With the exception of weight-loss shows like “The Biggest Loser” and TLC’s series of sideshow freak programs like “The Half-Ton Mom,” fat people are conspicuously absent from television. One recent study found that while some 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, only 24 percent of male characters and 13 percent of female characters were fat. And the roles are as token as the actors, especially for women and even more starkly, for black women. Fat characters are more likely to be in minor roles, less likely to be involved in romantic relationships, have fewer positive interactions than thin characters, and were often made the butt of jokes. It’s a no-win situation for even those handful of TV celebs who have managed to escape the stereotype — if they’re fat and successful, they’re accused of somehow cheerleading obesity to viewers thought to be anxiously waiting for the go-ahead to abandon their treadmills and buy stock in McDonalds.
A number of shows are now trying to restore some much-needed balance…. or are they? Here’s a line-up of some new shows that say they aim to, as one TLC vice-president put it, “put a human face to what had been, before, a punchline.”
- “More to Love” – a dating competition show in the style of “The Bachelor” except that contestants are plus-size. Fatshionista has a great rundown of the first couple episodes here. (Fox)
- “Drop-Dead Diva” – An “Ugly Betty” kind of series in which a model wannabe is reincarnated into the body of a recently deceased fat attorney.* (Lifetime)
- “Ruby” – The series follows star Ruby Gettinger as she works to reduce her 447-pound weight. (Style)
- “The 650-Pound Virgin” – Documentary in which David Smith describes how he lost 410-pounds in 26 months (TLC)
- “One Big Happy Family” – The series, which has yet to air, follows a North Carolina brood in which all four members weigh in at more than 300 pounds. (Discovery)
- “Dance Your Ass Off” – A dance/weight-loss competition in which 12 finalists “go from an eating machine to a dancing machine.” (Oxygen)
- “Making the Curve” – Former-Lane-Bryant-model-turned-American Idol-hopeful-turned-Jenny-Craig-spokescelebrity Kimberley Locke is set to host the reality series in which plus-size women “prove that they have what it takes to form a hit pop musical group.” The show has yet to find a network home. (h/t Big Fat Deal)
What do you think?
* I blogged about “Drop-Dead Diva” before it aired and was pretty critical in my review of the show’s concept. Other body-acceptance activists who have seen the show and met with co-star Margaret Cho show say that it’s more size-sensitive than the press release made it sound.