Unapologetic fat people, removed from your TV

This photo is a fair representation of how I’m feeling about ABC Family’s announcement that it has canceled Huge, the teen drama set at a weight loss camp that surpassed my cautiously high expectations. The network has announced that the show, which stars Nikki Blonsky and a cast of unknowns as teens struggling with all the things teenagers usually struggle with, because being fat doesn’t make you any less of a human being, will not be returning for a second season. Which breaks my heart, because Huge, while it wasn’t perfect, broke some important barriers. As Dodai Stewart at Jezebel writes, there are no spaces on television where fat people are allowed to just be people who happen to be fat, especially on scripted shows:

There are plenty of fat people on TV: the folks on The Biggest Loser, Dance Your Ass Off, Too Fat For 15. But reality shows which focus on weight loss are not enough. Entertainment comes in so many different forms: police dramas, hospital shows, teen soaps, spy thrillers… and overweight characters are few and far between. On new sitcom Mike & Molly, two fat people meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, and instead of exploring the highs and lows of human relationships, it’s just a bunch of fat jokes. Example: Embracing Mike is “like hugging a futon.” Fat people can be on a non-scripted show, as long as fat is the punchline.

So the wonderful Ms. Stewart has started a petition to save Huge, which you can sign here. Even if you didn’t watch the show, take a moment to read this interview with its co-creator, Savannah Dooley, a woman who just gets it. And then go sign the petition, because we need more unapologetically fat people on television, and we need want feminists writing their lines for them.

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.

Read more about Chloe

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/hopita/ Hope Anne Nathan

    What about Camryn Manheim on Ghost Whisperer? She’s considered fat and her character just *is* — no fat jokes, no discussion of her size at all that I can recall. She dates, she parents, she has a career … all that stuff that normal everyday fat people do.

    • nicolechat

      I don’t know the show, and you may have a point, but isn’t that kind of telling? One example of a fat person rather than a fatperson in all the tons of television shows out there – I would say that Camryn Manheim is probably the exception that proves the rule.

  • http://feministing.com/members/feministheadbanger/ Ms Anthropia

    *drops to knees dramatically* NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

    I loved Huge. It had wonderful character development, and it was one of the few places where fat people were human. They had emotions, dreams, and desires.
    I loved the way the show parodied reality dating shows (“Love Handles”) and teen vampire obsessions (“Phantasma”). It even tackled sex (“So which of you have had full sex?”)
    And the weird kids were just so loveable! Becca was someone I would have hung out with, and Alistair was so awesome in his unapologetic weirdness!

    Even the pretty, popular girls had souls and motivations all their own.

    Why do all the good shows have to get canceled? *cry*

  • http://feministing.com/members/kerrielle/ Kerri Beckermann

    This is so sad! I loved HUGE!! Moreso I loved the fact that Will defined herself as a feminist and they discussed the dynamics of fat politics. But of course they have to cancel it because only 1.9 million people are watching it! I hope it comes out on dvd now, because though it’s run was short, it was a major breakthrough having an almost all plus-size cast.

  • http://feministing.com/members/reader/ Nemo Omen

    BBC America recently aired an episode of Dr. Who, “The Lodger,” in which one of the characters was fat and nothing was said about it all. He was cute, nice, resourceful, and in the end he got the (thin, blonde) girl.

    Admittedly, when the pretty, smart fat woman gets the thin guy and her weight is a non-issue that will be the day.

    I’ve never seen “Huge,’ but the reality show “Too Fat for 15″ definitely treats its subjects as developing teenagers who have the added challenge of trying to get healthy.