I went on a bit of a rampage on Facebook yesterday. No, I’m not usually one of those people. I don’t jump up on a soapbox very often. I tend to stick to funny pictures and kid quotes. Low drama. But since the weather has started warming, I’ve noticed a trend in Facebook statuses. Here I am being whiny and soapboxy…
Sometimes it seems like fat-shaming isn’t seen as prejudice, that it’s okay because being fat is a “choice.” So why not “motivate” people to change by shaming them into it? That will never go wrong. Right.
So why am I writing about this in my writing blog? Well, I got to thinking, how do we perpetuate these crazy ideals and the assumption that it’s okay to treat fat people as “less than” everyone else? I didn’t have to think too hard. Just look around. In most TV shows or movies, the fat girl or guy is there for comic relief. They are portrayed as stupid, bumbling, dirty, and certainly not worthy of being the hero or heroine. In some instances, this has changed for guys. More and more you see a heavier guy as the main character or the love interest, but usually in a comedy, and almost always paired with a beautiful woman. (These pictures are going to date me.)
Even cartoons get in on the gag, except these men are even more ridiculous.
I could only think of one show where the main female character was overweight. If I’m missing any, by all means, enlighten me.
Now think of a movie where the main hero, male or female, was overweight. Seriously, I would love to know because I can only think of one. And her weight was a big plot point of the movie.
I so wish that we could accept men and women who are heavier as our heroes, as capable of saving the world, as worthy of love, rather than comic relief.
So on to books. Even when there are no pictures, we have heroes and heroines who are “ideal.” In all the books I’ve read, I can think of one series and another book where one of the main characters, who is completely normal, doesn’t eat all the time, isn’t a bumbling idiot or smelly or disgusting, is also overweight. And while it’s pointed out (Meg Cabot’s Size 12 is not Fat, Size 14 is not Fat Either, and Big-Boned are named such because of her size), it isn’t the main focus of the story. (BTW, size 12 and 14 really are not fat.) I just read a book called Reasons I Fell for the Fat Funny Friend. I actually really liked it, because it showed how the narrator, a guy, fell for a girl who considered herself fat, and how her perception of herself became a major barrier to accepting his affection. Except…once again, she wasn’t really fat.
We all want to imagine ourselves as the main character in the books we read. As an overweight kid, I remember reading books and not being able to relate to the main character, and, worse, feeling ashamed because of how the overweight characters were portrayed. Books were an escape for me, so those negative descriptions were like invaders into my safe place. Even as an adult, every romance has a heroine who is svelte, with shining auburn hair and sparkling gray eyes. There is nothing wrong with that, except it doesn’t leave much room for us big girls to dream. That’s why I wrote a romance starring an overweight woman, a woman who was worthy of love and actually liked herself and believed herself to be worthy. It wasn’t all about the weight. It may never see the light of day, but it was very cathartic for me, and I kind of love it.
So the point of all this is just to say, as we’re branching out beyond the norm, to minority characters, to the marginalized, consider sticking more stellar overweight characters in your works. Show that they are not just comic relief or part of the nerd herd, but people, round (no pun intended) characters who have hopes and dreams and quirky personalities and lots of people who love them. Treat them like humans. Maybe another overweight little girl or boy will feel hopeful and empowered after reading it.
So, I got a few more suggestions to add to my list of big girls in normal people roles, or as the heroines. Of course, everyone’s favorite sarcastic housewife…
Next up, a show I can’t believe I forgot about. In Drop Dead Diva, a model dies and comes back in a heavyset lawyer’s body. It’s interesting to watch her try to adjust to the different way people treat her. I highly recommend it.
Also, from one of my favorite shows, someone suggested Sookie St. James from Gilmore Girls. While she does play the comic relief for the first part of the show, her role was beefed up and taken more seriously as the show went on.
I also remembered a made for TV movie that I watched YEARS ago that I LOVED because it was about a heavy girl who was SO confident that she entered a beauty contest to win a honeymoon for her and her SMOKIN fiance to Hawaii. A fat girl with a gorgeous guy? Yes, please! It CAN happen. The movie was called Beautiful Girl.
And, finally, how could I FORGET one of my favorite musicals/movies of all time? Of course! HAIRSPRAY!
There still aren’t NEARLY enough of these, but at least there’s a little more hope 🙂
You are absolutely right! Let’s go change the world!
Rena I love your blog! Soapboxes are vehicles for teaching so preach on!