And while I’m wishing, I’d also like a pony.

  11. The only representation I see of fat women here on japanese tv comes in the format of some “fat” woman about a US size 8 trying to get to “beauty weight” of a bmi 17 by going on a liquid diet.

    I’m all for US tv’s version. It makes me feel human.

  12. I’m so glad you wrote about this Kate–I’ve been watching Drop Dead Diva and wondering what the Fatosphere would think. I agree that the good outweighs (lolz) the bad there. I feel like they’re leaning towards making the point that Jane/Deb’s eating habits are actually normal (in that most of us generally eat three meals a day and would eat donuts if they were around the office) and the model friend’s “health routine” is not.

    In the last episode Rosie O’Donnell muses about how she’d like to spend time on a beach in a thong, which was probably supposed to be a cheap shot, but it seems so much like something Rosie would have said in her talk show persona I’ll let it slide.

    Although I have to say, as much as I enjoy watching the actress who plays Jane (seeing a beautiful, well-dressed fat woman on TV is fun), the more they have her “Deb” personality come through the more I itch to turn it off. Maybe Jane’s soul will stage a coup and return to continue being an awesome fat female, lawyer and do-gooder–I’d watch that show.

    Can’t stand dating shows, but the guy on More to Love looks cute. I think that visual familiarity is worth a lot. Even if people tune into that show out of curiosity/sideshow mentality, seeing lots of gorgeous fat women dressed up, doing fun things and being objectified–i.e. presented as desirable–can’t help but diversify people’s notions of what it means to be sexy, imho. (And then, of course, we’ll have to deal with the completely different problem of the group of women who aren’t taken seriously because of their attractiveness no longer being limited to the young, thin and blond.)

    And again, I don’t watch dating shows, but it seems to me that crying and being presented as Can’t Find a Man would be a common portrayal of women of any size on those shows–can anyone comment? I’m basing this on the Bachelor clips of Melissa that they showed on Dancing With the Stars. She always read as strong and self-confident on DWTS and helpless and unsure on the Bachelor, at least in those excerpts.

  13. I want to like “Drop Dead Diva.” I can feel myself consciously trying not to be too critical of it (that was especially during the pilot). Because on some level any even semi-positive representation of a fat woman on tv is a good thing. For all the cliches employed about Jane’s life being so pathetic other than having a fabulous job and a fabulous car, she has the job and the car and the brains. That’s a step up from a lot of previous fat characters, especially women.

    I know, we were talking about this over on the comm, and someone pointed out the stereotype of “pretty=stupid” and “fat/ugly=brains” for women being employed here, but at the same time, fat people are also frequently characterized as stupid or lower class (cause they’re so dumb they don’t know they’re fat, yanno). So a fat woman who is a genius? I can support that.

    The only really big sticking point for me is that Jane appears to have no friends aside from her assistant and that makes me nutty. I have some of the stereotypical “sad single fat girl” behaviors (comfort eating of baby donuts, watching tv in my sweats, doing crafty things instead of going out on dates) but I have a lot of friends. The “she is such a pathetic loser she literally has no one who cares she was in an accident” was a bridge too far.

    The second episode was a pleasant surprise, though, with Deb’s reaction and especially the client’s reaction to the disability meme. As killedbyllamas said, someone on that writing staff knows what they’re talking about.

    Needs more Margaret Cho, though. Hopefully the painful parts may start to fade if the show sticks around long enough to develop the characters (I’d love to see Deb trying to diet in Jane’s body and having to come to grips with the fact that she may get it into better overall shape but it’s never going to shrink no matter what she does; I’m also hoping since it’s Lifetime we’ll get some Fat Girl Dating stuff, aside from the former BF guy).

    Not watching More To Love, mostly because I’m not a big reality fan. Though I was thinking about it much the same way – any moments that are not full of self-loathing and fat hate would’ve surprised me, so it’s more a “it could’ve been more offensive and it wasn’t!”

    DRST

  14. Side question about modern feminism (I *think* I’m 3rd generation feminist) — is there a third-gen feminist way to embrace the career of a ‘household executive’? It’s not something I can do myself, I’m just not talented enough at that sort of thing and I AM talented at my regular work (librarian).

  15. While some thin women do that, I suspect that most of them don’t. Just like most fat women don’t drool over cheese whiz every chance they get. I don’t care for the dichotomies they’re setting up, women are either thin and shallow or thin and bitchy or they’re fat and smart and nice. It’s a little cringe inducing for me.

    I totally agree with that, actually, and should have said so upthread. Presenting only one kind of thin woman and one kind of fat woman — and making them polar opposites — is hugely problematic. But I do appreciate that they’re presenting an obsessive focus on calories and working out as disordered, even if they don’t explicitly say so.

  16. [i]Or maybe a designing show that completely eschewed the use of size 0 models? That’d be pretty interesting. [/i]

    Dearth of plus-size fashion options is getting more attention in the fashion media…seems like a competition to design a plus-size line would be a no-brainer.

  17. followup to my comment…
    suddenly I’m afraid that sounds like trolling!
    This is the only feminist-type blog I follow because I squicked out of 2nd gen feminism years ago, and I find now that I have trouble following postmodern feminist arguments without my brain demanding Tetris instead. So, that was a serious question, sparked by the ‘fucked-up antifeminist fantasy of being appreciated for her “wifey-mom skills.”‘ comment

  18. And again, I don’t watch dating shows, but it seems to me that crying and being presented as Can’t Find a Man would be a common portrayal of women of any size on those shows–can anyone comment?

    Oh, totally. I had more about that in the first draft of the Salon piece, too. This is a bog standard televised dating competition, except for everyone being fat. Which means, unfortunately, that EVERYTHING is filtered through fatness, so the completely typical, “Waah, I can’t find love and I somehow believe that publicly competing for a man I’ve never met will solve that problem” shit becomes all about the women’s weight, instead of about their being the kind of women who think going on a show like this is a good idea.

  19. Is some representation better than no representation? I would say yes. It puts a face and some humanity on the headless fatties. The show that comes to mind for me is ‘Ruby’, whatever issues I have with the show there is no denying that Ruby herself is just a lovely person. That’s an important idea to get into people’s heads – that fat people aren’t some type of horrible “other”. Maybe they’ll start to re-think some of the judgements they make about fat people.

    I really need some coffee before I dive into this kind of serious thinking. :)

  20. I forgot – the one thing that made me apoplectic watching DDD was that Lifetime was running infomercials for “magic pill” diet aids during the show!!!! It was like “okay we’ll hook all you fatties into watching and then cram more of this shit down your throats while we have your attention!”

    I know it probably wasn’t a conscious decision by the network, but it grilled my cheese.

    DRST

  21. In the face of entities like “raunch culture” and commercialized gangsta rap (and no, I don’t mean NWA), I’m going to have to think more about the opening question. of “no representation” v. “fragmented inaccurate distorted representation”.

    I mean, there are people whose response to learning the President’s middle name was Hussein was to say out loud — and I know ’cause I heard it more than once — “I’m not going to vote for him! He’s MUSLIM!”

    So.

    “HAES 101 might have just slipped into Fox prime time!”
    It is truly the end of the world as we know it.
    (And I don’t feel fine yet. Anyone??)

  22. DRST’s comment about the commercials reminded me, that if anyone is curious DDD is available on Lifetime’s website. You can watch all the episodes and there’s only one commercial at the beginning (the one I saw was for toothpaste). I don’t have a TV, so I watched all the eps there.

  23. I watched DDD’s second episode. It was nice seeing a fat woman star on the show, but I didn’t like the diva persona. She annoyed me. Overall, I got the sense that the show has potential and would hopefully grow to reflect more fat acceptance. I can’t watch it as it is now because of the diet/weight loss conversations. Triggers me too much.

    I long for a show that has a fat woman as, oh, a police detective or an FBI agent, and NOTHING is said about her size.

  24. I only watched the first episode for my future husband, Sean Maher (he played the client, the grieving widower) but I was surprised at how much less offensive it was than I was expecting. Yes, there were a lot of cheap shots. And no, “less offensive” is not going to keep me coming back weekly. But it could have been so, so much worse.

  25. I might try to watch the first few episodes of DDD. What turns me off here is the idea that the clever, competent woman who was doing her best to help others had to die so that the vapid, useless woman who only cares about herself can “learn a lesson”.

    Sacrificing characters like that just seems like an exciting new version of an old trope that posits the “valuable” character as the hero, and the “lesser” character as having to die to improve the hero’s circumstance. I’ve seen a lot of variations on this, and none of them have ever seemed like a good idea.

  26. Sacrificing characters like that just seems like an exciting new version of an old trope that posits the “valuable” character as the hero, and the “lesser” character as having to die to improve the hero’s circumstance. I’ve seen a lot of variations on this, and none of them have ever seemed like a good idea.

    Ooh, really interesting point. I hadn’t even thought much about Jane’s death, which tells you something right there.

  27. I think what is so monumental about this round of “fat shows” is that with the coalescence of the fat-o-sphere, there is now place to have a dialogue about the shows without all the pop culture ridicule. Not only that, fat voices are being asked to talk about the shows in more mainstream venues, from a fat-nuetral, size positive perspective. That’s pretty fucking ground-breaking.

    There have been fat centered shows in the past. I don’t know if any of you are old enough to remember the TV show Babes in 1990 with Wendy Jo Sperber about three fat sisters, and then,of course, there was Roseanne. And more recently The Parkers and Fat Chance from Mo’Nique in 2005. But even three years ago, while fat blogs existed and these shows were discussed, they weren’t given the credence that they are today.

    There has been a sea change where fat voices have finally gained a validity that has long been denied. We are allowed to talk about our thoughts, feelings, and perspectives, and GASP, the mainstream (or at least part of it) thinks we are worth listening to.

    This, I must say, is much more exciting than the actual content of the shows. Kate on Salon, Marianne on the Daily Beast and the numerous other fat activist/writers/blogger that have been on various print, radio, and television outlets of late makes me cautiously optimistic about the direction of the movement in general. At least we are gaining momentum.

  28. I’ve been waiting for a post on Drop Dead Diva. I find myself enjoying it, despite some glaring issues. The second episode’s closing statement was, I think, excellent, and I agree that the third episode almost managed to treat Jane as though her size isn’t relevant to her life/job/character. At the same time, realistically speaking, it’s natural to be unsure how to react to a change in your body – no less an entirely new body. I think Deb’s reaction is, unfortunately, to be expected, but there’s room for a lot of improvement.

  29. Jenne — I was taken aback by that, too, but didn’t want to say anything since I haven’t actually seen the show. I think it’s perfectly possible to be a feminist stay-at-home-mom, however you want to call it (another blog I read had a rather awesome thread on reclaiming “hussy”, which derives from “housewife”), but it’s also likely that the woman on the show expressed her wife/mom yearnings in a way that would have been completely cringeworthy for me, too.

  30. Kate, thanks for posting this! I, too, have been watching DDD and have been *dying* to find out what my fellow Shapelings thought of it.

    I thought the pilot was, by far, the worst episode of the three that have aired, what with the easy fat jokes and doughnut obsession and all. But since then, each epsiode has impressed me a little more with its willingness to not toe the line when it comes to typical messages about fat women — I *loved* the weight discrimination case and how it was handled, and I also thought that it was nice that Jane/Deb resisted her friend’s attempts to change her and called her out on it, rather than jumping on the obsessive dieting train to try to get back to “Deb weight.”

    I agree, though — it would be nice to have a little more insight into the original Jane, and it would be cool to see the “flip-side” of Stacy (i.e., a friend of Jane’s who finds out the truth and has to deal with it from the perspective of having a new person in hir friend’s body).

  31. “My thoughts on the shows?

    Still not missing TV after giving it up a few months ago”

    Good for you, Mary Sue. I’m thinking about doing it myself. I’m sick of having sanity watchers points depleted every time I turn on the tube.

    Then again, said sanity watchers points also diminish when I read news sites–I just saw a headline on latimes.com that equated a tax on junk food would be a tax on fat people. Gak.

  32. Also, according to an article I read on her, Brooke Elliot is in an all-female stage combat group called “Babes With Blades,” so she can stay.

  33. I think it’s perfectly possible to be a feminist stay-at-home-mom, however you want to call it (another blog I read had a rather awesome thread on reclaiming “hussy”, which derives from “housewife”), but it’s also likely that the woman on the show expressed her wife/mom yearnings in a way that would have been completely cringeworthy for me, too.

    This — it was totally the way she expressed it. Not only, “I want to bake for a man and have him be amazed by my wifey-mom skills” (I paraphrase, though “wifey-mom skills” is a direct quote), but she then went on to say she knows most women today aren’t into serving their men, but maybe she belongs in a different era. It was totally about pleasing a man by being a ’50s housewife, not just wanting to be a SAHM for her own reasons.

  34. I haven’t watched any of the new fatty-featuring shows…nor any other shows, lately, actually…BUT just in general, I think shows with fatties that don’t involve weight loss are a positive step, even if they’re wall-to-wall tropes and cliches and yawn-inducing stereotypes. Foot in the door, and all….and there’s evolution to look forward to. Right? Right?!

    And I have to agree with Shinobi:

    Also, one of these shows should star Me because I’m tired of having a desk job.

  35. Cassi, thanks for the heads up about it being online, that’s the only way I watch tv too!
    I, obviously, haven’t seen DDD yet, but this thread reminds me of a shit my pants moment a few months ago from Desperate Housewives. It’s really a horrible show, but I can’t resist the trainwreck of its ridiculousness. Anyway, Carlos hires his roommate/f-buddy from his college days to help revamp the business. Of course, Gabby is jealous, so she visits them at the office. When she discovers his friend is fatty fat, her jealousy goes out the window. Later at dinner, she mentions how the friend has really let herself go, hasn’t she? He says, umm..no, she’s always looked like that. Gabby freaks out, saying you mean, you had sex with a fat woman? I thought you only liked thin women like me? He says something to the effect that he likes women that have an attractive personality, fat or not. I couldn’t believe such dialogue could come from that show.

  36. In the wake of yet another mainstream news blast about the obesity epidemic costing umpty-ump BILLION DOLLARS blah, blah, blah (why do i watch television news? WHY??somebody stop me!!!), and despite my dislike of Lifetime TV, I watched all 3 episodes of DDD. I have to say that watching a fat woman on ANY TV, is nice for a change. She looks like regular person to me, not one of the headless, lazy, undisciplined, useless, billion dollar costing fatties responsible for our health care collapse. Maybe others might see Jane as a person/TV character and not One Of The Guilty? Is it possible that fat women actually do other things besides be a fat burden on society?
    I wonder how long the show will last and how much bullshit it will either spew or deal with?

  37. @Sarah, @Jenne, @Kate Harding, thank you for clarifying vis-a-vis SAHM / “antifeminist”. I am a proud stay-at-home mom who loves impressing people with my baking, etc. Not to serve a man though, it’s just a big part of me living my life out creatively and loving it very much!

    So, as to the question,”Is some representation better than no representation”? Well, certainly fatties and fat women have been represented in pop culture for a long while. If you mean, fat women represented as worthwhile individuals, then yes, it sounds like these shows are making baby steps.

    I have often thought of pop culture as not only something that influences many, but also being a window as to what we are thinking about, mulling over. So even if the shows sucked that 80% or whatever, it might mean more people out there are thinking of fatties as people with rights, people worthwhile. And that’s a good thing, even if the shows themselves have a lot of drivel.

    I don’t own a TV and in general watching reality shows sucks up my sanity points, big time. Thanks for the article and the coverage.

  38. I do think it’s a good thing to have a show with fat people on it and not have it be all about weight loss, but…I don’t know, I struggle a lot with the way Marianne described MTL being presented, with the platters of food and all that shit. (I haven’t seen either show.) And it’s also bothersome to me to watch a dating show that presents women that look nothing like me as being the (fat) ideal (hourglassesque, big-breasted, etc.) – that’s a personal struggle for me as well. I just want there to be a show on TV that presents fat people as just people, but I know damn well that is a pipey pipe dream from Pipertown.

    I would say to anyone who goes to read Marianne’s article at the Daily Beast that they need to avoid the comments – the hatred and scapegoating going on in there is appalling and made me really, really upset. And I’m generally very hard to upset.

  39. Sorry, I hadn’t gotten that far in the article to see you’d mentioned Margaret Cho already. I’ll stop talking now. :)

  40. HA! This is amazing. It’s the Shapeling Mind Meld. I’m so glad I came here first. I literally just sat down at my computer with the intention of writing about the portrayal of fat people on TV. Well, more specifically, I am planning a post that targets the Travel Channel, an obsession of mine, because it galls me that fat men are given a lot of leeway on that channel and yet I’ve never ONCE seen a fat woman have a prominent spot (and of course Bourdain openly hates fat people somehow even though he also openly takes joy and a certain measure of pride in eating/drinking/smoking/not being a stereotype of healthy).

    Let’s face it, Woman Vs. Food would NEVER have made the air. IT IRKS ME.

    I haven’t seen the shows this speaks of yet (well, knowing me, maybe never, since I don’t watch much TV anyway and I usually keep to my geek stations cuz I’m nerdriffic like that) but this was a great piece and Kate, you make an excellent point. I think it’s really asking to much to not let anything on the air until it’s something that’s perfectly fat friendly, HAES, hey, not racist/sexist/ableist/ bla bla bla while we’re at it… that’s the world we aspire to, and I think we can get there, but we sure ain’t there YET, and I don’t think we CAN get there until we get the baby steps where the mainstream is actually exposed to images of fat people being “people, adjective fat,” instead of the usual other way around! Progression! There is no magic wand.

    For me personally, coming to FA was not an instant thing. There was that “ah HA” click moment, yes (involving SP actually), but up until that point it was years of slowly, gradually being exposed to such ideas… my mind wasn’t open just yet and I think I might never have got here if I hadn’t had prior mental preparation for the message. Those who tried to give me the message that fat=okay before I was ready got the “but ewwww fat!” response. You know? So here we go. Baby steps. We don’t have to “settle” for them, we can look forward to what’s next, but here we have the tiny beginnings. YAY.

    Maybe I won’t complain QUITE as hard in my piece, having read this and gained some perspective. Maybe. Quite.

  41. “watching tv in my sweats”

    @DRST
    Personally, I try to save my Chanel suit for playing Playstation.
    But that’s just me. :-D

  42. reading the article now, only I have to disagree with your statement that “”Drop Dead Diva” is the first remotely watchable show starring a fat woman since “Roseanne” went off the air 12 years ago”.

    Actually, “Living Single” (1993-1998) starred Queen Latifah, Kim Fields, Kim Coles, and Erika Alexander; of those, only Alexander and maybe Fields, would have been considered “thin”. (Fields’ build was rather average, if bosomy, on the show.) It was extremely watchable, but may have slipped under your radar, as it was a show featuring African-Americans.

  43. :-( Maybe I’m reading this wrong, and heaven knows I REALLY hope I’m reading this wrong, but this tiny itty bitty part really irked me.

    one has some fucked-up antifeminist fantasy of being appreciated for her “wifey-mom skills,”

    I’m not exactly clear how wanting to be appreciated for something that one is good at is anti-feminist. I happen to feel that being a mom and wife is an awesome job that I am damn good at. I guess I always thought that feminism was about the “choice”, not about “requiring” one to aspire to things outside the home.

    Like I said, I could completely be taking this the wrong way, and if I am I’m truly sorry.

  44. Hello!
    I love Drop Dead Diva so far. I LOVED the episode where they change the legal strategy in the case of size discrimination…LOVED IT!
    Now “More to Love” I have issues with.
    #1- I actually went to the casting for the show. Not in the hope of dating the guy, but in the hope of pitching my own reality show idea which is a plus-size fashion design show.
    #2- They loved my LA trashy/London punk couture look BUT they turned me down because (drum roll) I am 42 and the bachelor dude is like in his early 30′s and the “cut-off age” was 35… because he wants kids.
    WTF????
    I usually fancy men YOUNGER than that, and just because someone is attracted to me because of or despite of my size, the fact that he cares so damn much about my age and ability to procreate are deal killers.
    Age discrimination and seeing women as baby factories is not a lot of progress from the sizist BS. IMHO

  45. The fundamental issue I cannot get past in DDD is that the producers of the show seem to believe that the ONLY way a fat female main character could ever be acceptable is TO PUT THE SPIRIT OF A THIN GORGEOUS WOMAN INSIDE OF HER. So, every time I watch the show I feel jilted that this smart, pretty woman could not possibly be considered screen worthy without the motherfucking fact that a model-type beauty resides within her being. UGGG!

    As for More to Love…when I saw the previews I cringed because I was sure it was going to be target practice for all the fat haters. I may have to catch an episode just to see…hey, I could be wrong. :)

  46. At what point does one learn to stop doing things she knows will make her crazy? Because I always read comments, even when I’ve been warned, even when I could predict what people will be spewing, even when I’ve already been pissed off several times that day and have reached my quotient for righteous but pointless ire.

    I think that’s the entire point behind Sanity Watchers, we allot ourselves “points” to spend on unmoderated comment threads, and any more than that we know that our sanity is in peril. Of course, I’m nuts already, so I’m saving up all my “points” to buy a pony. Mean people don’t want me to have a sanity pony.

  47. aah so i made the mistake of reading the comments on the really big love review that marianne did. oh geez.

  48. I don’t like dating shows, so I’ll skip MTL, and I don’t have cable so I can’t watch DDD, but I do want to agree that I think Lifetime would be open to comments from viewers regarding the way a fat character is portrayed. While Lifetime is far, far, far from perfect in its dealing with size issues, it’s had more fat-positive stuff on the air in the last five or six years than any network I can think of, and probably more than all the other networks put together. So I do think that, whether or not the execution is right, they probably have relatively good intentions and would be open to input.

    I’ll have to see if I can watch DDD online.

  49. I’m not exactly clear how wanting to be appreciated for something that one is good at is anti-feminist. I happen to feel that being a mom and wife is an awesome job that I am damn good at. I guess I always thought that feminism was about the “choice”, not about “requiring” one to aspire to things outside the home.

    For me, it mostly depends on who we expect to do the appreciating. I’m a mostly SAHM (I teach 1-2 classes a term during the academic year right now, but will probably be at-home full time for a couple of years after our next baby is born), and I do expect that my husband appreciates what I do, just like I appreciate what he does. If he just took for granted that he normally comes home to a relatively clean house, a hot meal, and a child who is still in one piece, I’d be pretty pissed off, just like I’m sure he wouldn’t like it if I didn’t appreciate that he spends 8-9 hours at work each day so that we can pay the rent and have food in the fridge. But, I don’t expect that society at large applaud me for being a mom or a homemaker, any more than I expect it to applaud me for being a teacher. I get applause for neither, and that’s just fine with me, because honestly, while both kind of suck at times (dealing with a cranky kid, cleaning floods, grading papers), for the most part both are awesome and I wouldn’t trade what I do for anything in the world.

    I’m not a choice feminist, personally, and I don’t think being a feminist is a matter of thinking women should have choices or refusing to pass judgments on choices women make. At the same time, though, I think that any feminism that only values paid employment is buying into a set of capitalist values that are themselves oppressive. There are certainly many things people can do outside of the market economy that are necessary, fulfilling, and worthwhile, and I think parenting and maintaining a household certainly qualify.

    I don’t think there was the implication that being a wife or mom is anti-feminist (or at least not the intent), but that the way this particular woman was looking for praise was.

  50. I do apologise for interrupting this awesome exchange of ideas, but will someone please tell me what DRST means? I have Googled and FAQ’d to no avail.

    I watched the first ep of DDD, and I thought it was reasonably entertaining. I was mostly intrigued as to how they talked Margaret Cho into playing the helpful but unnoticed assistant-of-colour. Maybe the character wasn’t always like that? I wonder how she feels about the character now?

  51. I love you guys! I started reading the comments on the Salon piece, and, for once, first time ever, stopped, because you all have gotten me to see how it just makes me crazy and doesn’t change the sorry people who post the mean/condescending/thoughtless/illogical stuff. I’m going to go check out the show online–but the photo accompanying the piece on Salon sure didn’t show women who looked “fat” to me–merely normal-sized.

    I was reminded of one of the now-defunct “plus-sized” fashion magazines that had to keep swearing it was using plus-sized models–after a while, size 16/18 looks quite normal on a 5’10′ woman…as it should!

    Also today, I was reading the Washington Post healthy living e-newsletter–it has good recipe links– and got lost down a rabbit hole that lead me to a diet in disguise and I just closed the window. Poof!

  52. I do apologise for interrupting this awesome exchange of ideas, but will someone please tell me what DRST means? I have Googled and FAQ’d to no avail

    Hee. DRST is the screen name of one of the commenters, and she happens to sign her posts. :)

  53. I yell at my husband all the time for reading comments on internet articles. It’s not just fat-related stories: pretty much any story is bound to attract comments from people who appear to be the most hateful, small-minded, and often racist segment of society.

    I remember reading something in a Tom Robbins novel along the lines of “If you turn off the news, you’ll be amazed at how many people are smiling.” I think in the 21st century that can be adapted to, “If you start ignoring internet comments, you’ll be amazed at how many people aren’t complete and utter assholes.”

  54. Quoting you back to yourself, Kate, to vote for “no representation” over “distorted representation”:

    [The show] does does little to dispel the myth that fat people’s lives are built around dessert and desperation.”

    If there is no representation, then all (*hah*) you have to do is fill the vacuum and combat the ignorance.

    If you also have active new flowing tides of misinformation, you have to spend half again of your time combatting that.

    On the whole, though, I think I actually agree with one of the Salon commenters (this is a littlem paraphrase) — the problem is not prejudice; the problem is the general stupidity, lack of critical thinking, and lack of willingness to learn new information that allow unexamined prejudice to take root that is at the bottom of the problem.

    It’s the reason someone like Sarah Palin has so many followers, the reason the stereotypes on these shows are allowed to flourish, and until we look at it, all we’re really doing IMO is beating our heads repeatedly against the wall.

  55. Did anyone catch “Dating in the Dark” last night? One of the women on the show was definitely larger than the average dating show bachelorette- and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it didn’t become a focus of the episode. You can definitely tell that the producers were trying to make it happen – but the girl when didn’t go on rants about how she would have a man if she just could eat less and work out more and be magically thin (in fact she didn’t mention weight at all). While the guy did mention usually dating “petite” girls, he ultimately decided that he enjoyed the chemistry he had with her and found her attractive even though she didn’t fit his standard type. The show didn’t portray either of them as being anything other than normal people, with normal dating challenges. I thought it was an unusually positive representation.

  56. Lori, thanks for your own explantion. Like I said, I fully understand if I was reading it wrong.

    I’m with you on the whole “the rest of the world doesn’t have to appreciate me, as long as the one that matters does” thing. That’s exactly how I feel. I guess that’s what threw me off, because if you’re looking for someone to spend your life with, (as in More to Love) then you’d want them to appreciate the kind of work you want to do, such as being a SAHM, or any other any other job for that matter.

    I hope I’m making sense. I’m starting to wonder if I am even to myself, LOL.

  57. littlem, I totally agree with what you’re saying (and have been arguing this with Jennifer Pozner on Twitter all day). But what makes me unable to commit to the idea that no representation would be better than this is that I think there’s potential for unintended positive effects here. Distinct personalities for fatties, even if they’re mostly annoying ones. A hint at HAES and a (brief) anti-dieting rant. Positive visuals. (With one glaring exception beyond the numerous food-related shots, the women on MTL actually aren’t usually shot unflatteringly, and they look terrific — as long as you’re not so anti-fat you can’t even process the idea of a fat woman looking terrific.) That shit doesn’t even come close to outweighing the negative shit, but it’s there, on TV, where it never was before.

    Of course, maybe it’s just that I was SO ready to cringe my way through MTL, I actually put off watching it for several days — so when I finally put it on, the simple fact that I did not actually die of embarrassment seemed like a big point in its favor.

    Let me be perfectly clear: I am emphatically notdefending the producers, nor even recommending the show. I do not think anyone involved with it, except possibly Emme, gives a tiny rat’s ass about improving body image. And “80% suck” might actually be a conservative estimate. All I’m saying is (as I said on Salon) at the end of the day, this kind of representation didn’t offend me more than practically none whatsoever. It didn’t please me and certainly didn’t inspire me, and I don’t even know if amounts to a baby step forward — but I didn’t feel like it was a giant step backwards, either. I feel much more that way about the usual portrayals of a lone (and lonely) fat woman in mainstream programs — like, if this is how you’re going to show a fatty, could you please just NOT? The very fact that they’re showing more than one — more than 10, more than 15 — on one show, is in itself more humanizing than what we usually get. That might not be enough to constitute a gain, but I don’t see it as a loss.

    Basically, it does little to dispel the old myths, but it does something, if you’re looking for it and/or open to it. Most people won’t be, but what else is new?

  58. On the wifey-mom thing… I read the comment where it was clarified that the way it was said in this instance was 1950s Stepfordish. And I want to say…

    All da every day I care for and educate and clean up after and feed my children. I don’t care who does and who does not appreciate my actual work (the ones who see it don’t, mainly), but I am getting ever-closer to *demanding* of the universe that the work which is traditionally done by unpaid or very-low-paid women be given the same social respect as that done by everyone else. So if you don’t accord a brain surgeon much interest or respect at a small-talk type event, then fine, don’t accord me any – but social status hinges so enormously on what one is perceived to do *for a living* (that is, to justify one’s existence) that I can’t imagine it happening that way.

  59. To Kate Harding (now that’s rare for me): I think like women in the workplace, it will have to go in stages. FIRST women had to behave just like men-with-wives-at-home in the workplace, in order to get established enough in that scene to be able to demand acknowledgment of the inequalities outside that specific sphere, eg maternity leave or actually finishing at the contracted time so you can get home to your kids or not being available for random groping (Comic Con employees need not apply) or whathaveyou.

    Fat people on telly will probably have to go through a similar holding-the-nose-being-grateful-for-what-we’ve-got-so-far thing. Perhaps I’m just too cynical.

  60. I haven’t had a chance to check out either show, but now my interest is peaked (or is it “peeked”_ you know what I’m saying).

    Actually, it’s “piqued.” /word geek

  61. (Cross-posted from entirely the wrong thread.)

    Rock on, Ailbhe.

    In addition to previous clarification, it’s also worth noting that this woman is NOT, at present, a wife or a mom. (No mention of her having a kid, anyway.) It’s not that she wants to be appreciated for what she does, it’s that she wants a man to marvel at her potential as a wifey-mom.

  62. Thanks for the clarification. Of course, as always I must bow to the knowledge of Kate. It is a bit different when one isn’t already a wife or mom. I guess I just didn’t get it because like most of us, I didn’t expect my husband (before he was my husband), to appreciate what I wasn’t doing at the time. Besides, he appreciated so much more about me I never considered asking for more.

    I think I’m going to give my brain a break for now, it’s obviously broken today, LOL.

    (oh and apparently I cannot spell “appreciate” to save my life, I’ve spelled it wrong every single time. Thank goodness for spell-check.)

  63. but I am getting ever-closer to *demanding* of the universe that the work which is traditionally done by unpaid or very-low-paid women be given the same social respect as that done by everyone else. So if you don’t accord a brain surgeon much interest or respect at a small-talk type event, then fine, don’t accord me any – but social status hinges so enormously on what one is perceived to do *for a living* (that is, to justify one’s existence) that I can’t imagine it happening that way.

    I agree. But, most people aren’t brain surgeons. Honestly, I don’t see much respect accorded to what most people do for a living. There are a few very high-paying and prestigious jobs that seems to generate a lot of praise, but in general most people don’t get that. I guess my concern is just personally with people wanting to see being a SAHM put on level with being, say, a rocket scientist (all of the “It’s the hardest job in the world!” stuff), when really I don’t think what we need is for motherhood to be elevated to some lofty status only accorded to the most prestigious and well-paying of jobs, but for the whole entire value system that decides what is or is not important based on it’s place in the capitalist economy to be done away with. I realize that you were pretty much saying the same thing, but too often I feel like I hear people treating SAHMhood as if it were somehow uniquely disrespected, when in reality it’s just one of many, many things people do in our society (including most of the jobs that working moms hold) that aren’t valued or respected.

  64. Nice, Lori! People can be valued for who they are as a person, and all the great things they bring to the table. A job may be, but often isn’t, part of that.

  65. I’m surprised that none of the talk on this page is about the #1 Ladies Detective Agency on HBO. That show is awesome and has some fat acceptance aspects, though it’s not perfect. I’d like to think it’s because you have to pay to watch HBO, but I wonder how much of this “look fat women” response in the fatosphere and in the media generally right now is influenced by race. More like “look fat white women” on tv! Perhaps seeing fat women of color on tv is something we don’t really “see”??

    @SugarLeigh
    Thanks so much for your comments on the travel channel–I totally agree with you and I’ve never met anyone else who loves that channel as much as I do, but it also so incredibly irked at the way fat women don’t exist. I can’t stand the women on that channel, not because they are thin or buxom or whatever, but because they are so vapid to me. And Tony Bourdain…wow….I have such a love hate relationship with his shows. I think so much of what he does is smart and interesting (one of my favorites is when he goes to Mexico and tells Americans that most of their restaurant food is actually cooked by Mexicans), but then he’ll get on his high horse about terrible fat Americans and the scourge we are. This seems to suggest that he thinks being fat is a character defect caused by massive over-eating, yet he eats more in one sitting than just about any person I’ve ever seen and stays thin. How does the contradiction there never occur to him??
    BTW, I think Dhani Jones needs a fat female co-star, perhaps myself :)

  66. Kate,

    Your article was excellent. One of the best pieces of cultural journalism I have read all summer. Witty and insightful. You hit all the right notes. It’s great fun seeing you on Salon.

    Viva La Vida!

  67. I’m new to this site, and curious about your thoughts on “Drop Dead Diva” co-star Margaret Cho, who once said in a standup special, “For me, being 10 lbs thinner is a full-time job, and I am handing in my notice and walking out the door!”…. and then lost probably 20 pounds, if not more.

    If you go to Margaret Cho’s blog and search for the “Fuck It Diet”, you will find the explanation. Basically, she struggled with disordered eating for many years, and then finally said “Fuck it” to diets and food guilt. She discovered intuitive eating, started doing physical activity she found fun like belly dance and burlesque, all with no intention of losing weight, just being nice to her body instead of hating it. Health at Every Size in action!

  68. Jackie, I was going to say that it’s because #1 Ladies’ Detective Agency is on cable, and that if we were talking about books I would have mentioned Mma Ramotswe in that context. However, I am also mindful of ginagate’s earlier comment on “Living Single,” and how I never even thought of that show while reading this discussion, even though I have seen it and like it. (I watch it in reruns sometimes.)

    On the other hand, I haven’t really been reading the comments with an eye to contributing until now, so I didn’t give it much thought. But I would still agree that white people might be discounting what they see of fat people of color on TV for any of several reasons.

  69. @Milla, maybe it shouldn’t matter, but the bachelor on More to Love is actually 26.

    Regardless, I have issues with that show. Their rhetoric is built around the average size of an American woman (14/16) and I’d guess that all the contestants, from what I’ve seen are at least that size. They compare this to the (un)reality of the average reality show contestant, who is a size 2. By skipping straight from that average size 2 to a plus size, they leave out a huge number of (also) normal sized women – mostly what Kate would call “inbetweenies,” which is a group to which I happen to belong.

    @Emily, I did notice that on Dating in the Dark. I’m glad it didn’t become an issue!

  70. Will the point-and-laugh market get priority, so we’ll see yet more humiliation of fat people? Does simply having more fat people on TV humanize us a bit – in that at least we’re seeing fatties as different individuals with their own personalities — or are the stereotypes and nasty editing in the reality shows just dehumanizing us in larger numbers?

    I think it honestly depends on how well the pointing and laughing are handled–or, better, refuted–during the run of the show.

    Otherwise, it’s like some feminists during the election thinking women should get behind Sarah Palin, just to get a woman in office already because THAT WOULD BE CHANGE (not).

  71. I know I’m late to the party and the thread has evolved somewhat, but . . .

    What turns me off [DDD] here is the idea that the clever, competent woman who was doing her best to help others had to die so that the vapid, useless woman who only cares about herself can “learn a lesson”.

    Hazel, I agree with you. I think I would be more interested in DDD if Jane had stayed, maybe learned about herself and taught everyone around her.

    Camryn Manheim won an Emmy playing a lawyer on tv (“for all the fat girls!” ), and I can’t help but wish that Jane was like Ellenor on the Practice—Ellenor once confronted a coworker who advised her that she shouldn’t be so picky about her nice but boring-in-the-sack boyfriend, the implication being that she should settle for what she could get. Ellenor informed her in no uncertain terms that fat women were allowed to be choosy, too. I think that was the first time I’d ever heard a fat woman say that she deserved better in any way.

    Ms. Manheim had to fight for her character, though. There’s a chapter in her autobiography, Wake Up, I’m Fat! about how she argued with the writers and producers of The Practice concerning how Ellenor was portrayed.

    She made them ditch a lot of stereotypes: Her first scene had her rushing with her boss to a deposition while eating a doughnut—she refused, and it was rewritten to have her pushing a doughnut into his mouth as they ran along (I personally would pay good money to feed Dylan McDermott doughnuts, but I digress). She refused to have big bowls of candy put on her desk or junk food props.

    And she fought to have her first love scene actually filmed—even though the other characters were romping through the sheets on a weekly basis, Ellenor was originally only supposed to talk about the ‘night before’ with a co-worker.

    I hope that DDD fulfills its potential. But if not, maybe we can petition David E. Kelley to bring Ms. Manheim and Ellenor, back?

  72. A gay male friend of mine hates female impersonation because, he says, it feeds ignorant people’s belief that all gay men really want to be women. But he also doesn’t do drag himself and doesn’t like to see it, so he’s especially miffed because he doesn’t want ignorant people to believe it about him.

    Cross-dressing exists whether it furthers his own acceptance agenda or not. And as a woman, a member of the group being impersonated, I think I have a right to an opinion about it, too.

    I bring this up because some people, fat and thin, really do like food and/or believe it belongs in abundance at social events. Yes, it’s a stereotypical thing to associate with fat people, and the recent New Yorker piece mentioned MTL’s efforts to upsize the food spreads in the shots and, probably, to get the contestants to visibly enjoy it. But it’s value-neutral in and of itself, as food, and it’s real.

    So although I understand why an activist might shudder to see it, I’d rather add food to a greater assortment of contexts than take it away from the “fat” scenes.

  73. Kittymama, that’s a really interesting take on it. I am certainly one of the fatties that is a fatty mostly because I refuse to not eat just because it shocks some people when I do (I’ve never dieted… seriously, not even once. I attended a WW meeting once and burst out laughing at the amount of food they suggested I eat in a day. I eat more than that for breakfast!). In fact, I’m learning (through intuitive eating) that I often eat BECAUSE people don’t approve (which is something I’m working on, because frankly, it’s no better than starving because society says so… a little more fun, but probably still less than stellar for my mental health ;) So Jane’s appetite doesn’t offend me nearly as much as it might some others.

    Anyway, while I too can see why an activist would shudder at the repeated “fridge shots” in the show (where the camera is inside the fridge) it’s perhaps marginally better than having her suddenly starve herself as if that’s the “right” solution to suddenly finding one’s self in a fat body. [Though might it not be interesting for them to show that even if she DID suddenly eat like Deb it still wouldn't work?]

    And does anyone else find it interesting that they have Deb’s soul, but Jane’s appetite? It’s almost (almost!) an acknowledgment that the appetite is part of the body, not a character flaw. Or maybe I’m just seeing what I want, rather than what’s really there.

  74. crosses the Daily Beast off of sites I want to go to again ever. I thought I was pretty thick-skinned but I felt actively bruised after reading that.

  75. Kate, I’ve been following yours and Jennifer Pozner’s Twitter argument actually! And for any interested, Jenn and I are both going to “live tweet” the premiere tonight, and I’m thinking we’ll point out different things–though we’re both feminist, I’m the FA one. Search for my user name on Twitter if you’re interested. :)

    One thing Ms Pozner is doing, to defend the point of view that NO visibility is better in cases like More to Love, is comparing fat visibility with women-of-color visibility on Flavor of Love. I am uncomfortable with this as it seems to be to be comparing racism to sizeism. Thoughts, anyone? Best way to respond? (And hey, if you’re on twitter she’s @jennpozner let her know!)

    Also now discussing use of “labels” for women at all, i.e. fat or thin or whatever, on Twitter. Could get interesting, could just get frustrating. I’ll see…

  76. the comments, I mean, not Marianne’s piece. Knocked out my sanity watchers points for about a month.

  77. Chalk another one up for the Mind Meld. I just put up something on my blog written today amongst real work tasks, just mulling over one of the issues raised for me by the More To Love commercial — namely, the rhetoric around “real women.” Beyond that, I’m waiting to see the show, or at least the first episode. (Not sure if I’ll have patience beyond that.)

  78. I blogged about Drop Dead Diva before it aired (i.e. having not seen more than previews). I’m scared to watch it because I don’t want to be tempted to throw my laptop across a room. I can’t afford a new one.

    And I want to like More to Love. At least the guy on it is there because he is genuinely attracted to larger women.

    I have no use for Dance Your Ass Off because it’s a weight loss show. If it were a dancing show that used fat people just to watch dancing fat people that’d be awesome, but not as it is now.

  79. Cassi, I guess I don’t find that interesting that they show the fat-bodied character as having a larger appetite than the “personality” woman had when she was thin, because the idea that fat people eat more than thin people is a pretty harmful misunderstanding. that many (most) people seem to have.

    Jackie, it might be because it’s HBO. I know almost no one who has HBO these days.

  80. You know, I’m watching the first episode of More to Love now, and, while I’m still not comfortable with it, I think a lot of what these women are saying is the reality for many women – both fat and not fat.

    Also interesting to see how two women of the same height and weight can look very different – the very first woman who was introduced is also 5’4″ and 170 lbs.

  81. Jackie, it might be because it’s HBO. I know almost no one who has HBO these days.

    Yeah, I don’t even have a TV anymore, so I have no idea what’s going on. Now that you mention it, I remember hearing about the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency a while back, and I imagine I WOULD consider that watchable, but I don’t have the means to watch. (Maybe iTunes, I guess.) So that slipped my mind, as did Ruby, which a few people busted me on this morning. I am so not a real TV critic, though if someone wanted to pay me to be one, I’d shell out for cable again.

    Having said that, I think it’s absolutely a valid point that shows with fat WOC tend to get forgotten in mainstream coverage. I know when we first had the “Have there been fat, female leads since Roseanne?” convo here, The Parkers came up immediately, and that one was totally not on my radar even when I had a TV. (However, I was assured by trusted sources that it was not particularly watchable, because most of the comedy was based on nasty stereotypes. So I felt OK about skipping that, but No. 1 Ladies… was, in fact, an unfortunate oversight on my part here.)

  82. DRST is the screen name of one of the commenters, and she happens to sign her posts. :)

    Oh my god. How embarrassing. Sorry there, DRST. It kept showing up in posts at the end and sometimes in the middle ie “DRST just said” I thought it was like, OP (original poster) or something.

    Thanks for the enlightenment.

  83. Oh, also, Jenn Pozner just tweeted the direct quote from the woman I described as antifeminist: “We don’t live in those times anymore when a woman is in the kitchen all the time-but in my mind, that’s where I live.”

    I rest my case.

  84. I wonder myself what will happen to “Ruby” if’/when she gains the weight she lost back. I haven’t watched the show since it is a weight loss show, but I did notice from the ads that even if she did lose a lot of weight, she’s still a “larger woman” which is an interesting twist – no dramatic “success story” after shots.

    Phillipa – no worries. Signing posts is an old habit. Makes it easier to find my comments when scrolling back to catch up.

    DRST

  85. With everyone’s well thought out comments, mine will appear simple by comparison.

    I do like DDD. I found it extremely likable and the actress that plays Jane really good. It’s nice to see a fat woman on tv carrying herself gracefully and sashaying out of the office like she’s sex on heels. (Unfortunately, it took her being taken over by a skinny model to get that walk.) It has potential to move past the donut jokes. But, some of us fat people do go into the office every morning with a donut and a coffee and are still HAES.

    There’s always an argument in the black community (I am black) that is bad representation better than no representation. Kind of yes. Just getting your face/body scene on television makes it easier for the next black person to get a job to get a job on the next generation of shows. With that said, no one wants to play the thug or the whore or the maid forever and that’s when you just have to take stuff into your own hands and do it for yourself. Take the Black creators of Living Single and In Living Color for example, they saw an opening–a fledgling network in need of programming– and took it. They knew that waiting around for other people to recognize them was not going to happen.

    I bet if we started a petition or sent a group letter with thousands of signatures of how DDD could benefit from more FA tweaks and sent it too Lifetime, they would respond.

    Maybe I’m just very simplistic in my beliefs, but I always believed one could be a feminist and still want to be a housewife as long as being a housewife was a choice.

    Did I come off as angry? I’m not angry. I like this site. It makes me think.

  86. Re: WOC TV shows, it’s not that recent, but on Living Single, Queen Latifa’s character was a pretty positive portrayal, and IIRC, two of the other women were also not thin and portrayed as sexual and complex (as sitcom characters go) – their problems were the result of regular foibles and neuroses, not their bodies.
    Don’t know if it was mentioned or not.
    I always thought it was a much better than the similar-premised Friends, even if it weren’t for that hideous Monica backstory & fatsuits.

  87. I just watched “More to Love” and liked everyone in it much more than I expected to. Luke seems sincere, and not nearly as smarmy as the guys who show up on the Batchelor and its clones.

    There were an awful lot of tears in the women’s personal interviews, and I suspect that the women were goaded into crying by the producers who interviewed them. But they were describing what is, for many of us who are not partnered, a hard truth. Sure, there may be partners out there for any of us to find with some effort and a lot of dumb luck, but the process IS HARD for larger women. None of them said anything that I couldn’t identify with.

  88. Good: Banging dresses.
    (Although if the requirement for love-finding is to be consistently and constantly corseted and curled with requisite bare legs and high heels …)

    Bad:/b> Too many tears. Ugh.
    No new information.
    Not sure why I expected anything more from Fox.

  89. O.C., you just described a lot of my initial impressions, and part of why I give it credit for 20% non-suck. It’s disheartening to see all the weepiness, and the editors play it up annoyingly, but it’s also hardly an unrealistic depiction of how many fat women feel. (I actually had a line like that in the Salon piece, but it got lost.)

  90. Yeah, Kate, if the women had just been allowed to say what they thought, some of which was very positive, without being clearly goaded into crying, the whole show would have felt very different!

    That said, I think it was positive to have beautiful, smart, sharp, large people on camera with no ridicule. Sure, a lot of people in the audience will point and laugh. But somewhere there will be some fellow fatties who feel validated, some who feel cheered, and there will be some fat admirers who will decide to act on their not-socially-sanctioned desires.

    This might not be the best size acceptance show ever, but it’s better than we’ve seen in a long time.

  91. Oh, and one more thing.

    Posting the womens’ WEIGHT ON THE RIGHT OF THE SCREEN?!?

    I know you sign away all your rights when you decide to be a “contestant” on one of these things.

    I know no woman should be ashamed of her weight. (Leaving aside the fact that 105lb women have been known to lie about ther weight on their drivers’ licenses and say they only weigh 95lbs.)

    I know it’s Fox.

    But there are days when I despair – really – for the future of this country. This is one of them.

  92. When I did the casting here in Atlanta, they said that he was in his “early 30′s”. Still I don’t see why age should matter.
    I prefer younger guys because they are a lot of fun. I always have. I see nothing wrong with a 42 year old woman dating a 26 year old man…Shoot! I have a crush on Daniel Radcliffe.

  93. I think the the fact that “white” shows are often more commented on by the FA community to be a valid point. I remember both “The Pointer Sisters” and I still love “Living Single.” It seems the early 90s had a short stint in fat acceptance… I only mention those two shows, but there have been other “black” shows that have fat womyn, though many of the ones from the same era to now, I don’t think portray the womyn in a good enough light-they’re just stereotypes to me.

    But why hasn’t anyone mentioned anyone from even older shows?! Louise on The Jeffersons and the mother on Good Times (there were other females on shows from that era and before too…) were both fat and strong characters in their own right. So, in fact, was Edith on All in the Family.

    Personally, I think people not tend to think of those shows is because I don’t recall as many references to those womyn being fat. They were just womyn. (But then I wasn’t alive when the shows were originally aired, so take that for what it is..)

    As for today’s black audiece targeted TV shows with fat females that I might enjoy (I don’t get much out of most sitcoms nowadays)-I think most are on more expensive cable channels like HBO that a lot of people don’t get. I think the thought of having a substantial black female character that isn’t just about getting cheap laughs still makes producers too nervous for regular TV. Sad.

  94. Ack! I meant *having a substantial fat black female character that isn’t just about getting cheap laughs

    There is that new Hawthorne show, which I watch, because my mom loves all medical themed shows and it’s alright, but her character annoys me. Tolerable, in my opinion, but no fat people. Funny, I’ve spent quite a lot of time in hospitals and there are many doctors and nurses who are fat-if you only watched TV, you might think that they all paid for their education by modeling. Ergh!

  95. After hearing DDD cautiously praised here and utterly derided by some of my friends for its portrayal of fat women, I finally watched it myself.

    I hated it less then I thought I would. I even liked parts of it quite a bit. But I’m 100% with the people who have issues with the fact that Jane’s spirit had to get shoved out to make room for Deb. I’m not sure what that says about fat women being worthy of taking up space in the world, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t anything good.

    In addition, I fucking DESPISE watching the trope of “she’s fat and therefore must use food like a drug” being played out. Why on earth can’t Jane be an intuitive eater who practices HAES? I’m sure plenty of the same image and self-worth struggles would still exist, but it would be a far less stereotypical portrayal of a fattie. I would have way less of a problem watching Jane eat EZCheez if she had said “Dammit, I want some EZ Cheez!” The xanax analogy really annoyed me.

    A less stereotypical approach to the relationship between fat women and food (AND FASHION) would lessen my resentment and really up my enjoyment of a show I was hoping to support whole-heartedly.

  96. I didn’t mean analogy. I meant simile. It’s late. And clearly my ability to use the English language is going down hill quickly. Apologies.

  97. I do like Drop Dead Diva because i tihnk the show for the most part has got heart. It’s not just the fat main character that’s a caricature, but also the skinny ones too.

    More to love pretty much did send me into a hateful rage. I know that a lof of us have dealt with issues with our weight and how we’ve been treated by other people, but I saw some gorgeous women crying about having never had a boyfriend. I felt as if Fox just scraped the bottom of the low-self-esteem barrel to show how hard it is to be fat. Sure there are things that are difficult. I used to be over 400 lbs but I could still get a boyfriend! These women are much smaller than I used to be, but they pin their difficulties on weight and not on the wonderful person their self doubts are holding them back from being. (sarcasm)Fox has another winner here!(/sarcasm)

  98. too often I feel like I hear people treating SAHMhood as if it were somehow uniquely disrespected, when in reality it’s just one of many, many things people do in our society (including most of the jobs that working moms hold) that aren’t valued or respected.

    Well, we are operating in different societies, so there is that. But here is what people have said to me about my work, in Ireland and the UK, which no-one ever said to me when I was unemployed and on the dole OR when I was waitressing:

    You don’t work.

    You are wasting your life, you’re too intelligent to do this.

    Don’t you hate being a parasite?

    Of course it’s important, but you should do something more interesting.

    It’s not fair to expect [partner] to do housework, you don’t have anything else to do.

    That’s aside from the comments in shops when buying clothes, baby equipment, or furniture – about “spending his money” or “having someone to pay for all this” or similar.

    Perhaps part of the difference is that it’s slightly normal for middle-class women to be SAHMs in the USA, whereas it’s very unusual here.

  99. Ah – here’s a more succinct thing; I’m not saying that SAHMs are accorded an absence of respect more than other workers, but I am saying that they are accorded far more outright and obvious active, deliberate disrespect. SAHMs are denigrated to their faces by their friends and families in ways other workers, as a class, are not.

    So then they do it to each other, which helps, obv. Mommy wars!

  100. I agree that the fridge shots and doughnut eating play into the misinformation out there about how much your average fat person eats. Equally, I think having Stacy be a diet and exercise obsessed calorie counter misrepresents your average thin person, too. While I’d love to see a portrayal of, as someone here said, an intuitive eater who practices HAES, because they exist and are generally missing from the media, that person would actually represent me less well than Jane does.

    I struggle with the idea of whether the likes of Jane being front and center on a show like this is good or bad for some of the same reasons I struggle with my own disordered eating. Because I do eat a lot and do it publicly (because what’s the point of giving the big fuck you to society if no one sees me?) I know that when I do it, I’m playing into some people’s stereotypes of fatties… and I hate that. I hate it for the sake of all the saner fatties who might suffer fallout from my existence. It’s not my sole reason for wanting to fix my eating (the main one being that being neurotic is just not fun), but it does cross my mind on a pretty regular basis. Is Jane the perfect representation of fat on TV? Hardly. But neither am I.

  101. But why hasn’t anyone mentioned anyone from even older shows?!

    Because in the article, I was talking specifically about A) shows that have aired since Roseanne went off the air in 1997 and B) Shows where fat women are the main characters, not just part of an ensemble. (That’s why I didn’t count The Practice, for instance.)

    Because I do eat a lot and do it publicly (because what’s the point of giving the big fuck you to society if no one sees me?) I know that when I do it, I’m playing into some people’s stereotypes of fatties… and I hate that. I hate it for the sake of all the saner fatties who might suffer fallout from my existence.

    Oh, honey. You do not have a responsibility to represent for anyone else, or eat in a way that will please others. Representation on TV — where there are so very few fat people that each one becomes symbolic of ALL of us — is a very different thing. You are not letting the movement down by being yourself.

  102. @spoonfork38: The Practice is one of my favorite shows ever. I love Camryn Manheim and I used to have a huge crush on her. I was always really happy with the way they portrayed Ellenor. That CM had to intervene to keep her from being the usual morass of self-hating, pity-eating fatty.

    She’s still pretty much my yardstick for a good representation of a fat character.

    I do think there’s a strong component of race tied in with how fat women are portrayed. Fat black women seem to duck beneath the radar, maybe because so many black women are desexualized in TV and film. If you look at a character like Dr. Bailey on Grey’s Anatomy, she’s shown to be married but her romantic life is de-emphasized compared to younger, thinner women, none of whom are black.

    I had some other examples, but I can’t recall them right now. My point is, there’s definitely a pattern where it’s more “permissible” for a black woman to be fat (or just not thin) than for a white woman, or a woman of some other ethnicity.

  103. Thank you, Kate. I do know that’s true in the front part of my brain, but since my disordered eating started as part of my mother’s “dieting is vain, vain women are stupid, you are not stupid, so never ever eat a salad in public” world view, I know that I’m often over eating just to ‘show’ the world something about myself… sadly, most of the world has no clue what it is I’m trying to say (and I have no clue why I’m still seem to be trying to say it when I know that it’s 99% BS). Given that, it makes me sad that what the world often takes away from seeing me at pub is “boy, fatties are even more gluttonous and disgusting than I THOUGHT!”

    It’s probably also why I reacted as much to the stereotypical representation of Stacy as vacuous and vain as I did to stereotypical representation of Jane as a food obsessed fatty.

    Actually, learning more about FA has been a very helpful prism through which to examine my own issues, which one friend summed up as “sweetie, you don’t eat what you want in spite of a diet obsessed culture, you eat what you DON’T want TO spite a diet obsessed culture” Heh.

  104. I remember loving a show called “Life’s Work” that aired in (according to IMDB) 1996-97. It starred a comedian named Lisa Ann Walter as an ADA. This was far before I had even the slightest idea that such a thing as FA existed, but I remember liking that she was a far-from-thin woman and it was not even mentioned.

    Unfortunately, as I look further at her IMDB page, I discover that she’s an exec producer of Dance Your Ass Off. Lisa, Noooo!!

  105. My point is, there’s definitely a pattern where it’s more “permissible” for a black woman to be fat (or just not thin) than for a white woman, or a woman of some other ethnicity.

    That’s called “Being Mammied”, as in Mammy from Gone with the Wind. Fat Black women, according to society, are nonsexual beings whose only value is in what they can provide for other, “more socially attractive” people.

    The thing a lot of people don’t remember is that Florida Evans, Weezy Jefferson, and Edith Bunker were all older women who were mothers. All three are desexualized by their age and their roles as wife and mother, but Florida and Weezy moreso by factoring in their race.

    Fast forward to the 90s with Living Single. Queen Latifah and Kim Coles were visibly plus-sized(though the latter was smaller initially), while Kim Fields was still visibly not as thin as Erika Alexander. While their size was relevant, it was never(to my memory) used as a plot device. In the social context of the show’s world, their size was negligible when you already have to navigate the minefield of being a Black woman, and in Khadijah’s and Max’s case, being a Black woman in a corporate environment.

    Queen Latifah’s character, Khadijah, owned and operated a struggling magazine. It seemed like every season, she was in fear of going under or being bought out. Did she stress-eat? Not that I remember; she was too much of a workaholic. As a matter of fact, the only character that you saw eating on a regular basis was Max, the thinnest one on the show.

    As a matter of fact, the only one who struggles with any real body image issues is Regine, played by Kim Fields. It’s fitting with her being the shallow, pretty one(i.e. Blair, Suzanne, Blanche). The episode I recall was the one where her doctor told her she had to get a breast reduction, and she struggled with the loss of her identity as “the one with the huge rack”. It didn’t help matters when Kyle said that he couldn’t imagine her without them.

    **Oh, and for reference purposes, Sex and the City is basically Living Single goes to Privilege-land.

  106. I’m gonna put on my media professor hat here for a moment.

    I get why people are angry at Drop Dead Diva for not espousing FA and HAES principles from the start, but it’s worth remembering that outside our safe spaces here and in our personal lives, these are not commonly used concepts yet.

    It seems from the first few episodes that someone on the staff grasps these concepts, but it’s important to remember the show is just starting. And it’s a comedy. Comedy is built on contrasts, and stereotypes.

    I think I’m struggling with the show because the FA part of me hates to see fat women in particular represented the way Jane is. But at the same time, I sure as hell identify with her a lot more as the quiet, extremely competent fat chick who comfort eats than I would if she was presented as a fabulous FA embracing fattie. We here may hate to see the stereotype replicated but if you were creating this show and wanted to reach out to women struggling with body image issues (basically, you know, all of us), presenting Jane as a FA fattie wouldn’t do it. The incredulity over seeing a fat woman who eats what she wants unapologetically and exercises would only serve as a single plot, and might alienate people who are expecting something else, and they might not keep watching.

    And the purpose of a tv show is to get viewers so they can sell advertising (much to my chagrin). Replicating the stereotypical comfort eating fattie may make us grimace, but how many women admitted to themselves if not aloud they’ve done the cheeze thing? Or that they’ve had cravings for sugar so strong it blocks out the rest of the universe? The audience, for better or worse, can identify with those behaviors, and that is crucial for getting people to be sympathetic to the main character. Once the identification is there, the show can move on the way it did in the second episode with the discrimination lawsuit.

    My point in this rambling is the show is starting from the common stereotypes on both sides in order to move forward from there. I think the real question of whether I feel the show is a quality one will be how they continue to handle Jane’s body. I cringe at a lot of Deb’s attitudes and behaviors but this is a show “about skinny model learning major life lessons.” Deb’s gonna spout a lot of conventional wisdom about fat people, probably, and I’ll wince. But if the show can sustain showing Deb learning that her preconceptions are wrong, the audience can go on that journey too, and that would be awesome.

    DRST

  107. I think maybe it would be less upsetting to see a fat character who loves food or eats a lot or comfort eats if TV shows also had thin characters who did that. I mean, honestly, if 30 Rock were to bring on a fat character who really loved food, it wouldn’t particularly bother me, because the show has always portrayed Tina Fey’s thin character as being somebody who loves food. But, when the only characters on a TV show who enjoy eating and don’t eat only salads and grilled chicken breast are fat characters, it just reinforces the idea that the reason fat people are fat is because they like to eat.

    I’ve got no problem with shows portraying people enjoying food. Most people I know, fat and thin, enjoy food. But, so much of TV presents enjoying food as totally strange and forbidden, and when enjoying food is restricted to fat characters, then it just leads to the conclusion that overeating=being fat.

    I know I’ve seen episodes of TV shows where a thin character has a break-up and eats ice cream. There’s not an indication, usually, that the behavior is disordered or unhealthy or problematic. But, when a fat character eats a snack after a hard day, I do think the audience is supposed to have this “Aha! That’s why they’re fat!” reaction. I can understand when somebody like Camryn Manheim would be so adamant about her character not eating donuts or having snacks on her desk, because while eating donuts and having snacks on the desk is something that both thin and fat people do, it’s interpreted in a very, very different way when a fat person does it, and I do tend to think that until we move beyond the idea that fat people are fat because they eat too much, any representation of a fat person eating more than a thin person is going to unfortunately be problematic.

  108. I actually have not seen Drop Dead Diva, but I’m glad to hear that it has more positive vibes than More To Love did.

    I was honestly surprised by how stereotypical the women on More To Love appeared. But I think that maybe you are right that fat people will have to go through a period of just being on TV before they are represented positively on TV. In a way its like how other minority segments of the population made their way into the television culture. Mocking stereotypes first, positive portrayals later, even though there have already been great examples of fat women in leading roles. Fat acceptance is something that will take time.

    I hated that they placed the women’s weight next to their name and age. They shouldn’t be ashamed of that, because they were all really beautiful women, but why was that necessary? It would never, ever happen on any of the other dating shows. It was like the producers just couldn’t get enough of saying “Hey they are fat! Look! Fat! See?” That bothered me.

  109. Oh bugger it! I went to the Lifetime website to finally get to watch it and there are no closed captions. I guess that means I wait until it come out on DVD and my library gets a copy of season 1. Accessibility fail Lifetime, no ad views for you.

    I’m sure if I write to them to complain I’ll get a whiny letter back about how hard it is to put captions into flash videos…despite the fact that almost every major video content provider can do it now. And also they’d be whining to someone who makes terrabytes of dvd rips with external caption files every month. I’m sure I’ll buy it when they pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

  110. I know I’m late on this, but I feel compelled to point out that the women who were kicked off of MTL were 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th (tied) heaviest women on the show. This doesn’t account for differences in height and proportions, but still. (Also there’s only 2 women in their thirties left and the ages of the dismissed women were 34, 32, 30, 28 and 25. Hmmm…)

  111. DRST, that’s absolutely brill. In fact, they’ve already taken a step with the Stacy character, having her move one tiny iota away from a vacuous model and done the same with the “evil” Kim character (having her show some actual emotion). Perhaps all the polemics are largely plot devices rather than a reflection of the writers intentions.

  112. I wonder, would DDD have been more interesting if instead of killing the original Jane, she had found herself in Deb’s body? It would have been more in line with the traditional Freaky Friday story structure, and would have totally negated the whole weird “Deb gets to take everything that Jane worked really really hard for” angle.

  113. Okay, late to the party and mostly off-topic, but I just read Kate’s Salon piece and was struck by her comments re the bachelor. How often do we fat ladies actually hear men say, “Dear God, you are the sexiest thing ever–just my type”? It’s awesome to hear a guy say it on TV, but OMG, it is the best thing ever to hear from a guy you’re on a first date with. I think I’m pretty good about loving my body, size irrelevant, but I’ve realized how I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about it. Like it’s a really ugly baby or something. I’m always a little on the defensive.

    So a nice smart guy who really just plain likes every damned inch of me (and every pound) was a joy to find. We’re not still dating, but it kind of broke through the complete bullshit that fat girls are second-tier choices for men. We aren’t. And it’s done miraculous things for my love life, because I’m much more comfortable expecting men to find me devastatingly sexy, instead of just hoping like hell I’ll be acceptable. It’s weird how well it works. Or maybe it just scares away the ones who would prefer to nag me about my “health.”

  114. I have to admit, DDD has totally charmed me. I’m a sucker for Lifetime, so that’s probably much of it, but I do think it has a lot of potential. There have been some really silly and problematic things–the spray can of cheese, obviously, and Jane not being able to get out of a not-too-deep squat (which I honestly can’t imagine would be a problem for someone her size absent an issue with her knees or back)–but overall it’s quite positive. I thought, from all the talk of donuts, that we’d be seeing Jane continually overeat, but honestly I don’t think they’ve shown her overeating at all, just eating and enjoying it. It’s hard to see her preference for a sandwich at lunchtime over a grilled chicken breast and celery sticks as a sign of a problem with overeating. Even the one donut she eats when she gets to work seems relatively unproblematic, since it’s her breakfast. The spray cheese comfort eating in the first episode was ridiculous, but hopefully that will be the end of that. In general I do think they’re protraying her more as somebody who doesn’t count calories than as somebody who overeats.

    And, while the idea that fat people don’t exercise (which has come up with both Jane and the woman she defended) is just flat-out wrong, at least the implication is that Jane doesn’t exercise because she’s too busy, not because she’s too lazy.

    Plus, I think my main positive feelings about the show just come from Jane being so darn adorable that it’s hard not to think she’s both likeable and beautiful. She is portrayed so positively in terms of her intelligence and personality and altruism that I think it would be hard for a viewer to come away from the show thinking really bad things about fat people, even if a few stereotypes are there.

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