Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fake Fat Lady Phenomenon

There's been a lot of talk in the last year of Hollywood's new acceptance of fat people, citing the popularity of actresses like Rebel Wilson and Melissa McCarthy.

I call shenanigans.

While those actresses may have the lead role in several major studio films, they represent a fraction of a percent of working actresses. We have two major actresses in a sea of thousands who are supposed to represent 64% of American women who are overweight or obese.

OK, so maybe this is supposed to be exciting because it's an increase in women of size over previous years.  However, just from my memory, we've always had a few plus-size stars.

Hell, Oprah Winfrey is one of the most powerful women in the world!!!

Maybe the idea behind the phenomena is that these plus-sized superstars is that they're being viewed as sexual, fully realized characters.  Women who have the same wants and needs as any of their smaller counterparts. 
Instead, these ladies play goofy punch lines to their own jokes.  They both play characters that are so far removed from reality and represent the view society has of fat women: creepy girls who crush unattainably, masculine women, and women who are ridiculously over-confident.
Sometimes, I think Gwyneth Paltrow was a better fat role-model in Shallow Hal than what we're seeing in popular film today.
That is not to say that media is devoid of positive, full-figured females.  We see them in shows like Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime, starring Brooke Elliott and Margaret Cho or in indie films like disFigured about an anorexic and obese woman who become friends.
These women showcase characters who have sex, get flirted with, and deal with themselves as humans.  Of course, there is fantasy involved - it's fiction.  But they don't use their bodies as a prop for a comedy routine.
While I appreciate any representation of women of size in media, it would be nice if the percentages more accurately mirrored the population they were mimicking and the characters played had some basis in reality.  I don't begrudge Rebel Wilson and Melissa McCarthy their work, but instead would love to see them portrayed in a more positive light.
This isn't an explosion of fat acceptance.  However, now that we have some women of size becoming more powerful in media, it could be.