Do Plus-Size TV Shows Inspire Or Disgust?

Illustration for article titled Do Plus-Size TV Shows Inspire Or Disgust?

Between Dance Your Ass Off, Ruby, The Biggest Loser, Drop Dead Diva and the forthcoming More To Love, plus-size TV is "big" right now, reports Lisa Respers France for CNN. Actually, she writes:

This year television has seen an increase in shows featuring participants and stars who look more like the viewing public […] Amy Introcaso-Davis, senior vice president of original programming and development at Oxygen, said dance and diet are two areas of interest for younger viewers of the channel, so combining the two made sense.

For a nation grappling with obesity, Introcaso-Davis said, there is a hunger for such shows.


Get it? A hunger?

Introcaso-Davis also says: "If you have five pounds to lose or you have 150 pounds to lose, it's something you think about all day long," she said. "You take a bite of cheesecake and you think 'Should I be doing this?'" First: Not every every person with five or 150 pounds to lose is sitting around eating cheesecake. Medication, genetics, thyroid issues, metabolism… there are so many reasons a person may be overweight, and it may not have anything to do with cheesecake.


In any case, France also spoke with Esther Rothblum, a professor of women's studies at San Diego State University and co-editor of the forthcoming anthology The Fat Studies Reader. She says: "Most people feel too fat in this country and are made to feel very unhappy with their bodies. So by portraying somebody who weighs so much more than they do, it's almost a way to make the audience feel like 'I could look worse' or 'At least I'm not them.' "

But Introcaso-Davis claims that people find the DYAO contestants "relatable." So which is it: Do audiences look at overweight people on TV and think, "That could be me"? Or do they think, "I'm glad I'm not that bad." Does plus-size TV inspire or disgust? The answer may be: Both. In the "Sound Off" section of this CNN story, there are two comments. The first, from "Tamara":

I think these shows are great....I actually would like to go on Dance your Fat A off[sic] or the biggest loser.....

The second, from "Matt"

Yes, lets make it socailly[sic] acceptable to be obese. That will be good for our society! (rolls eyes)

They can air all the shows they want on obese people, I still won't date one.

Plus-Sized TV Shows Find Big Audience [CNN]


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I love the Biggest Loser. I think it's great to watch people go through a really fulfilling experience where, in the end, it seems everyone "wins" (especially since they tend to pick contestants with health problems tied to their weight who usually overcome many of those problems).

What I think is bizarre is the carnival-esque approach many of these newer shows seem to be taking. The advertisements make them seem to be more side-show than celebratory. I despise that they're taking a group already marginalized by the entertainment industry to a comedic side-show and enlarging the side-show, not taking them to the center ring (to continue the carnival analogy).