Tube Tied: On the Mike & Molly/Marie Claire Controversy
Along with the rest of the ladycentric internet this week (including Bitch), I’ve been following the kerfuffle over Maura Kelly’s post at Marie Claire about how disgusted she is by fat people. The post, ostensibly, is about the television show Mike & Molly, which is a romantic sitcom about a couple that meets in an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. The creator of the show has already fired back, noting that Molly will perhaps cancel her subscription to the magazine in an upcoming episode, and making the point we've all been thinking: the show "is just about human beings."
As to the merits Mike & Molly particularly, I have only this to say: I watched a couple of episodes at the beginning of the season, thinking I might cover it for the blog, but ultimately the show itself is very bad, and very bad shows don’t tend to provide me with much meat for critique. So I let it go.
When the Marie Claire post first appeared on my Internet radar, on Tuesday, I in fact even had to debate whether I wanted to read it. I know that recent trend stories have credited television with being more fat-friendly than it has been in the past, but with the exception of Huge, I’m generally skeptical of the idea that the mere visibility of fat people in pop culture is laudable. I don’t mean by this that anyone should be hidden from view; I simply mean that I’m not convinced that the current standards of presenting fat people actually encourage anyone in the audience to acknowledge their humanity. It’s true that the struggles of the contestants on The Biggest Loser are often affecting, but they rely on the notion that the only way to achieve self-worth is a punishing—and ultimately probably unsustainable—weight loss regimen. In short, I guess, I am skeptical that the sufferings of the overweight population on television, as depicted, seem like injustices to the audience. I think they just seem like the cost of being fat. And while that is the case, I don’t see how the depiction of fat people on television, in the current social context, is helpful to fat acceptance or any other kind of movement that wants people to, in short, leave fat people alone.
Perhaps I am, like Kelly, projecting my own issues on to this. Body image issues are a bit of a rabbit hole, to me anyway. I’ve rarely emerged from a conversation about them sure that all participants have benefited from having the discussion. This factor, I imagine—the particular sensitivities that arise when talking about weight, which are particularly acute for if not exclusive to women—is really why people are so angry with Kelly. Maybe that even goes without saying. I just don’t buy that what she says has surprised or shocked anyone at all. In the end, she is not the first person who has written (a) a blog post about a show she did not watch; or (b) one that is horrifically sizeist. In particular, as to the latter, she is not the first person who’s done that at a women’s magazine, of all places. The entire business model of women’s magazines is, currently, a sizeist one, which relies on all of our deep insecurities about the imperfections of our bodies to keep us buying issues. And so I find it hard to even write about this kind of thing, because the more I think about the fact that not only do some people agree with Kelly, structurally speaking most of society does, the more I just want to take a nap.
Because here is the thing I keep thinking about. Melissa McCarthy, who plays Molly and was probably best known before this as Sookie on Gilmore Girls, is not just an actress, she is a person. If I google her name, and “weight,” I get 81,500 hits. I learn that at some point she lost almost half her body weight, but seems to have gained much of it back. I learn that as of August of this year she was telling the press she was “heavier than she’d like to be right now.” I imagine she’s heard about the blog post; as I sit here writing this, MSNBC has run a small item about the issue. I wonder what she thinks of the fact that her harmless little kiss on a mediocre sitcom is thought of as disgusting. I imagine she isn’t surprised; I imagine this kind of thing is, currently, the cost of being an actress who is, by professional definition, Fat in Public. I get that what we would like actresses like McCarthy to do is not give a shit, to make public declarations of how it doesn’t bother them. To invite us to kiss their fat asses. But I watch videos like the one at this link, where McCarthy discusses her last weight loss regimen, where she’s scattered and clearly frustrated at even having to discuss the issue at this kind of length, and I think: I wouldn’t blame her if she’s just trying to nap through all of this, too.
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