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TV Sucker Punch

I was watching Desperate Housewives last night and was mildly yet happily surprised to see a fat girl at Danielle’s birthday party. A good-sized fat girl too, not just Hollywood fat, but fat even by Mid-Western, Kentucky-Fried-Chicken-eating standards. If she wasn’t on Lane Bryant’s mailing list, she should be. I doubt the character of Danielle would bother being friends with a fat girl, but this is also the show where neighbors routinely kill each other and burn down each other’s houses (and it’s not even set in a ghetto), so I was willing to suspend my disbelief.

Of course I really should have know better because one of the first rules of network television is “Though shalt never allow a fat girl to appear on television unless her character’s name in the ending credits is ‘Fat Girl.'” One of the other party guests takes a lick of frosting off the birthday cake when Bree (a.k.a. the only woman who can make Martha Stewart seem like a slacker, slob) temporarily steps out of the room. When she steps back into the room, she immediately wants to know who ruined her perfect frosting job. So of course she accuses the fat girl, saying she looks like someone who enjoys her frosting. *Sigh* The fat girl rats out the real frosting fiend, but the whole thing left me with a bad taste in my mouth that had nothing to do with buttercream.

I suppose I can at least be grateful they didn’t make the fat girl be the one to stick her fingers in the frosting. That’s a small bit of progress, though it might have to be measured in millimeters. I was more bummed out because for a couple of moments I thought a TV show was making an effort to cast a bit more diversely, if only with its extras, only to be sucker punched. The same thing happened about a year or so ago when they cast a fat girl on an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent. I was all happy that a girl who looked like me was being represented on television, until it turned out they only cast a fat girl because the character was supposed to be a homely, loser who could only score a boyfriend who was manipulating her for his own devious means.

S. Epatha Merkerson was on Inside the Actor’s Studio the other day and mentioned how when she was growing up it was a huge deal to see a black person on television. They’d yell through the house “There’s a black person on TV!” I often feel the same way about seeing a fat woman on TV. But going for the easy fat jokes is like having the black person go into a tap dance routine while chomping on some watermelon. We really deserve better. When will I see a fat girl on television who is not credited as “Fat Girl” but just “Girl”?

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14 Comments

Kim • May 15, 2006 at 4:47 pm

Hey PQ! First off, I wanted to thank you for visiting my blog! I’ve been a regular reader of yours for quite some time now, so I was really excited to read your comment. :)

Hopefully we’ll both be saying goodbye to 228 and soon.

As for the whole fat girl on DH…I thought the same thing. I noticed her in the crowd immediately and was pleasantly surprised at the casting…then they had to go and ruin it by attacking her as the frosting swiper. Dumbasses.

Thanks again for coming over to my site! Hopefully next week we can celebrate our losses together!

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zara • May 15, 2006 at 5:54 pm

Hubster and I got sucker-punched, too. We rolled our eyes, threw our hands up in disgust, and made a few choice comments about the writers of the show. Also, that same actress has been in several of those type roles on various shows, so we talked about how she must feel about that. Each time, she lasts one episode until her “fatness” betrays her somehow. I’ve seen her on House, Nip/Tuck, and a few other shows I can’t remember. Not that I watch tv or anything. ;)

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Debbi • May 16, 2006 at 7:43 am

Since there were a lot of girls at Danielle’s party, crediting her as “Fat Girl” may have been the only way to give her the credit she deserves. When are we [that’s the editorial we] going to stop seeing or using the word ‘fat’ as a negative adjective? For what it’s worth, I didn’t watch the credits, so I don’t know how they described the frosting-stealer.

She was fat. No getting around that. And Bree, being Bree, would naturally accuse her of swiping the frosting. So while I suspend a lot of belief when I watch the show, I thought that particular part was pretty believable.

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Amy • May 16, 2006 at 9:12 am

I have to agree with Debbie. Being casted as “fat girl” is only considered insulting because of the way fat people are portrayed on television.

It seems that in our age of political correctness, fat people are the only demographic for which it is still socially acceptable to discriminate against. Considering that most people in the US are in the “overweight” and “obese” catagories, that creates a pretty sad place to live for a lot of people.

I don’t often pay attention to the end credits of TV shows. Is it acceptable to credit a black actor as “black girl”?

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Hilly • May 16, 2006 at 1:10 pm

I haven’t seen the episode yet, as it is on TiVo still but OMG, now I have to go see that because this type of stuff ticks me off. I was just commenting how lately I have seen more overweight people on TV with less “name calling” associated with it. Heck, there is even one on my soap (yes I watch a soap, so sue me). But to call someone FAT GIRL in the credits is wrong….just lame too.

Why is it okay for men to be overweight like half of the Sopranos Cast or Drew Carey but a woman? She gets called yo, fat girl???

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PastaQueen • May 16, 2006 at 2:16 pm

Hilly – Rereading my entry it does sound like I actually read the credits, but I didn’t. I was just talking about how many shows only hire a fat actress if the part is specifically about being a fat person, hence they’re playing the “Fat Girl.” I checked IMDB and the character’s name is actually Maureen though I don’t think they mention that in the show. Anyway, sorry if I mislead you!

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Jester • May 16, 2006 at 2:27 pm

I look at this as a sign of a lazy writer. Giving in to societies stereotypes about “fat girls” is easy, doesn’t take you any time at all, and reveals that you didn’t feel like using your imagination that day.

It’s along the same lines as writers who want to hint that a character is pregnant. I guarantee you, she’ll be nauseous for no known reason. Boom – now you know the character is pregnant.

One of my favorite shows, “Battlestar Galactica,” did this last season. I lost so much respect for what, until that point, had been some great writing. And yes, I’m a something of a geeky sci fi chick. ;-)

Jester

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Katrina • May 16, 2006 at 10:37 pm

I noticed that too- and thought I’ll have to blog about that:)

Peeved me off royally as well, and I also was glad she was not the finger sticking one.

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Marla • May 17, 2006 at 5:49 am

I dunno… I think this one is a draw. Thumbs down for the stereotyping, but thumbs up for her NOT being the one who licked the frosting. Maybe the incident was meant to blow apart the fat girl stereotype and show Bree as an ass with false preconceptions about people.

On the other hand, IMO the women on that show are all distressingly thin, so it’s hard to imagine the writers being some kind of fat activists.

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Bev Carney • May 17, 2006 at 7:03 am

There’s always Conchata Ferrell! Do a google search for her or go here: http://www.tv.com/conchata-ferrell/person/715/appearances.html

She’s great!

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histrion • May 18, 2006 at 8:09 am

The industry as a whole is phenomenally sizist, though – as an actress it does really annoy me. I’m a big girl, but not huge – I’m about 55lbs overweight and a British size 16 (which I think is an American 12, perhaps…?) The thing is that once you leave the realms of a UK 10 (US 6?) you’ve got to be above a UK 20 before you’re castable again. As I’m in the middle, I’ll only be considered for casting if the part I’m going up for is specifically tagged as being ‘large’. And if it’s tagged ‘large’, then they’ll tend to choose actresses who are bigger than me. Not fat enough to be ‘fat’, but not small enough to be ‘normal’ – go figure!

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Margaret • May 21, 2006 at 1:13 pm

Hi J, this is my first time visiting your blog and I’ve only skimmed around, but just wanted to leave a quick comment (as well as a Way to Rock!): I don’t know from Law & Order or DH, but have you ever read Camryn Manheim’s bio Wake Up I’m Fat!? She’s a fat actress and writes about it in that book, as well as her work in size-acceptance, even doing things like demanding better wardrobe options for her character on the Practice. I just thought it was nice to know that even if onscreen big girls don’t get enough legit play, sometime’s there’s still someone fighting the good fight behind the scenes.

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Kari • March 12, 2007 at 7:45 pm

I find it interesting, too, that TV portrays heavier guys such as Kevin James (King of Queens) and other shows that I can’t recall the names of, as the guy next door, who just happens to have a really hot wife! Gotta love that double standard. Except not. When will we see an average couple (larger than a size 8) on TV? Roseanne is long gone. Or what about a heavier woman with a buff man (who doesn’t have a “thing” for heavier women, but just loves her for her)?

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kindaafatgirl • July 18, 2008 at 10:09 am

I just don’t understand why people expect TV to reflect real life or real people. When is the last time your husband accidently burned down your house & you laughed about 15 min later, or you killed your neighbor, stole her husband and lived in a multi-million dollar home without anyone ever going to work!! We watch because it’s fake & it’s an escape from reality. I don’t want to watch a single, fat girl who is always worried about money & is plagued with self-doubt. I want to be entertained by the impossible……which i guess would be a buff man with a fat girl for her sparkling personality & wit.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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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.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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