Having considered the comedic TV series Parks and Recreation, where obesity is handled in a light-hearted manner that still conveys a message, let’s look at a few more media offerings. In a piece called “The Problem with Fat Monica,” writer Kelsey Miller discusses a character from another long-running TV series, Friends:
Fat Monica appears in just four episodes over the course of the 10-season series, but she is referenced in nearly half… Each of the four episodes ends with Courteney Cox dancing solo in a fat suit, holding a doughnut in her hand.
Lindsey Averill, the producer of the documentary Fattitude, says of entertainment media:
There are 10 to 15 archetypes for fat characters. But, they tend to be problematic, meaning outside the normal sphere of culture. Fat characters don’t have average experiences or stories. They don’t have their own stories at all. They’re the subplot.
Well, not always. The Mindy Project, a TV show created, produced, and starred in by Mindy Kaling, ran for five years. The series, in which she played Mindy Lahiri through 117 episodes, was discussed at HollywoodReporter.com (in an article since removed from that publication’s website) by Tim Goodman, who opines that “comedy often is a better spotlight for tough issues than drama.” Too often in entertainment media, he says, “You’re either thin and hot or you’re overweight and funny.”
One of the plots involves nurses trying to raise money for obese nurses. Why do viewers like the character Mindy Kaling portrays? “She talks about how hot she looks in a date dress, has few confidence issues in the dating world and no qualms about unflattering camera angles or scenes,” Goodman suggests.
Kaling told the press that she was not overweight, but fluctuated between chubby and curvy; and also that she tended to eat like a 6-foot-3 man. The series inspired Dr. Kenneth Weiner of the Eating Recovery Center, to remark that self-disparagement is not the ticket to acceptance, and that obese people who poke fun at themselves are part of the problem. Journalist Ashley Ross wrote,
It’s become more acceptable to discuss body realism as opposed to idealism, but is all this talk about bodies helping women with self-image issues or eating disorders or does this new focus fuel our obsession with how we look? If anything the conversation is even more focused on appearances than before.
Kaling’s rabid fans have dissected every nuance of every episode of the show, and at least one serious academic paper, “Shame, Affect and the Fat Body in The Mindy Project,” has been written about it. Vulture.com provides an exhaustive list of all the many, many articles the site has published about The Mindy Project.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “The Problem With Fat Monica,” Medium.com, 02/22/20
Source: “Race, Weight and Beauty: How ‘The Mindy Project’ Is Both Funny and Important,” HollywoodReporter.com, 09/25/12
Source: “Even Mindy Kaling Can’t Win the Body-Image Wars,” TIME.com, 04/14/14
Image by Mindy Kaling