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Fat women in television and cinema

The other day I was browsing Tumblr when I noticed a gif from a movie that had been re-blogged by a friend of mine. The gif was from The Sitter and included the star, Jonah Hill, and the woman playing his girlfriend (or, really, the woman he wants to be his girlfriend), Ari Gaynor. The gif involved Hill’s character giving oral sex to Gaynor and when it is over, she exclaims, “My mum was right! Nice guys really do give the best head!”

My friend had commented that we’d probably never see the roles reversed (i.e. a fat woman actor and a slim male actor) on screen. I thought about it, and, really, I tend to agree.

I can’t think of one movie or television show where a fat woman was a star (or even a sidekick or supporting character) where this has happened. I can think of plenty of movies and television shows where the roles are reversed. I can’t think of one movie or television show where the fat woman character wasn’t the butt of jokes, obsessed with dieting, her sexuality treated as monstrous, ignored completely or just sad.

Now, THAT’S sad.

I can think of plenty of movies and TV shows for the reverse – listing off the top of my head, right now – Knocked Up, The Sitter, King of Queens, The Sopranos, According to Jim, Seinfeld.

What gives?

Hollywood is obviously still a rather conservative and sexist place, sure. But independent movies follow almost the same formula. I suppose they have to ‘toe the line’ and give the audience what they want. Or what they think the audience wants. And apparently, the audience doesn’t want to see fat women having or enjoying sex, unless they can make fun of it.

Melissa McCarthy was nominated for various awards for her part in Bridesmaids. Sure, she was funny in it and a comedic talent in her own right, but her character was almost a parody of the hyper-aggressive fat woman. The only part I even liked with her in it was the straight talking to she gave to the main character (and some of the scenes with her real life husband – their chemistry is great). She played a better character in Gilmore Girls and let’s not even mention that sitcom, Mike and Molly. Finally, two main characters that are fat and the entire series revolves around unfunny, trite fat jokes. Yeah, that’s progressive.

I want to see fat women in movies and in TV where their fat isn’t an issue. They just are. I want to see them doing normal things, not constantly obsessing about kilojoules with their girlfriends. I want to see them with partners, enjoying each other’s company. I just want to see them.

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8 thoughts on “Fat women in television and cinema

  1. Great article Sonya. It’s hard to think of any examples. The only one I can think of is Shirley from Community. Her character is overweight, but it’s not a focus of the show, nor does she go on diets. Anyway, it’s telling I had to think so hard to come up with just a single example!

  2. I’ll attempt more British television, Brett. Thanks for that comment.

    Vanja, I’ve never watched Community! I should start.

  3. I haven’t! I’ve seen clips/gifs of her, but haven’t checked out the show itself. I will have to do so, thanks!

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