Let's say it again: what the hell were they thinking? Because as if the title "Should Fatties Get a Room? (Even on TV?)" wasn't bad enough, there's the article itself.
The piece, by Maura Kelly, takes on — sort of — the sitcom Mike & Molly, about a couple who meets at Overeaters Anonymous. Kelly admits she hasn't seen the show, but at her editor's urging agrees to take it on. Here is some of what follows:
My initial response was: Hmm, being overweight is one thing - those people are downright obese! And while I think our country's obsession with physical perfection is unhealthy, I also think it's at least equally crazy, albeit in the other direction, to be implicitly promoting obesity! Yes, anorexia is sick, but at least some slim models are simply naturally skinny. No one who is as fat as Mike and Molly can be healthy. And obesity is costing our country far more in terms of all the related health problems we are paying for, by way of our insurance, than any other health problem, even cancer.
So anyway, yes, I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room - just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine addict slumping in a chair.
Now, don't go getting the wrong impression: I have a few friends who could be called plump. I'm not some size-ist jerk. And I also know how tough it can be for truly heavy people to psych themselves up for the long process of slimming down. (For instance, the overweight maintenance guy at my gym has talked to me a little bit about how it seems worthless for him to even try working out, because he's been heavy for as long as he can remember.) But ... I think obesity is something that most people have a ton of control over. It's something they can change, if only they put their minds to it.
She then offers some earnest tips on diet and exercise and finishes, "What do you guys think? Fat people making out on TV - are you cool with it? Do you think I'm being an insensitive jerk?"
Shockingly, people think she is. Also, "fattist", "ignorant," "cruel," "uneducated," — and that's just for starters. Indeed, the comments section makes some very concise and well-argued points about assumptions about health; size-ism and the shock of seeing such a post on the site of what's considered a forward-thinking ladymag. And one commenter, Beth, had such a scathing retort that I think it deserves to be seen in its entirety:
Dear Maura Kelly, I sincerely apologize for my disgusting body and all the various rolls of fat on my person. When I married my fat husband back in June I didn't realize it would offend anyone when we got to that "you may kiss the bride" moment, or we would have skipped it. If I'd realized how unacceptable it is for me to have love or happiness, I would have called the wedding off entirely, of course. I have told my husband that there will be no more kissing or cuddling or FATTY SEX until we both lose some weight. I hope he understands... I really am so sorry for being so fat and happy all this time! In your very honest and sensitively written article "should fatties get a room?" you write that fat people should walk more, yet you also write that fat people walking across a room is something you find disgusting. I take long walks around my neighbourhood most days, is this too much? I want to find the correct balance between getting thin and not upsetting anyone with my jiggling body parts. I also swim twice a week and go to the gym once a week, are these activities also disgusting to you? Perhaps I should start doing these activities at night so nobody has to be offended by them. Do you think that would be best? I don't own a television so I haven't seen Mike and Molly. But I do hope they take garbage like off the television soon. As you say, it's implicitly promoting obesity. Surely anyone who watches it will see the yucky fat people making out and suddenly think to themselves "I should gain some weight, that looks like fun." And then where would we be? By the way, I haven't ever had any health problems before but if anything does come up I'll be sure to stay away from the doctor so as not to be a drain on anyone's health costs. Thank you for writing this meticulously well researched, world-changing article. I really think you are going to cure obesity with this! Yay! Your plump friends are very lucky to have a friend like you who is in no way a hateful bully or an ignorant sizeist jerk. Best wishes, Beth
The author does defend herself in comments, saying that she wrote the post quickly, apologizing for any offense, wishing she could take it down and adding, "Though I don't think of myself as anorexic any more, being freaked out by obesity to the insensitive, even cruel, point that I was is certainly a vestige of the anorexic mindset; maybe so was being righteous about how easy it is to lose weight. (Because once I lost an extreme amount of weight, of course—about half my body weight—etc.)." Now, I must admit that as a blogger, you can't help but cringe for someone at the bottom of a pile-on — especially since, inevitably, a percentage of the commenters take the low road and get personal. But beyond thinking this stuff which is, of course, between her and her conscience, how could she not know this would happen? How could she think this was acceptable? It's that, as much as anything else, that's worrisome: that at a mainstream magazine with a wide reach and an ostensibly progressive outlook could think, in 2010, this was okay to write and implicitly endorse. Marie Claire will probably think before running something like this again — but let's hope it's for the right reasons.
[Also: we who enjoy the occasional romance novel resent the impugning of heroine addicts.]
Should Fatties Get a Room? (Even on TV?) [Marie Claire]