Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mike & Molly – Overweight couples on TV

“So anyway, yes, I think I'd 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 heroin addict slumping in a chair.”

The above comments, penned by a writer called Maura Kelly, came from the on-line version of Marie Claire, a women's magazine. Kelly was commenting on the CBS sitcom "Mike & Molly," about a couple who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous group and begin a relatioship. Huh? They've got a 12 step program for the overweight?

The show, which has apparently done well in the ratings, has also drawn complaints for its abundance of fat jokes.

I must admit, I've never seen or even heard of the show or it's stars, Melissa McCarthy and Billy Gardell. I don't watch all that much TV, and when I do, I'm most likely watching the History channel, one of the news channels or one dedicated to old movies. I do make an exception for the many incarnations of “Dr. Who”, but that's neither here nor there.

Mike and Molly has also drawn criticism from some viewers who are not comfortable watching intimacy between two plus-sized actors. Hence the article by Ms. Kelly in Marie Claire, where she notes: ”And while I think our country's obsession with physical perfection is unhealthy, I also think it's at least equally crazy, albeit in the other direction, to be implicitly promoting obesity!”

Wow. And I thought sitcoms were about entertainment. Forgive my naivety.

After offering that “I'm happy to give you some nutrition and fitness suggestions if you need them”, Kelly closed her article with the line: “What do you guys think? Fat people making out on TV - are you cool with it? Do you think I'm being an insensitive jerk?”

Her readers apparently responded in the affirmative.

In an update to her blog post on Marie Claire, Ms. Kelly offered an apology of sorts: “I would really like to apologize for the insensitive things I've said in this post. Believe it or not, I never wanted anyone to feel bullied or ashamed after reading this, and I sorely regret that it upset people so much.”

Unfortunately she goes on to clarify what she meant in her original blog entry.

“I would like to reiterate that I think it's great to have people of all shapes and healthy sizes represented in magazines (as, it bears mentioning here, they are in Marie Claire) and on TV shows - and that in my post, I was talking about a TV show that features people who are not simply a little overweight, but appear to be morbidly obese”. Uh-huh.

The woman apparently suffers from “foot-in-mouth” disease.

Another blogger, Rosie Schwatz, at Enlightened Eater, chastised Ms. Kelly for her article, noting however that the article may have had some positive benefits: “The good news is that it ignited a firestorm of controversy. Judging people by how they look and how much they weigh may finally be recognized as unacceptable.”

I think Ms. Schwartz may be a little premature in her conclusion.

Is she perhaps unaware of the anti-obesity campaign initiated by Michelle Obama? Does she know that the Robert Wood Johnson foundation recently committed $500 million to fight the “epidemic” of obesity? Is she familiar with the intentions of some public health zealots to model their anti-obesity efforts on the “successful” tactics employed in anti-smoker campaigns?

Ms. Schwartz believes “It's time to drop the fat bashing.” I agree. But . . .

I've seen what's happens when public health officials declare an epidemic and decide to help people for their own good. Hell, I'm a smoker.

And, the anti-fat fanatics are already crawling out from under their rocks; lawsuits against fast food joints for “causing” obesity, calorie counts on restaurant menus to remind the overweight of the harm they may be doing to themselves, taxes on sugary soft drinks to combat the epidemic and, eventually, the denormalization of the obese, those poor helpless junk food addicts so desperately in need of society's help to become normal, healthy human beings.

If the treatment afforded smokers is any indication, then the overweight and obese may be in for a rough ride. They don't deserve it, but then neither do smokers.

No comments: