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Fat People on TV

One of the things I love about the TV show The Sopranos is that it has so many fat characters. I’d guess it has more fat actors than any show on television. Granted, they are mostly mafia men with questionable morals who will just as soon sit on your dog as beat a stripper to death in a parking lot. But still, fat people on TV! Awesome! And in reality, both the dog asphyxiater and the stripper killer were thin guys. So there!

This season in particular has been giving this fat girl moments of joy. There was a scene in the first episode where Tony Soprano gets on his scale and doesn’t like the number, so he steps off, takes off his slippers and steps back on again. Seeing the mob boss of New Jersey take part in such familiar fat person behavior warmed my heart a little.

There is another character named Vito who has lost a lot of weight between the 100 year gap between seasons and has now become the typical annoying dieter guy, yammering on about his diet and exercise routines. With all this spot-on fat person behavior, I have to wonder how many chubby people are on the writing staff and are just stealing bits from their own lives.

This week’s episode was also great because the daughter of Johnny Sack, the New York mob boss, got married. And she’s fat! I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a fat bride on television. Most TV brides are super skinny sitcom or soap opera actresses. But there she was, a big, beautiful bride in a strapless dress even. It was fantastic! I’ve liked Johnny Sack ever since he put a hit on Ralphie for making a fat joke about his wife. Best. Husband. Ever.

What I like best about the depiction of fat people on The Sopranos is that it’s just another part of the show, subtly entwined with everything else. There isn’t a big episode where Tony has to deal with his issues over being fat. I think this is what made me a bit uncomfortable about the latest episode of Lost which centered around the fat, yet lovable character of Hurley.

If you don’t watch Lost, it’s about some plane crash survivors on a weird island with polar bears and hatches and heroin, oh my! Last week’s episode was about Hurley who (spoiler alert!) was put in a mental asylum after walking onto a deck that collapsed and killed some people. Ouch. I’ve heard of fat people breaking chairs and benches, but causing a deck to collapse is harsh. Throughout the episode Hurley comes to terms with his guilt over causing the deck to collapse, the fact that he eats to punish himself, and resolves to make a change in his life and get rid of his secret food stash on the island.

On one hand, I liked that there was an episode of a television show that dealt with a fat person and all the issues he had with being fat. There are a lot of fat people in the world and we’re underrepresented on television. It was also nice to see him vow to take some control over his life and eat better.

On the other hand, I dislike that Hurley had to be fat because he had deep-seated emotional issues. Can’t he just be fat because he eats poorly and doesn’t exercise? People are fat for different reasons and you don’t need a traumatic past to enjoy dunking your Oreos too much. I had a pretty damn happy childhood and I still got huge. I doubt every fat character on The Sopranos is overweight because of emotional issues.

So I’m torn over the episode, which wasn’t even one of the better ones regardless of the fat issues. I want there to be more fat people on TV, but I don’t necessarily want to be knocked over the head with pop-psychology examinations as to why they’re fat. On a more positive note, it looks like Hurley might hook up with the pretty, thin woman, Libby. Go, Hurley!

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10 Comments

Saffy • April 12, 2006 at 9:48 am

PQ,

I’ve been loving this season of the Sopranos for all these details that i wondered if anyone else was getting. Now i know i’m not alone!

I also loved the moment when Vito was upset about giving the cut to Carmela and he was sitting at the table compulsively eating mini-carrots. That character is conflicted in a lot of ways, but you really see it come out in the ways he talks about his new ‘healthy lifestyle’ and the way he actually behaves…

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Kristi • April 12, 2006 at 11:05 am

Yeah, I groaned a little when I found out what happened with the collapsing porch. It seemed a little much, if you ask me. Skinny people can collapse porches too- it’s happened more than once here in Chicago.

To me, it just seemed like a lazy excuse by the writers, but then again, who knows where those Lost guys are going to take us next?

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Amyt • April 12, 2006 at 11:49 am

are there fat people on battlestar gallactica?

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PastaQueen • April 12, 2006 at 12:04 pm

Amy – Hmmm, Admiral Adama is a bit overweight, but not by much. There was one fat guest character for a few eps, but he was corrupt and died. Otherwise, none that I can think of. Most of the characters are military people though, so it figures they would want to stay in shape to fight the evil robots.

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Moi • April 12, 2006 at 12:36 pm

I liked it. He was fat to start with because he ate too much and didn’t exercise. They showed that earlier in the season when he was living at home with his mom. Just a happy go lucky type that loved to eat and not move.

Then at the mental hospital, the doctor was explaining that it wasn’t his weight that broke the deck- it was that there was too many people already out there. But he was blaming his weight and couldn’t deal with the pain, so he turned to his food for comfort- and for punishment.

That, plus they are showcasing the “sins” of man, and his is supposedly gluttony.

It is funny, no one is commenting about the rocker and the heroin and how there is always a rockstar with a drug problem and that is the easy way out- and he had a hidden stash as well.

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Kirsten • April 13, 2006 at 3:21 am

Augh! I am incapable of NOT reading what you write, and we’ve only had Season 1 of Lost here.

Sounds as though the writer of that episode had read “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” – which had a similar collapsing-deck story. Only true, alas.

I had actually been wondering about Hurley just the other day – whether the plot would dictate that the actor had to lose weight, or not. I’d have thought living off the land would make anyone lose, probably without trying too hard.

(When I did an online Lost personality test I came out as Hurley. Probably because I answered “yes” to “I am not that keen to try sushi”.)

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Hilly • April 14, 2006 at 1:49 pm

hey so my guilty pleasure is General Hospital and they have a fat character there too which is nice to see on a soap opera!

I agree about the Sporanos; also that gay dude that lost all the weight was on Celebrity Fit Club last season so when this season of Sopranos started I was laughing at how they tied that in!

The thing with Hurley though is cool…I love his character and I dunno if they are saying he is fat cause of issues because he was fat way before he had issues and hell…who doesn’t have issues on that show???? LOL.

Next, I think Alan Shore on Boston Legal needds a fat assistant, uh huh!

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NicoleW • April 14, 2006 at 10:25 pm

I agree with every word you wrote about “The Sopranos.” Wow, what a concept — lots of fat people on a show, and they’re actually honest-to-God believable characters rather than overeating, undersexed stereotypes. And I thought Allegra was a beautiful bride.

I have a book about the show and there’s an interesting bit in there about James Gandolfini. An unnamed exec from a network that passed on the show said that they’d never, ever, ever have agreed to cast Gandolfini as Tony. He’s fat! He’s not a matinee idol! Nobody’d ever buy him as a leading man! Get him out of here! The exec at least had the grace to admit what a huge mistake that would have been.

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M, the fat girl • April 19, 2006 at 10:32 pm

It’s hard to please everyone with that stuff—I get iffy around fat people who are “just fat” because I’ve got so much history behind my fatness. But really, I think the problem is that fat people are still tokenized—that is, one fat person on television is still representing all fat people. We’d never think that one white man represented all white men, you know?

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Naz • April 20, 2006 at 10:11 pm

What do you think is worse, being a black female in America or being fat in America?

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

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