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Blonsky shines; Queen-Sized disappoints

15th January 2008

Blonsky shines; Queen-Sized disappoints

I know I shouldn’t expect much from Lifetime television, I really shouldn’t. But with the launch of the surprisingly body-affirmative show How to Look Good Naked and the hyped-up Lifetime premiere of Queen-Sized, starring the non-fat-suit-wearing Hairspray darling Nikki Blonsky, I thought the station might be moving in a more positive direction.

And after reading comments by Blonsky in which she explains why she chose to bare flesh in two scenes in the movie, others felt the same way. In an interview with Newsday, Blonsky says:

“I’m not about exposing yourself. But I realized that a lot of plus-sized women are ashamed of their bodies or are scared to show them – let alone on TV. So I said: You know, ‘I’m not scared, because this is what we look like.’ This is what most of America looks like in their pajama bottoms.”

Sadly, it appears Lifetime’s so-called feel-good movie only gives lip service to body acceptance, while towing the line of the anti-obesity rhetoric.

Queen-Sized is based loosely on the true story of a suburban Detroit teen, Allie Burris, who in 2004 spurred a national dialogue about teen bullying. Read a 2004 news story about Burris here or read her personal story in Guideposts here.

In the film, Blonsky plays Maggie Baker, the lone fat girl at a school dominated by girls who rival the glossy photos of models in teen magazines. Tormented by kids at school for being fat and her weight and eating habits monitored and critiqued by her frustratingly thin mom (Annie Potts), it’s no surprise that Maggie has a poor self-image of herself.

Also troubling Maggie is the recent death of her obese father, whose photograph she turns to for support after another fight with her mother over food and weight. It comes as little surprise when the film reveals later that Maggie’s father died from diabetes, no doubt, caused by his fatness.

In real life, Burris’ father died of an asthma attack, so I question the motives of producers in arbitrarily changing his cause of death to a disease negatively, commonly and often erroneously associated with obesity.

And the film leaves little room for doubt as to exactly why Maggie herself is fat. Maggie’s mother confronts her early in the film with an empty pizza box filled with junk food and candy wrappers collected from hiding spots in Maggie’s room. Later, Maggie is shown to be an uncontrollable binge eater, chowing down chocolate bars and even a tub of ice cream to calm her raging emotions.

And when Maggie’s mother goes out for an evening, leaving lasagna for Maggie’s thin brother and a salad and frozen diet meal for Maggie, Maggie quickly dials for pizza as soon as her mother leaves.

If Maggie isn’t in fact, classifiably suffering from binge eating disorder, she certainly displays much of the symptoms for it.

But after Maggie’s name ends on the list of nominees for the homecoming court as a prank by her classmates, her life takes a surprising turn for the better. Rather than drop out as expected, Maggie chooses to run and in classic Hollywood-happy-ending-style, ends up winning.

The subsequent self-evaluation the process brings leads Maggie in the end to round up her stash of junk food squirreled away in secret spots throughout her room and toss them out, much to the delight of her ever watchful, food-monitoring mother, to whom she announces that she’s getting her food issues under control.

The film does have its high points, including a fat coworker of Maggie’s mother, who sets her mother straight about how her well-meaning actions to regulate her daughter’s food and weight really translate to Maggie (You’re a disappointment – You’re fat). And a fat Lane Bryant salesclerk makes a fleeting reference to the fact that “the average woman in this country wears a size 14 dress.”

And in an unexpected twist, Maggie’s rival for the teen royalty crown, Tara (Kimberly Matula) reveals that fat girls don’t have a monopoly on insecurity. Maggie’s victory leads Tara to realize that she doesn’t always have to meet the expectations of others just because she’s blonde, beautiful and happens to be dating the star quarterback of the football team.

Maggie’s transformation from a wilting wallflower to semi-confident diva is most encouraging, especially for pre-teen and teen viewers for whom this film is best suited for.

But in the end, it’s inferred now that Maggie is working on her binge eating issues, weight loss will naturally ensue and all will be happy and thin.

I don’t know if the real-life Allie Burris had any sort of binge eating issues; she very well may have problems with eating. And the fact that Maggie decides to work on those issues is uplifting. But Lifetime’s overt emphasis on this also reinforces stereotypes that obesity itself is an eating disorder and that all fat people are fat because they eat too much of the wrong kinds of foods and uncontrollably.

And the movie, while masquerading as a film promoting body acceptance, still manages to slip in the purported health risks and hazards of obesity, and suggests that if fat people would only get their emotional eating under control, they too could lose weight.

Not to mention, Weight Watchers and Nutrisystem shilled their diet plans during each and every commercial break. I lost count of those annoying Weight Watchers commercials after 10.

It’s a shame that the vastly talented Blonsky seems to only land fat girl parts, especially in such an unoriginal and predictable film like Queen-Sized.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2008 at 1:27 pm and is filed under Arts and Music, Eating Disorders, Fat Acceptance, Fat Bias, Pop Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 12 responses to “Blonsky shines; Queen-Sized disappoints”

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  1. 1 On January 15th, 2008, Moe said:

    Wow, how disappointing. I had forgotten about this show but it seems I didn’t miss much. Thanks for the review.

  2. 2 On January 15th, 2008, Rose said:

    I found the most interesting part of the movie the way her fellow students take a stand for the underdog, because in a way she is representing all of them, and how she at least initially pushes them away and keeps trying to cast herself as the victim.

    But yeah, I found the emphasis on her eating habits undermined the overall message. A mixed bag. But I do LUV How to Look Good Naked! Now that’s a body-positive show and Carson never brings up diet and exercise to the women. And Carson makes this 37 year old woman feel like a young hag again!

  3. 3 On January 15th, 2008, vesta44 said:

    I liked the movie, but found it pretty predictable. DH and I watched it and every time a commercial came on, I told him what was going to happen in the next scenes (based on what had happened in the last ones). He asked me how I knew, and I told him “been there done that”. I didn’t binge as teenager because my mom was on me all the time about being fat (although I heard that often enough). I binged because the goodies were for her and my dad and my brother and I weren’t allowed to have them unless it was a family gathering (and my brother was skinny). It was one of her many ways of showing us just how much she didn’t want kids and we didn’t deserve to be treated as human. I also used to binge every time someone mentioned diets and that I really needed to go on one (as an adult). So I can relate to Maggie’s binges, even though I don’t feel the need to do that anymore. But yeah, it did reinforce the stereotype that fat people are fat because they binge alla time.
    As far as the commercials, I mute them (doesn’t matter if it’s a diet commercial or one for car insurance or for household products, I find all of them obnoxious and demeaning to my intelligence so I don’t watch them).

  4. 4 On January 15th, 2008, Rachael Stern AKA TwistedBarbie said:

    I didnt see it. I saw the promos for it and felt like I would be dissapointed. Its sad that Nikki went from Hairspray to this.

    The WW commercials and the Slim fast – fake empowering commercials are pissing me OFF!!

  5. 5 On January 16th, 2008, Fat Girl said:

    I didn’t see it so I was glad to see a post like this. It sounds all very predictable, and of course they had to throw in the “health risks” and the stereotype that fat people are that way because they eat too much- it’s what most people believe, and it’s not good to let them down!

    /sarcasm

  6. 6 On January 16th, 2008, MrsDrC said:

    Since we dont do TV I have not seen it, nor have I seen hairspray. The actress is a lovely looking girl, and I’ll take everyone’s word for her talent as I’ve heard many people say she is.

    Now, just from the little promo. What the heck?! The VERY FIRST image of Nikki is that of cramming food in her face. Not a normal bite, not sitting down to a meal but cramming, what I’m sure is junk food in her mouth. Niiiiiice.

    I’m so tired of the underhanded messages. Here is a self acceptance movie, but wait we are going to reinforce negative and false stereo types, and while we are at it we are going to get as close to subliminal messaging as legal with tons of weightloss commercials disgused as “empowerment”. Cuz we all know you fat people are weak, losers that cant see thru our thinly vieled attempts to shame you into throwing your money at the diet industry.

    GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!

  7. 7 On January 16th, 2008, CynthiaC said:

    Nikki is also very short. 4’11″ I think. She’s going to be stuck with comedy roles even if she weighed 90 lb.

  8. 8 On January 17th, 2008, Brittany said:

    The reason Nikki went to this movie is because she felt connected to this character…not because it’s all that was out there. She has a new movie coming out with Cuba Gooding Jr. and Spencer Breslin. Ally Sheedy too, whoever that is. She chose this role…she wasn’t forced into it because of a lack of work. Nikki will go far. She’s a triple threat. Oh, and she has a new album coming out. This movie would have been so much better if they had more of a budget. Nikki is amazing.

  9. 9 On January 24th, 2008, dave silva said:

    I would like to first say that I do believe there is a segment of the population that unfortunatly must endure the unfounded ridicule of others, which aplies to alegedly over wieght people. Having said that I would encurage the fatosphere to help determine who is fat do to uncontrolable genetics, and those who use genetics as an excuse. The truth is most people who are over wieght say they can not help it, yet many times we see individuals who said the same things become thin ounce they stop hiding behind, excuses. People need to be educated and taught that only a small percentage of the poppulation is fat due to genetics, the rest of everyone else needs to wake up. They do not need to be thin , but healthy does include a proper diet and excerise, which would intern lower thier wieght.. I find it sad that we dont promote fit as the standard, not just thin. I do believe that styles and clothes should be made to fit us all. We should just make sure that those of us who are over wieght are over wieght for the right reasons.

  10. 10 On January 24th, 2008, Rachel said:

    Dave – it really doesn’t matter whether one “chooses” to be fat or is fat due to genetic reasons. The reasons WHY one is fat is completely irrelevant to the issue that ALL people, regardless of why they weigh what they weigh, deserve EQUAL rights and respect as human beings.

  11. 11 On January 24th, 2008, signthelist said:

    There was also a commercial for Jenny Craig, now sponsored by…Queen Latifah. :(

  12. 12 On August 17th, 2008, Xandy said:

    I didn’t like how this movie portrayed overweight equaling binge eating. Just because someone is heavyset doesn’t necessarily mean they always eat. I have known super skinny people to eat more junk food than I do and more often too I would even end up giving half my lunch to my small skinny friend in middle school all the time and she would still get teased for being buluemmic or anexoric, when she wasn’t she would eat twice as much as I would. I’m not a small skinny girl myself, I’m 5’8″ 260lbs, I hardly eat on a day to day basis and when I get emotionally upset or distressed I refuse to eat at all, but I’m still heavyset, nor do I even like junk food all that much to begin with. The movie portrayed as they put it the “fat” girl all wrong in my opinion.

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