Pop Culture’s Relentless Battle with Body Image

TV shows "Huge" and "Thintervention with Jackie Warner." Photos from ABC Family and Bravo.

New TV shows “Huge” and “Thintervention with Jackie Warner.” Photos from ABC Family and Bravo.

By Valerie Martin

Mainstream pop culture’s back-and-forth, wishy-washy affair with body image is nothing new — but it seems to be rearing its head now more than ever. TV line-ups are springing up shows like “Huge” from ABC Family and the new fall series, “Mike & Molly” from CBS. At first glance, it’s easy for mainstream media to position these shows as positive movement on the body image front — one about teen girls learning to navigate life and love at fat camp, and the other about a couple that bonded at Overeaters Anonymous. I should admit that I’ve never personally seen “Huge,” brand new this summer, and despite the positive reviews I’ve skimmed, I’m skeptical. And I feel the same with the forthcoming “Mike & Molly.” Networks are being praised for giving the spotlight to plus-size actors, but is it necessary to make weight the primary focus of the plot?

This is the same fundamental issue we have with most non-mainstream figures carefully planted in mainstream media. The regular-sized models that are just beautiful women — yet, only get plus-size modeling gigs, drawing all the attention to their size. The differently-abled actors in film and television whose characters’ defining trait is almost always their disability. The “token Black guy” (or Asian-American girl, etc.) that, in a sea of sameness, seems blatantly planted to meet the unspoken diversity requirement.

I can’t say that shows like “Huge” or “Mike & Molly” are all bad — I’ll have to wait and watch them, and read more critical analysis about both. However, no matter how many commercials and TV shows tell women they should feel beautiful in their own skin, the messages are so incredibly mixed that even the positive ones are barely making a dent. And with shows like the wildly popular “Biggest Loser” and the upcoming “Thintervention with Jackie Warner,” TV’s mixed messages about body image continue to proliferate.

For more on this topic, check out what McClatchy-Tribune’s Luaine Lee says about the new weight-focused line-up and more in her article, Bigger is Getting to Be Better on TV Screens. A bold subject line indeed though she does attempt to discuss  both sides of the issue.

What do you think?

Related content:

TV’s Fat and Happy. Not Quite.

The Reality Behind the Quest to be “The Biggest Loser”

What Reality TV Taught Me About Sluts, Waifs, Douchebags and Angry Black Women

Khloe Can’t Keep Up with the Kardashians’ Body Standards



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