Should 'fatties' get a room? No. But it is time for TV to move beyond fat jokes.
Marie Claire writer Maura Kelly has caused quite the stir on the Interwebs after comments regarding the “fatties” of CBS’ freshman sitcom Mike & Molly. In her post “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room? (Even on TV?)“, Kelly pondered the question, do viewers feel uncomfortable watching overweight people making out on television? Kelly explained that seeing Mike (Billy Gardell) and Molly (Melissa McCarthy) get physical would likely lead her to become physically ill: “I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other…because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything.” She pointed out the health risks — and even offered her own nutrition and fitness tips! — in hopes that she may inspire some lifestyle changes at the click of a mouse. As you’d expect, the post didn’t sit right with a lot of people. Commenters came out in droves all over the Internet condemning Kelly, Sharon Osbourne compared her to a Nazi on her new daytime series The Talk, and Mike & Molly creator Mark Roberts called the post “hateful” in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. “Almost everybody I know struggles with something — whether its their weight or alcohol or temper,” Roberts said. “To stand in judgment of somebody — especially when you’re breaking it down to just the esthetic. It just makes me sad.”
Kelly has amended her post with an apology, admitting to her own struggles with anorexia and obsession with being thin. But, of course, saying “I don’t hate fat people — I’m just afraid of being fat myself” isn’t much of an excuse. “The Internet isn’t written in pencil, it’s written in ink,” (thank you, Aaron Sorkin), and her initial all-too final assessment that obesity is something people are doing to themselves — unlike some models who are “simply naturally skinny” — was incredibly harsh.
But the biggest problem, I think, is with Mike & Molly itself. The show continually drives home the message that its lead characters are two overweight singletons who met at Overeaters Anonymous. From a TV viewer standpoint, the issue with Mike & Molly isn’t that its stars don’t look good while kissing on-screen (there’s been much worse), but its reliance on cheap fat jokes to sustain a laugh. Once upon a time, ABC had a big hit called Roseanne, about an overweight couple, and — shockingly enough — their extra poundage or diet attempts with garcinia cambogia was not part of the premise or a primary source of comic relief. And not for nothing, Melissa McCarthy wasn’t subjected to jokes about her size during her seven seasons as the beloved Sookie St. James on Gilmore Girls. So how about it, Mike & Molly writers? Prove Kelly wrong by letting your lead characters become more well-rounded (for lack of a better term).
Are you with me, PopWatchers?