Unapologetic fat people, coming soon to your living room

Huge, a new show about teens at fat camp, and that stars Hairspray‘s Nikki Blonsky, premieres next week on ABC Family. Judging by this interview with Blonsky, and by the promos, this show is going to do its best to break the mold. Seriously, how often do you hear lines like “everyone wants us to hate our bodies. Well, I refuse to” in the mainstream media? How often do you hear a fat person saying, proudly and without remorse, that they have no intention of losing any weight? Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about Huge. In her interview with The Frisky, Blonsky says,

Huge is groundbreaking because it has never been done before. I don’t think there’s ever been a full cast of plus-size people before. Now there is and kids can tune and say, “Hey, those people look like me and they’re going through the same issues I’m going through.” In this show, we don’t just deal with, “Oh, let’s go jogging and swim 20 laps and lose 30 lbs.” It’s not about that. I mean, eventually as you watch the show, you’re going to forget it’s about a weight-loss camp. You’re just going to get so invested in the characters. We deal with everything from eating disorders to body issues to sexual orientation to everything that every teenager is going through right now.

Imagine that, fat people depicted as normal people dealing with issues other than being fat! Sounds pretty great, though of course I’ll reserve judgment until I’ve actually seen a few episodes (and judging by the look on Blonsky’s face, and her posture, in that poster, it seems wise to avoid jumping to joyous conclusions just yet).

I saw a big billboard advertising Huge last week, and it made me smile. There was Nikki Blonsky, a big fat gorgeous woman in a bathing suit, five stories high on the side of a building, advertising the new show that she’s starring in. But then, I turned the corner and staring back at me was an equally large billboard for H & M, featuring two women in bikinis who were anything but huge. And I was reminded that of all the ads I was going to see that day, Blonsky’s was the exception.

It was a sad, but important reminder: Media that features positive images of women who don’t conform to the rigid definition of beauty provided by Hollywood and the fashion industry are fantastic, and if Huge is everything it claims to be, then we should celebrate it as a sign of progress. But no matter how great it might be, it’s only one show. We need to keep demanding and supporting media that represent all women, of all shapes, colors and sizes. Hopefully, Huge will be an important step in that direction, but even if it is, we’ve still got a long way to go.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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Join the Conversation

  • Jessica Lee

    I’m 5’5″, my weight fluctuates from anywhere between 182-185, and I’m a size 12-14 (sometimes 16 in dresses), and I don’t see my body type very well represented. I also have broad shoulders and smaller hips/ass, not the typical hourglass figure that is seen whenever a TV show or movie wants to present a fat-positive message. I’m sure there’s a market for overweight but not quite plus-sized women.

  • Honeybee

    Feminists DO chastize people for being too thin. It’s happened to me on this site and others too.
    It’s gotten to the point where I feel like a bad feminist for being thin, based on of the posts and comments on this site.
    It’s very dismissive of some posters here not to see that this has been happening for a long time here.

  • Not Guilty

    I am very skeptical, just because of her posture in that picture. If it was actually going to be what it claims to be, she’d be standing there in a superwoman pose, not a scared kitten. We shall see.

  • BrainPickerTem

    I’m surprised by how much fat-shaming there is even among supposedly progressive folks. Since when is it anyone else’s goddamned business if Nikki Blonsky is ‘eating herself to an early grave’?

  • GrowingViolet

    Could we please stop having chains of links to Kate Harding, citing her as a reasonable authority on health or science? The misrepresentation of evidence in which she and her feedback loop of blogs engage on a regular basis is dismaying, as is the cherry-picking and lack of research.

  • dark_morgaine

    Monsanto… just the name makes my blood boil! Yes, by all means, we should focus on how high fructose corn syrup increases obesity and unhealthiness in ways that cane sugar never did. Does no one realize that it’s not quantity, but quality of food, that often leads to unhealthy weights? And not just pounds, but fat-to-muscle ratios and the like. Also, as a general rule, the worse a food is for you, the cheaper it is, making low-income families susceptible to the “obesity epidemic”.

  • GrowingViolet

    I sincerely doubt that the people who are saying “it’s not okay to be thin” are the same people who are saying “it’s okay to be fat!”
    In my experience, it is absolutely usually the same people. The issue rarely seems to be bodily autonomy or health, but rather the advancement of one particular aesthetic standard disguised as a feminist rejection of patriarchal beauty standards.

  • GrowingViolet

    Eating disorders or dieting to be able to fit into a size 0, and other extremes is more what feminism is concerned w/ as I understand it.
    The problem is that feminism often seems happy to engage in concern trolling about perceived excessive thinness, with little or no reference to the reality of eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia. But any discussion of the dangers of obesity, even valid discussion, is actually labelled as “concern trolling,” while there’s utter silence on the reality of disorders like compulsive eating, binge eating, and bulimia that doesn’t produce skinniness (plenty of bulimics aren’t all that thin). The result is a misinformed, distorted, skewed vision of body image, health, and their disorders – no more accurate than what feminism is ostensibly critiquing.

  • GrowingViolet

    This comes awfully close to blaming gay men for women’s eating disorders. This is factually baseless – fashion-industry images can be used as “thinspiration” by people already in throes of ED, but they are miles away from the cause. Even cursory consultation of legitimate research on anorexia, bulimia, and related disorders will quickly reveal a consensus among professionals and patients that the fundamental causes involve biological, family, and complex social factors, many of which have little to do with body size per se. Saying that a complex health problem is the fault of [group X] has a long, ugly history, and saying that it’s the fault of gay men has very recent, very intense, ugly history.