The Shaming of Fat People

by Melissa Silverstein on October 28, 2010

in News,TV

It’s not like fat people or people struggling with weight issues need anything else in life to make us feel like crap, but not surprisingly, it’s been done.  The one overweight couple on TV (since Huge has been canceled) has been called out not just for being fat but for being too fat.

The current brouhaha was inadvertently (I hope) created by Marie Claire blogger Maura Kelly who blogged about the characters on the hit sitcom Mike and Molly and ignited a firestorm with several statements including saying that she would be:

grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other … because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I’d find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.

First thought: Fat=drunk=drug addict.  Way to go Maura.

Second thought: that’s the thing you find most offensive on TV?  Not the fact that women are mutilated on shows daily for story fodder.  Or the fact that girls are being sexualized so early.  Or the fact that most people’s faces are shot up with so much poison that they can no longer express themselves.  Or the fact that most of the women on TV look so skinny that there is no way they are eating enough food to get them through the day.

Yes, the truth is both characters on Mike and Molly are obese.  And I can pretty much guarantee as a person who thinks about what food I would love to eat all day long and expends much energy resisting that same food, that those actors would love to lose weight.  But what happened here is that these people were shamed for being fat just like people are shamed for being gay.

This shaming comes at a moment when we as a culture are thinking about bullying and the tragic deaths of several young gay men who took their lives because they were bullied and shamed.

While this has clearly not been a good couple of days for Maura Kelly, this conversation, while difficult, is important.  Bullying and shaming is wrong even when it is done inadvertently and makes us realize how easy it is to fall into that type of thinking.

And this has also been a good lesson for us bloggers.  1- think before you hit publish.  Think about the power you have.  2- Editors think twice about having a person who has struggled with anorexia write about fat issues.  What the hell were you thinking?  Yeah you’ve gotten a lot of page views and stirred up a controversy but this should get filed under the not all publicity is good publicity.

Last thought: Can’t there be a happy middle?  TV is full of only very skinny people, there aren’t any actors who look like regular every day citizens. Why can’t there be shows with people of all body types?  Why are our only choices too skinny or too fat?  We should be able to have one or two or five or ten shows with people of different sizes on TV so that no couple can be called out as “the only fat couple on TV.”

So now I’m taking my muffin top and fat roll that lives above that down to the kitchen to make some lunch cause all this talk about fat people on TV has made me hungry.

Should “Fatties” Get a Room? (Even on TV?) (Marie Claire)

Marie Claire blog on TV “fatties” provokes uproar (Reuters)

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

lola October 28, 2010 at 7:06 PM

Preach it sister. Maura seems so completely oblivious to her messed up thinking, I find that fact the most frightening thing overall.

Teri October 28, 2010 at 8:38 PM

I am fat. Pretty much have been since 16. I also have been anorexic and bullemic. Today, I am just fat. What is sad is that I’ve always wanted to act. I followed that dream during my college years until a professor told me that fat people will only be funny sidekicks, never the ingenue. Now decades later, I realize that finally there is a show on TV that is just funny and the actors HAPPEN to be fat. Then, a magazine, Marie Claire, lets someone write about how seeing a FAT person walk across the room, makes them sick???? Usually I could care less because Marie Claire isn’t that great of a magazine. But Nina Garcia, from Project Runway, is running (semi) that mag and I cannot believe she could back this–or let it go to press?
Maybe I will get to hollywood one day and still become that actress I’ve always wanted to be. But while people like Maura Kelly is spewing her bigotry, and others applauding, I best stay in Tacoma, WA and eat my ice cream while reading crap like this. At least when I comment, no one can arugue how sick my opinions are because of my weight. They would actually have to have some REASONING behind not liking my material, besides my dress size, unlike Ms. Kelly.

Teri C

Panty Buns October 28, 2010 at 9:52 PM

Outrage over Maura Kelly’s article and the climate at Marie Claire has been widespread. I was outraged myself by the article. I have previously written about the pervasive continuing glorification of the anorexic look by both the the fashion industry and the publications that follow fashion. Following the uproar that resulted from the article you referenced and linked above titled “Should “Fatties” Get a Room (Even on TV?)“, Maura Kelly tacked an apology onto the end of her piece labeled “UPDATE“. At last glance there were 58 comments on the Bitch Magazine blog article by Kelsey Wallace titled: “Fatphobia Alert: Fatties should not be allowed to kiss” amongst the myriad of outraged comments was a suggestion that it is Marie Claire’s Senior Web Editor Kate Schweitzer bears a lot of the responsibility for creating a climate where Maura Kelly’s fatphobic and disparaging comments got published.

katie October 28, 2010 at 9:55 PM

Fantastic post Melissa. I read something like that post by Maura and it sickens me.

Our country, the world is made of so many different kinds of people, but all television, films, and the media seem to focus on are the white ultra thin pretty people and how this is some ideal of feminine beauty. People of all shapes, sizes, color are beautiful each of us in our own way. I wish we could see more diversity especially in the entertainment industry.

And Teri love to you. Don’t ever lose that drive and positive attitude you have. Look forward to that day I an see you on the silver screen, the stage, or on the small screen.

Carol Wyatt October 29, 2010 at 1:52 AM

Great blog Melissa! I couldn’t agree more. People have gotten so publicly rude on the internet. I heard someone call it “brave keyboarding”. I’m tired of mean people.

Melody October 29, 2010 at 7:50 PM

Not excusing this at all, but I’d like to point out this did not go to print. It was a blog. A blog and an actual printed article go through very different channels to get published. If this were meant to be an article in the paper it would have been killed in the process because people generally take a longer time editing and musing over printed stories than they do when editing a story for the web. Online culture is fast and I hope somebody at Marie Claire is kicking themselves for NOT flagging this, instead of patting themselves on the back because they’re getting all this publicity for being “controversial”. Also – Nina Garcia, who I love, is not EIC. Joanna Coles is and she originally wrote off the widespread anger as Kelly being “provocative.” BARF. Also, also – I’ve been dying to know what MC’s plus sized fashion editor, blogger and columnist Ashley Falcon thinks about this. I can’t imagine how it must feel to work for the same publication where you write articles about how plus sized women can be beautiful and fashionable too and another woman on the other end of the building is fat-shaming your fashionistas and thinks they should never show affection or fall in love because they’re ‘too fat.’ If anyone finds anything anywhere, link me up? melodrama_06[at]yahoo.com

I plan on writing my column for my school’s paper next week on this. Haven’t figured out my angle yet, but I know I want to include how in the realm of bloggers, people use the First Amendment as a way to excuse their hate-mongering or as Carol said, use the 1st Amendment to claim it’s bold and courageous to say offensive shit.

Melissa, you presented an interesting angle. Kelly has some serious problems if seeing fat people on TV is the most disturbing thing she can think of. There is some batshit crazy stuff on TV these days! Fictional and non-fictional! Just yesterday I saw real footage of a real dead person being mummified on the History Channel! The doctors were removing his internal organs with a hook through a little cut in his chest! That disgusted me WAY more than someone like Melissa McCarthy (WHO IS SO FREAKIN PRETTY) ever would. And honestly Kelly must be a really sad, heartless person if a scene this cute is considered “gross” to her? Look at this cuteness! http://www.aceshowbiz.com/images/news/00036380.jpg

Then again, Kelly and the EIC of Marie Claire didn’t even bother to actually watch the show before writing/editing her bullshit blog. That speaks volumes.

of average weight, owning a few wrinkles. October 30, 2010 at 5:42 PM

I admit that I can’t stand watching Desperate housewives because the principal female actors plastic surgery and extreme thinness makes me uncomfortable…uncomfortable in a “I wont contribute to this sickening trend by following this show” way. I don’t think they are bad people for choosing that appearance, I feel sad about the narrowing of choices they experience as actresses. I’m also uncomfortable every time I discover that yet another series exists where the wife/mother is a former model, thin and fitting the current ridiculous standards of beauty, who is somehow the moral compass, the responsible one, etc. yet, is married to an overweight, balding, doofus. I wont watch that sort of programming.
As for a couple who are overweight, no, that wouldn’t be a problem. I adored that actress when she was on Gilmore Girls. Now I’m off to Hulu to see if I can catch any episodes of Mike and Molly.

Lisa October 31, 2010 at 9:37 PM

I must admit, MK made comments that would offend people who are obese. However, this tv couple looks VERY unhealthy and are obviously gluttons, that is a fact and not an opinion.

As gluttons who have physically handicapped themselves, MK has made her comparison to others who continually do things that corrode their bodies: people who feed other addictions ( booze, drugs, etc).

Gay people cannot exercise themselves straight, and have no control over being gay; so I find your comparison to be offensive.

The inverse of these people in the “skinny” realm would be a starving ethiopian 1oo+ pounds underweight. Equally un appealing to look at, and not something we should “normalize”.

As far as MK’s statments go, it is far more disturbing that we as a culture consider people who are morbidly obese as “real people”.

Your article also takes a stab at shaming others, who put energy into their appearance, however misguided.

sally November 1, 2010 at 1:40 AM

I have three words for the dude tools and the girl on girl crime:

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Allowed to be sexual in roles. Allowed to be powerful. Allowed to star. Allowed to be at the top of his profession.

sally November 1, 2010 at 1:48 AM

As far as tagging people gluttons: that’s as offensive as some tool claims a girl is “clean” or “dirty” or “offensive” because she enjoys sex.

And I think you can exercise yourself straight or gay. I mean, if you are legally thin enough you can legally have a sex life. You can practice sexually without shame. If you are fat, well…you are legally a sex-less person. By exercising…you could possibly earn your right to freely practice your sexuality. But you have to earn it….

The new religious righteous. What is necessary: a group of people to villify. a group that is “okay to hate.” Of course, it is only because they are dirty, offensive, “unhealthy,” etc…..When you are the clean righteous, you are above thinking they are they same humans as you are. Some how lower…they can’t control themselves…they are dirty….tut, tut…. It’s great to have a yardstick to know where you are in the caste system, who you are better than. And really, it’s offensive these days to hate on a particular race…or nationality…what to do..what to do….

Kaviani November 3, 2010 at 5:04 PM

Gay people cannot exercise themselves straight, and have no control over being gay; so I find your comparison to be offensive.

Same here!

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