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Should We See Fat Characters on TV?

marie claire
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It’s an interesting question, apparently. I mean, human beings are made up of all kinds of people, from tall to short, black to pasty-pink, stupid to genius, figure-skaters to train-spotters. By definition, we live, eat and breathe diversity across all humanity – indeed, it’s something we love to stand up and celebrate. In fact, our very diversity is one of the reasons our species is so robust – lots of different genes make us strong, genetically speaking. But still, according to one writer from Marie Claire magazine, TV shows – even ones she’s never seen – shouldn’t include characters who are overweight because she’s “grossed out” by them.

Yeah, I know. Could anybody possibly get any more venal or superficial or incredibly cruel and self-centered? Oh, I’m sure we could find somebody, but for today, the title goes to Maura Kelly.

She wrote an article about a TV show (Mike & Molly) – a romance about two overweight people who meet at Overeaters Anonymous – and complained that she found the idea of two fat people kissing disgusting. She admitted that she’d never seen the show – but that didn’t make her reconsider her opinions. Instead, she threw another gem out into the bubbling sea of discontent: that showing fat people on television simply “promoted obesity”.

And that’s the question. Does it? Does seeing overweight people on TV make you want to go out and become one? Does it make you think that everybody should be overweight? The very idea is ridiculous!

The real question for me is – why isn’t it okay for overweight people to be represented on TV? We have our stories, too. We have our ups and downs, our loves, children, grandchildren, our success and our failures. Why isn’t it okay to tell those stories alongside those of all the people who don’t struggle with weight? Why can’t overweight people love and find happiness?

Why are we defined only by our size?

It makes me so angry when I see blatant discrimination like this, especially in the pages of a world-wide magazine like Marie Claire. Who knows how many people were deeply hurt by those stupid comments – people who already struggle on a daily basis trying to deal with an affliction I literally wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. This is exactly the kind of comment that causes untold damage to people with an eating disorder.

Fortunately, Kelly’s comments also made a lot of other people very angry and she was forced to publish a grovelling apology on the Marie Claire website. And so she should. If she’d swapped the word ‘obese’ for ‘black’ she’d have been lynched by now.

While it makes me angry that she did it in the first place – with the permission/encouragement of her editors – I’m also heartened to see the waves of overwhelming disapproval follow close behind. Well done, people. Turns out there is a silver lining, even to this black cloud.

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