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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