'Mike & Molly' creator on the 'Marie Claire' blog (and the show moving beyond fat jokes)
Image Credit: Art Streiber/CBS; Roger Walsh/LandovAs heated, personal discussions continue online about the Marie Claire blog post “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room? (Even on TV?),” in which the writer admits she doesn’t want to watch the leads on CBS’ Mike & Molly kiss or do anything else on her television or in real life, EW chatted Thursday with the show’s creator Mark Roberts. “I’m really not that angry. I’m hurt for my two friends [stars Melissa McCarthy and Billy Gardell] who had to read horrible things that some woman said about them,” he told us. “I feel more sad. That’s pretty much the predominant feeling.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The cast isn’t commenting on the Marie Claire post. Is it something that, as the show’s creator, you felt the need to address with them and the crew?
MARK ROBERTS: I made a joke about it this morning at the table read, and then we moved on to more important things, like the fact that we just got picked up for a back 11 [giving it a full season order] and we’re the No. 1 new comedy of the season. We wanted to talk about good things. [Laughs]
Reading the comments on our take on the blog item, a secondary debate has emerged: Some fans think the show focuses too much on the weight issue or “fat jokes.” Though this week’s episode did seem to be moving away from that with Mike and Molly taking their relationship to the next level and becoming intimate.
These folks met at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, and so there were the jokes about weight. We always envisioned that those will go away. The show is essentially, and has always been in mind, about two people falling in love and the value of putting the message out there that anybody can find someone. That’s what the show is about: Accepting each other, accepting each other’s differences. We all deserve love, and we’re all just human beings with our own struggles and our own problems. So to have somebody come out and say something like this woman said, she just sort of doesn’t even get the show and is kind of the exact opposite of the kind of person we’re trying to reach. Controversy is one thing, but at a certain point, you just have to say: Let’s not dwell too long on what stupid people say.
I’m amazed the blogger didn’t think it would come across as bullying. I remember like 12 years ago, at a different job, a male editor asked a few of us female employees to talk to a new female coworker who we believed was anorexic about getting help. None of us was close to her, at all. [Right now, I couldn’t even tell you her name because either she didn’t let us get to know her or we didn’t try.] I agreed that someone in her life needed to reach out to her, but I refused to do it because I knew from my own battle with the opposite kind of weight issue, unless you’re prepared to stick around and help that person deal with the issue (and pain) you bring up, you’re not helping. To say, “You need help,” or worse, “You make me uncomfortable, do something about that,” then run the other direction, just comes off as cruel.
What she did was not out of any concern or love for anybody. It’s just judgmental behavior. We all have our own problems. We all have things that we’re dealing with. To be honest, at the end of the day, it’s really nobody else’s business. To come out and publicly say the kinds of things she said about other human beings, it’s very high school. As I read it, I just pictured a girl sitting in a high school cafeteria saying snotty things to her other snotty friends. It just sounded very childish and not very thought-out. I’m guessing if she’s any kind of a human being, she’s really, really regretting what she did.
We have seen her apologize and Marie Claire is running a series of counterpoints. Is that how you’d like to see them respond?
I don’t really care what they do, to be honest with you. We’re just trying to put on a comedy show. [Laughs]
Has someone from Marie Claire, or the writer herself, tried to reach out to you or the cast?
I don’t think so. I haven’t heard anything.
Will this situation fuel an upcoming storyline? I’ve seen you joke about having Molly cancel her subscription to Marie Claire.
No, I wouldn’t give it that much importance, and I certainly wouldn’t give that magazine that much attention. I didn’t even know that it was a magazine until I heard about this. I thought it was a breakfast cereal. “Mom, can I have another bowl of Marie Claires.”
Some commenters have argued that the show only deserves to be on TV if the characters actually lose weight. How do you respond to that?
As I’ve said, the show is already the No. 1 new comedy of the season. We just picked up for a back 11. My feeling is there’s already people that get what we’re trying to do. The show is about two people trying to improve their lives. They are trying to deal with it. If you can’t root for these two human beings, then you really aren’t equipped with feelings. We’re not gonna make any changes in what our game plan was, which is just to explore the relationship of two people that love each other and that have problems that they’re dealing with. Which is really all of us. The idea that somebody is setting themselves apart and pretending like she doesn’t have problems, and then after everyone hammers her down, she comes out and admits, “Oh, well, I’ve got problems, too, and I guess that’s the reason I lashed out at other human beings in a really hateful way,” I don’t know what to say. [Laughs]
It’s upsetting because you want to believe that this kind of judgment was over in high school, but reading that post (and many of the comments supporting it), you realize no, it’s just that as adults, most people have learned to keep it to themselves. I think a post that brings in the idea of “This is what your physical appearance does to me,” has the reverse result of what the author supposedly wants, which is to encourage people to get healthy. The reaction turns out to be immobilizing embarrassment that makes you want to hide or defiant anger that makes you want to say, “F— you. I’m not going to change for you. If I do this, it needs to be about me.”
First of all, no one has the right to tell anybody else what they need to be doing. That’s the part of this… Most of the people I know have some kind of issue with food, one way or another. They’ve either got 10 pounds, or 50 pounds, or how many pounds. Everybody I know generally talks about what they’ve eaten and how they’re trying to lose weight. It’s not up to anybody else on the planet to look at them and go, “Here’s what I think you should do.” We live in a society where people write things down and they show up on the Internet, and people feel entitled to give their opinion and entitled to tell other people how they should be living their lives. I think you’re right: Deal with your own stuff, let me deal with mine. If it’s not on your timetable, sorry. But it’s really none of your business… Wow, you’re getting my ire up.
It’s the people who argue that plus-size or overweight people should only be seen on The Biggest Loser that get to me. Showing people living full lives isn’t glorifying obesity. [No one is going to watch a table collapse when Mike leans on it and think a) he’s happy about it or b) I want to do that! If you’re worried people actually forget they’re overweight, they don’t. But they do have jobs, friends, family, lovers. Life does go on for people like Mike and Molly.] I’ve always thought some people are homophobic because they’ve never met someone who’s gay: If they had, they’d know there’s so much more to that person than who they sleep with. There’s so much more to overweight people than their body issues, and to say you only want to see a Biggest Loser-type show, is saying, “I only see your body, not what you do with your life.”
We should all say a little prayer for the American culture, if that’s how we’re deciding to look at human beings. If we can’t love and accept each other for our differences, for our problems, for our struggles, we’re not really allowed to call ourselves human beings. It’s such a ridiculous form of prejudice. How long has it been since Roseanne was on the air? It’s startling to me.
Roseanne didn’t revolve around their weight. Did you feel like you had to have the characters meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting to get this love story on the air?
I didn’t really think about using it as a device. It just seemed like a very good way to show that these two people 1) have problems that are very, very human, and 2) they’re trying to take steps to deal with them. That speaks volumes about who these two people are as human beings. It helped a lot to have that. It provides a humanity to them that most sitcoms don’t have. If you look at most sitcoms, [they feature] jokes strung together told by people that are unrealistic. They’re too beautiful, they live in an apartment that they can’t afford based on the jobs that they’ve been fictionally given. It just makes me sad that this is what we’re focusing on as opposed to the fact that there are two really, really wonderfully brilliant comic actors that are doing an amazing job.
This is the first negative response to the show that made real headlines. So long after its premiere, did the backlash surprise you?
I don’t consider this a backlash. The show is successful, that’s all I see. Anytime you put something out in the world, somebody is gonna be upset about it. And that’s fine. That’s the risk you take when you write a movie, or write a book, or write a play. People are gonna have opinions about them. That’s what they’re supposed to do. This wasn’t about the show, this wasn’t about the writing, this wasn’t about the acting. This was about someone’s hateful response to how these two human beings look. She has to look at her face in the mirror.