Something happened in 2009 — something I for one had never seen before. Lifetime launched the show Drop Dead Diva, and for the first time, a plus-size woman was the main character on a television show…that is, a television show not dedicated to weight loss or body transformation. The plot was simple enough: an incredibly shallow, aspiring model dies and begins to inhabit the body of a brilliant, successful plus-size lawyer, and thus she has to learn all about inner beauty and what really matters in life. I admit I haven’t watched much of the show, an episode here or there perhaps just to see Brooke Elliott rock some fabulous plus-size outfits. But the message is one I can appreciate — and one I think has helped incite a television transformation — one that is only just beginning but will hopefully carry on at full force.
Sine Drop Dead Diva launched, I think it’s safe to say we started seeing a lot more plus-size characters at the core of TV series. Whether this was because of Drop Dead Diva, or simply due to the fact that the pro-plus movement has been slowly gaining adrenalin in the past few years, I do not know. But 2010 saw the premiers of Huge and Mike and Molly, two series that not only had plus-size main characters, but some pretty confident ones at that.
Though Huge did focus on a group of overweight kids sentenced to fat camp, some of them (mainly Nikki Blonsky’s character, who was basically the star of the whole show) couldn’t have cared less about losing weight. For the most part, it wasn’t about weight loss, but about the struggles being fat can unfortunately cause, particularly during adolescence when surrounded by vapid, skinny-centric teenagers. But the fact that Huge presented Nikki Blonsky’s character, who was dead set against losing a single pound and encouraged others to follow her lead by doing things like sneaking into the kitchen late at night to scavenge for brownies, definitely made the series more about the kids themselves than about anything weight-loss related. Shame it only lasted a season.
Then there’s Mike & Molly, the adorable fat couple you can’t help but love. Their dorky quirkiness makes for a perfect sitcom, and though this particular show started with fat-jokes prevailing in each episode, it slowly became a family-oriented comedy, perfect for late nights with the kids or a significant other. I have to say, I’ve loved Melissa McCarthy since I discovered her in Gilmore Girls years ago. I’ve always perceived her as a confident plus-size celebrity, who wasn’t afraid of being stylish or showing off her curves long before Adele sort of made it ok to do so. Again, the plot began with Mike and Molly meeting at an “Over-eaters Anonymous” group, but it has never focused on weight loss. Though both the protagonists sometimes feel uncomfortable or awkward, it’s more to do with their personalities than their bodies, and I’ve always found that incredibly cute. As an uncoordinated and incredibly awkward girl myself, I can relate to the uncomfortableness they seem to feel, especially early on when all those new-couple-things made them painfully nervous.
There have been other shows here and there that bring plus-size characters into the spotlight. MTV launched Chelsea Settles, which began as an attempt at a body transformation show but ended up focusing on a gorgeous plus-size gal’s attempt to make a career in a big city. It became about the trials of moving to a new place and marketing oneself as opposed to changing one’s body — it wasn’t about her weight at all after the first few episodes, but about her life, her work and herself. TLC also featured a three-part reality show called Big Sexy, with a similar plot about making a new life in a big city, but with five plus-size characters as opposed to just one. Both shows did pretty well, and I think they furthered the idea that plus-size women can do anything thin ones can, including making it big in the fashion world.
There are still several networks which have failed to feature plus-size characters in their shows at all, let alone as protagonists. The CW for one features not just skinny people time and time again, but skinny people who look so perfect they barely seem real. Seriously…five minutes into Gossip Girl or Vampire Diaries is enough to prove that. But things are going in the right direction. Five years ago, you wouldn’t have seen a plus-size female character as the lead in a series — unless it was Extreme Makeover or a comedy skit. The only time you’d see a plus-size character was if he/she was the object of ridicule — does everyone remember Friends‘ Monica who used to be fat but lost 300 pounds to avoid being the target of constant joking? Things are changing — and though some networks may be behind, I truly think it’s only a matter of time before they get with the program. There’s still a lot of work to be done. The jokes and negative comments that all plus-size people are automatically lazy or ugly definitely need some severe modification. The portrayal of fat characters as being unattractive/undateable needs eradication. But if there’s one thing all the characters in the photos above have in common (besides being on the heavier side) is that they’re all pretty damn good looking. So perhaps as we see more and more of them people will stop that absurd association between fat and unattractiveness — because to be honest, I for one have met many more attractive people (both inside and out) who are on the voluptuous side of the spectrum.