MCN Columnists
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Wait, Now They’re Letting “Fatties” Make Out on TV? Surely You Jest …

Boy, mag/website Marie Claire really stepped in a big pile of cow patties with this blog post by Maura Kelly titled “Should Fatties Get a Room (Even on TV)? the other day. The piece was about television show Mike & Molly, which depicts an obese couple who meet at Overeaters Anonymous, and was apparently prompted by Kelly’s editor asking her, “Do you really think people feel uncomfortable when they see overweight people making out on television?”

There are so many “wrongs” that went wrong here it’s hard to know where to even start, but let me count the ways. The questionable appropriateness of an editor assigning a piece from that angle to begin with? The assignment of a woman with a history of anorexia to write a piece about whether fat people are gross? The content of the post itself, starting with its inflammatory title? How about “all of the above, and then some?”

Femme website Jezebel really slammed the hell out of Kelly, pull-quoting some of the more offensive bits and pieces, but that’s nothing compared to the righteous bitch-slapping she got in the comments section of her post.

In her piece, Kelly goes on at length about how disgusting fat people are, how it grosses her out to even see fat people walk across a room, and how really, it’s their own fault anyhow for being disgusting fatties. She goes on to reassure her readers that she’s NOT size-ish — she actually has some “plump” friends! Gosh, how generous of her to be friends with people who aren’t as skinny as she is! (I bet her “plump friends” are no bigger than a size 12, though.) And also, Kelly condescends to offer some excellent weight loss tips for fatties — “Eat healthier! Walk more!” (Golly, thanks for that, Maura. I’m sure all the disgusting fat people who read Marie Claire will now be able to lose weight more quickly and easily thanks to your expert advice!)

Kelly, who later added an apology of sorts to her inflammatory piece, noted that it had been pointed out to her by friends that perhaps her own history of anorexia had affected her perception of the idea of fat people being depicted as having lives and finding love. (Really? You think?) Now you, like me, might think she ought to have perhaps considered before agreeing to write a piece about fat people on television that her history of anorexia and general tendency to find overweight people abhorrent might make her not the best person to tackle such a weighty subject, but we’ll be generous and assume that, up until she sat down and wrote this post, she had no idea she was so, well, sizeist (sorry, Maura, but if the plus-size label fits …)

Not surprisingly, Kelly was attacked ruthlessly by commenters for the piece, has apologized for it, and wishes it could be taken down. Of course, it can’t, because at this point if Marie Claire took it down they’d look stupider than they do now. You can’t take something back once you’ve pushed the “publish” button and enough people have read it, commented on it and linked to it.

Look, having struggled with body perception issues and eating disorders since I was 11, I can kind of sympathize with Kelly. Having an eating disorder completely distorts your perception of “normal” when it comes to bodies and fat. But surely as a professional writer — not to mention, presumably, a grown-up person whose empathy circuits are not completely FUBAR — she could have read through that piece and seen how some people, or even a lot of people, might take offense.

The wording of her piece, however much she might regret it (or at least, however much she might regret the backlash to it) implies quite strongly that Kelly isn’t just disgusted by the idea of seeing fat people making out (What? Fat people have relationships? Fat people can find love? The nerve of them!) but the idea that fat people even exist. She’s disgusted by the rolls of fat all over their fat bodies as they walk across a room, as they sit, as they eat, as they breathe, as they live. If only they weren’t so … fat … they would be okay maybe. But since they are fat, they are gross and no one should be subjected to watching them do things like fall in love and kiss! Horrors!

I’ve never watched Mike & Molly, but after reading all about this, I may just check it out. As a mother of three girls and two boys, and as a woman who’s dealt with the emotional and physical tolls of eating disorders for most of my life, I am acutely aware of the way television shows and movies overwhelmingly portray only one type of female body type as attractive, as acceptable, as worthy of being loved.

The super-skinny female body glorified by Barbie dolls and media does not accurately reflect the vast array of beautiful girls and women who don’t fit that mold, and clearly, as this piece written BY a woman for a magazine target AT women shows, it’s not just men who are the problem. What does it do to the self-esteem of your average girl or young woman when size 12 is considered “plus size” and a television show about overweight people finding love causes an editor to question whether that grosses people out, and a writer to pen offensive drivel of this nature? Sad.

You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see a world where movies and television and billboards and magazine ads routinely depict women of all body types — you know, kind of like what you see in the real world? — and that’s not even newsworthy. Where actresses who are a size 12 or 14 or 16 are written about in terms of their acting and not broken down into their body parts. Where average girls and women look at the depictions of women around them and see themselves. And most of all, where editors don’t even think to ask whether seeing overweight people make out on television “grosses people out.”

What grosses me out is that Maura Kelly’s editor — and Kelly herself — even thought it relevant to ask and answer that question at all.

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2 Responses to “Wait, Now They’re Letting “Fatties” Make Out on TV? Surely You Jest …”

  1. Jetsin says:

    Great thinking! That really bekras the mold!

  2. Your blogpost is great, i don’t know why but for some reason i can’t see your blogpost on google chrome, this is why i used firefox.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon