A Real Woman's Perspective on Full-Figured TV

The truth is overweight people don’t walk around talking about being overweight all the time.

When I was asked by MarieClaire.com to write a guest blog post on the subject of women as represented in the media, I was initially hesitant. I felt I'd already said everything I needed to say. But, upon further reflection, I realized that there's a reason Mike & Molly strikes a nerve with people. We, as a society, have a tendency to bury things that we deem unpleasant. Mike & Molly took a risk and put a rather significant issue at the forefront of our minds. Weight.

I have watched Mike & Molly since the beginning of the season. I had high hopes for the show, and I thought it was about damn time someone put people who weren't stick thin on television. To be honest, the show lacks the spark I was hoping it would have. Bloggers and the media are quite right…I believe too much attention is paid to the actor's weight. The truth is overweight people don't walk around talking about being overweight all the time, and they certainly aren't friends with people who make weight an issue. I realize that Mike & Molly is a sitcom, the writing should be funny, but fat jokes aren't that funny anymore—they're predictable and can be offensive. And, let's be honest…when I was at my heaviest, I wasn't sitting around cracking fat jokes, and I would have been mortified if someone I was with had. Is that even a realistic portrayal of the relationships Mike and Molly would have? Another interesting note on Mike & Molly is the character of Molly's sister. While this character is not obese, or overweight, she is dressed in skimpy clothes, and portrayed as a pill‐popping alcoholic bimbo. Is that female portrayal more palatable to those offended by full‐figured characters?

But, this issue extends beyond Mike & Molly. Shows that feature full‐figured people have been popping up on television for several years now. How about Ugly Betty? Betty wasn't obese, but for the role, America Ferrera was a fuller‐figured character made to look pretty unappealing with braces and out‐of‐date glasses. Don't worry though, Hollywood "fixed it" by the end of the series when Betty lost her braces, straightened her hair, and got some fashion sense. Or how about Brooke Elliott's character Jane Bingum on Drop Dead Diva? Bingum plays a former aspiring model who dies and is reincarnated into the body of an overweight attorney. While slightly more realistic and less apologetic, there are still references to Bingum's character using her brain instead of her body, and finding her inner beauty. But, why can't Jane be beautiful AND big?

I've been racking my brain, and I can only think of one plus‐sized character on a television series whose weight was not an issue. And, it ends up back in the hands of Melissa McCarthy. McCarthy played Loralei Gilmore's best friend Sookie on the television series Gilmore Girls. Sookie's weight was NEVER an issue on the show, and it didn't need to be. She was a chef who loved and appreciated food, and that was obvious. But there didn't need to be discussions about her weight. In my opinion, Gilmore Girls was an honest portrayal of women on television. All the female leads were flawed. But didn't that make them relatable?

I guess that's what it all boils down to for me. I want to see myself reflected in the characters on television—not all characters, but at least some. And I want to watch people who have honest relationships with one another. Life is messy, and no one is perfect. And I can relate to that! I want real women characters. Real women come in all different shapes and sizes. That's real! What isn't real is the sea of same‐sized women character we see on television. Molly may not be perfect, but she's real. Perhaps if we embraced differences instead of rejecting them, our society would be better off.

Check out more of what Elizabeth Tierney has to say on her blog at To New Bodies.

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