More to Love

There is a new series starting tonight on FOX called, “More to Love.” It is the brother show of The Bachelor, but the difference is that this show is for “big” girls.

MORE TO LOVE, the new dating competition show from Mike Fleiss (“The Bachelor”), follows one regular guy’s search for love among a group of real women determined to prove that love comes in all shapes and sizes. The inspirational new series is hosted by iconic supermodel Emme.
Luke Conley is a 26-year-old former college football offensive lineman who stands 6’3″ and weighs over 300 pounds. He’s a successful sub-contractor and real estate investor who has his sights set on building a long-lasting …relationship.

My first instinct when I saw the trailer was how I feel whenever I see trailers for these dating/marriage reality TV shows, “this is bullshit.” And as I watched, my opinion didn’t change. The problem with these reality TV shows about marriage and finding the one isn’t just about how they are sexist, but how they make fetish of romance and love and play on outdated ideas about romance. I have to say of all my guilty pleasures, The Bachelor, Tough Love, Who Wants To Marry a Millionaire and Millionaire Matchmaker are not on the list (I am more of a Top Chef, Fashion Show, Project Runway kind of gal), but most definitely because I have a specific ambivalence to weddings and the romantic industrial complex (to put it nicely).
But that is not what is unique about this show. More to Love is different because it features women that are fat. When I am using fat here, I am using it as a descriptor, not as a pejorative. Similarly, Marianne Kirby writes at the Daily Beast,

So when I say fat, I mean it as a descriptive term, not an insult. I work toward a concept known as Fat Acceptance–the idea that, really and truly, your body is OK just the way it is.

Unfortunately, the general TV watching public may not have the same attitude. The reality is that the nature of these shows is making spectacle of people, so now the gaze has shifted to fat women and the men who love them. (A very common fetish in the porn world.)
Outside of the fetish spectacle of the whole thing, my second thought when seeing an ad for it on TV was relief. I am fat and I appreciated seeing other fat women on TV, not on a show about weight loss, but on a show about accepting themselves as is and finding love as is. But as I watched the commercials, something continued not to sit right with me and Kirby hits the nail on the head,

Does every fat woman have a story about the date invite that was actually a humiliating joke? What about the one where the fat girl strikes up a conversation with the cute guy at the bar…and he asks for her thin friend’s phone number? I try to remember that meeting a good partner is a challenge for everyone, but it’s hard in the face of these stories not to feel like the show’s producers are conflating “fat women” with “pathetic, sad women” and leaving it at that.
Still, as I started watching the first episode, I could certainly identify with these women’s dating struggles, even as I sat comfortably on the couch next to my husband. The show’s creators have tapped into something with this. But then they fall back on stereotypes, yet again.
The women on the show look amazing; great fashion, great hair and makeup. They are all individually gorgeous, even if they don’t look a thing like the mainstream beauty ideal. It feels really great to watch them strut and shine. But…they are all strutting around huge plates of food.

So while the mere act of these women being on television does disrupt beauty standards, you have to wonder what the desired outcome of this show is and what the producers are playing to. Are they using catchy almost feminist ads to shore up support, only to break it down when you actually watch the show and realize these women are “pathetic?” Are they creating a fetish of fatness for Americans to tune in in awe, to make jokes and laugh about how these “fat girls” are trying to find love?

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