‘Can Rachel Zoe get pregnant?’ Is that really any of our business?

(Originally posted at riotsnotdiets)

I don’t watch The Rachel Zoe Project, but I know her thin size (and apparently questionable eating habits?) have been the topic of much debate in the past couple years.  While I’m certainly interested in—and critical of—how exposure to extremely thin bodies in the media can skew young girls’ perception of their own bodies and how they should look, I’m not really interested in body-shaming people of any size, regardless of whether or not they are “healthy”.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t think eating disorders or disordered eating in general shouldn’t be discussed… they really should, and I think it’s important for young people to understand the extreme lengths their celebrity role models go to to ensure that they stay a certain size.

But it’s not helpful for us to sit and hypothesize about the relative health of someone we don’t know.  When the media does it to fat people, berating celebs I love like Gabby Sidibe “for the sake of their health”, I get fucking pissed.  Because the fact of the matter is, YOU DON’T KNOW that person’s life experience, or lifestyle choices, or medical history.  So many people look at me, as a fat person, and make assumptions about all of these things and more based on negative stereotypes they learn (at least in part) from the media.  It’s not right, and it’s not fair.

So what is Jezebel (one of my fave feminism-meets-pop-cultural-analysis type blogs) doing with their latest post, “Can Rachel Zoe Get Pregnant”?  Because to me, it looks a lot like body-shaming, even if they swear up and down that that’s not what they’re doing:

This season of Rachel’s show has focused on whether she can make time in her schedule for her ticking biological clock. Yet nobody has addressed the elephant in the room: whether or not she weighs enough to get pregnant.

and

This is not an attack on Rachel’s appearance, nor is it a criticism of her own engagement in body snarking, and it’s not a comment on her highly-publicized association with size-zero actresses. Yes, those elements are all in the Zoe Ether. But what we’re concerned with discussing is the practical question of fertility, and in what condition a woman’s body needs to be in order to conceive.

Really?  Is that all your concerned with/discussing?  Then write an article about THAT, and if you must use a celebrity as an example to entice your readers, why don’t you write about a celebrity who has actually talked about it openly instead of calling out someone who hasn’t and concern-trolling them.

Thankfully, a lot of Jezebel’s commenters have already pointed out the obvious: that this is really none of our damn business.

Sara Rue hosts new CW weight loss show; continues to make me sad

(Originally posted at riotsnotdiets)

So I was watching television this morning and Sara Rue’s latest Jenny Craig commercial came on.

I shouldn’t feel so personally affected by Sara Rue’s life choices.  I’m not the body police, I don’t get to say how people (especially celebrities living under immense pressure to be thin) should live their lives.  But Sara Rue is different.  Sara Rue is my homegirl.

I’m not old enough to really remember Roseanne, and the amazing things that show did for normalizing fat bodies, fat love, and working-class people in general.  I was under 10 during the show’s heyday, and spent most of my TV-watching time with The Animaniacs and Are You Afraid of the Dark?.  I wasn’t even really old enough to realize that I was fat, or that I needed fat people on TV to identify with.  But then I hit 6th grade, and the size of my body and my experiences within it really started to shape how I viewed the world.  In the fall of 1999, my last year of middle school, the show Popular debuted on The WB.  Pretty much any fat girl my age in the U.S. knows why this was a big deal: Carmen Ferrara (Sara Rue), best friend to lead character Sam McPherson (Carly Pope), was fatPopular, not Roseanne, was really my first introduction to bodies like mine on television.

Of course Carmen had a lot of body issues, and much of her character development had her succeeding in spite of her fatness (i.e. getting on the cheer squad, dating the hot jock, etc.), which was all sorts of problematic… but at the time, for 14-year-old me, it was downright revolutionary.  (Not to mention that Sara Rue was—and still is—all sorts of hot, which totally blew my mind: fat girls could be sexy!)

Anyway, I was watching the new Jenny Craig commercial, where Sara gushes about how happy she is that she’s lost 50 lbs. and Joe could hear my grumbles from across the room. “Is that a commercial for her new weight loss show?” he asked.

“Her what?!”

Really, I don’t know why I was so surprised.  Naturally, I hopped on good ol’ google and discovered that Joe was right: Sara Rue will be hosting her own CW reality show in the fall.  “Shedding for the Wedding” is a biggest-loser style show for engaged couples, who must lose weight in order to win the wedding of their dreams.

UGH.

GAG ME WITH A SPOON.

I know it shouldn’t affect me, but “losing” Sara Rue to this bullshit is kind of deflating, if only momentarily so.  I guess it’s just yet another reminder to keep on fighting the good fight.

BRB, gonna go outside and be fat and happy in public.

Weight loss shenanigans

(Originally post at riotsnotdiets)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48aQa4kpvu8]

A friend sent me a link to this commercial yesterday, her only words being “have you seen this?”. I’m easily intrigued, so I immediately hit play. This commercial is… brilliant. It’s creepy, mysterious, kind of sexy, intriguingly foreign… the kind of commercial you watch until the end because you NEED to know what happens. This feeling, of course, doesn’t happen often with commercials—which is why I say it’s “brilliant”. Its message, however, is blatantly anti-fat and it quickly becomes emblematic of everything that’s wrong with societal conceptions of fatness: it’s the fucking fantasy of being thin all over again. So I read the YouTube comments expecting to see at least SOME “this shit is bullshit” type comments, but instead it’s all a bunch of people who fucking love it. And while it was frustrating, it wasn’t really surprising.

So here’s my message to Xenical (the creators of this commercial) and fat-hating society in general today: FUCK YOU, I’m fabulous. And even if that girl in your commercial can’t tie her own shoes (which I highly doubt is the case), she can still do all of those other things and more. Because life doesn’t stop when you’re fat. Fat people have all sorts of adventurous, mysterious, intriguing, and sexy lives. So again: FUCK YOU.

“Huge” potential

(Originally posted at riotsnotdiets)

(For a much more nuanced and amusing recap of Huge’s first episode, head on over to Lesley Kinzel’s post.)

Full disclosure: I LOVED Nikki Blonsky in Hairspray.  Yeah, yeah John Waters devotees swear that it totally shat on the original AND John Travolta is no Divine (not even close, amirite?), but I actually really, really dug that movie.  I saw the Broadway musical when it debuted in Seattle, and I think it might have been my first experience with something even remotely approaching fat acceptance/body love.  When I first heard “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful” it warmed my own little big, blonde and beautiful heart.

But I digress.  Nikki was the shit as Tracy Turnblad, and she sadly hasn’t done much since then, aside from a shitty Lifetime movie and a little-known, straight to DVD indie flick.  (And of course there was that pesky arrest.)

So I was excited to open my recent Entertainment Weekly and see this ad:

Of course, I’m a little perturbed that she looks so scared and uncomfortable (especially given her character’s own self-acceptance attitude), but HOLY FUCK!  That body!  That beautiful fat body that looks just like mine!  In a magazine!  If I had seen this in high school, my mind would have been thoroughly blown.

Anyway, onto the episode itself.

I missed it last night, so watched the replay tonight on ABC Family along with my trusty DVR remote and my snarky boyfriend (Joe).

First of all, the show gets props for the sheer amount of fat actors (all shapes and sizes!) it employs.  I haven’t seen this many fat kids since Heavyweights (although it’s sad that these things gotta be set at fat camps in order to get more than 1 or 2 fat characters in ‘em).

The episode opens with a whole lot of fat teens in their bathing suits, hanging out on the first day of camp and taking their “pre-fat camp” (and, ostensibly, “pre-weight loss”) photos.  (Joe called this process “disturbing”—he doesn’t share the same sordid history with extreme childhood dieting that I have, so he’s not really acquainted with these sort of dehumanizing rituals.)  BUT THEN: Will/Willamina (Blonsky) strips supersexystyle in front of the whole camp when the formidable Dr. Rand (Gina Torres, whom I’m already inclined to dislike thanks to her turn as the maggoty-faced big bad from season 4 of Angel) forces her to take her clothes off for the “pre-fat camp” photo… and I love Nikki Blonsky even more than I did before.

The rest of the episode is really about introducing us to the characters:

There’s the radically self-loving Will, who refuses to buy into the camp’s anti-fat bullshit and sells candy like a crack dealer (more on this later);

Will’s new BFF Becca (Raven Goodwin), who is bookish and shy, and is (as Lesley points out) one of the first NON-sassy black girls on mainstream/white TV like, ever.  (Glee ought to take a cue from Huge here.);

Ian (Ari Stidham), Will’s cute potential crush and fellow Pixies lover, whose feelings for Will might be compromised by his more obvious feelings for…

Amber (played by David Hasselhoff’s daughter, Hayley), the skinniest and prettiest girl at camp.  She is (despite her new-found popularity) incredibly insecure and self-loathing, and comes complete with her own set of “Thinspiration” pics torn from fashion mags.  She quickly befriends the other camp queen bees, Caitlin and Chloe.

A “Jillian Michaels”esque trainer (petite, loud, super mean, wants people to work out until they cry, etc.) is the exact opposite of her assistant, the attractive nice-guy and all-around “golden boy” George (Zander Eckhouse) whom Amber immediately falls for (and the feelings are mutual).

And then there is Dr. Rand, the former fatty who has redeemed herself by becoming thin and beautiful and the head of a fat camp so that she can make other sad fatties thin and beautiful, too.  Blechhhh.  (Also, the camp’s cook is her dad and they seem to have a weird relationship.  Dunno what’s up with that.)

There’s a whole lot of drama from the very beginning, and while my 24-year-old self is a little “over it” already, I know my high school-aged self would have loved the shit out of this show.

The Good:

  • There are ALL sorts of fat characters, which makes stereotyping really hard
  • The stripping scene
  • Will’s incredulous facial expressions at all the fat camp ridiculousness
  • The super shy/awkward Alistair, whom we haven’t really had a chance to meet yet but does funny things that make me laugh
  • Will: “Me and my fat are like BFFs.”
  • Random character, reading a celeb gossip magazine: “Miley Cyrus walks her own dog.  She’s so down to earth.”
  • Will, to Dr. Rand, insisting that she is not “too afraid” to “change her life” via weight loss: “I’m not scared, I just think everything you stand for is crap.”

The Bad:

  • Will as candy drug dealer.  While I’ve so far read a lot of complaints about this part (especially because it reinforces the stupid ass stereotype that all fat kids have fucked up, secretive relationships with candy and ho-hos), I still thought it was a fair depiction of what might happen under such extreme food-related deprivation… and it also highlights just how much like prison this fat camp really is.  Still, I can’t shake the feeling that this bit is more about the “fatties love junkfood” trope than about making a “deprivation is ridic” point.
  • The show seems to be framing Will’s body acceptance as stubborn resistance to the well-meaning folks who just wanna help, rather than as radical self-love.
  • Amber randomly sits on a dude’s lap.  I don’t get this scene: it’s supposed to show how surprised and relieved Amber is when she realizes she can sit on a guy without killing him because she is a big fat whale, but really?  It’s just creepy.  Joe’s only comment: “….aaaaaaaaaand boner.”
  • The acting in general is questionable (but maybe it’s super good for ABC Family?  I dunno.)
  • All of the pro-weight loss stuff in general.  For as fat-pos as Will the character might be, the premise of the show is still that these kids are here to lose weight, because being fat is unhealthy/bad/etc.  When Will runs away from camp and her only recourse is to hitchhike, Dr. Rand expresses her disappointment that Will would “rather risk [her] life than change it”—because losing weight is, you know, the most life-changing thing you can do for yourself as a sad, self-loathing, cake-eating fatty.  Puh-lease.

The Ugly:

  • Amber’s “thinspiration” (my teenaged self SO had a computer folder full of thinspo pictures of plus-size models).
  • The camp counselors take away all “illegal contraband,” including sugar-free gum.  Joe’s response: “You can’t have gum?! Is it because chewing is like eating and eating makes you fat?”
  • Amber: “I’ve been dieting since I was 10, it’s probably the thing I’m best at.”  This is so honest, and is one of the many things that is horribly wrong about our society.
  • Caitlin gets sent home because Dr. Rand finds out she’s been binging and purging.  First of all, props to the show for reminding us that fat kids can suffer from bulimia (and other eating disorders/disordered eating), too.  And man, fuck the culture that cultivates this kind of whacked relationship with food and our bodies.  Fucking fuck!

The verdict, according to Joe:

“It has potential.”

And I, with a healthy dose of cautious optimism, agree.

New fat shows!

(Originally posted to riotsnotdiets)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rx4pX6nmHO0]

Have you heard?  CBS will air a new sitcom this fall, starring two (legitimately!) fat actors (one is the fabulous Melissa McCarthy, who up until now has been a victim of perpetual typecasting as the “happy-go-lucky best friend”—see Gilmore Girls and Samantha Who? for examples).  According to the above video, and an article in the New York Times, the show is about two lovable fatties who meet at an Overeater’s Anonymous* meeting and fall in love.  Aww.

The network calls it “an endearing love story about two people who aren’t perfect, except for each other.”  More aww.

While those “aww”s are at least 50% sarcastic, and I’m not super hopeful about the show’s potential for subverting the largely anti-fat status quo (especially as unfunny fat jokes abound), there is at least a possibility that this show might have its moments.

I mean, we haven’t had a show on major network television starring two fat actors, in romantic situations!, since Roseanne in the early 1990s (omg, SUCH a great show).  But whether or not Mike & Molly are the new (younger, hipper, more millennial) Roseanne and Dan remains to be seen.

The bright side?  Since these actors are legitimately fat, CBS can’t pull a “oh hey, they just exercised and dieted and now they are super skinny” storyline.  AND it could be worse: at least they aren’t dead wannabe models who come back to earth as plus-size attorneys.**

I guess all we can do is wait and see…

*The Overeater’s Anonymous diet was the first official diet I ever went on, at age 12.  It involved eating 16 oz of vegetables and 4 oz of protein for dinner alone.  Yes, that’s a pound of vegetables.  It felt like torture, but the worst part was that it was totally self-induced torture—I didn’t do it because my parents wanted me to or thought that I should, I did it because I hated my body and thought being skinny would make me popular.  It was gross.  (So already, I’m inclined to be suspicious of Mike & Molly’s premise.  Hopefully the characters will realize how ridiculous it is to suggest that fat people are just overeaters with food-related addiction problems.)

**Full disclosure: despite the ridiculous premise, I love Drop Dead Diva.  I just pretend that “Deb” doesn’t exist.

May 25, edited to add: Just read Lesley Kinzel’s thoughts on this and another fat-centered TV show debuting in the summer, ABC Family’s Huge, starring Nikki Blonsky of Hairspray fame.  It’s about fat kids at a fat camp.  (And no, not that fat camp.)  I know it may be too much to ask, but can we have shows about fat people that don’t revolve around their weight?  I mean, don’t ignore it (it’s legit to speak truth to what it’s like for a fat person to live in in a fat-hating world), but don’t act like it’s the only damn thing that’s interesting about fat bodies.  Yeesh.