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”?