Back in 2009, people watched a so-called “reality” dating game show whose host was a plus-size model called Emme, which may have been its only redeeming feature. Emme’s brand is “curvy and confident” and she had been, in 1994, the first plus-size model on the magazine “People’s 50 Most Beautiful” list.
The purpose of “More to Love” was to find a life partner for 26-year-old Luke Conley, who weighed over 300 pounds. So the producers recruited 20 women who weighed between 200 and 300 pounds, in hopes that he might propose to one of them. Reviewer David Hinckley generously allowed that perhaps the project aimed to “help humanize plus-size women,” but in his view, it failed. Why? Because…
Contestant after contestant confesses, in the introductory moment, that they don’t like being big. They not only don’t like being big, they hate that they have tried to be thin and failed.
He theorized that the 20 contestants — five of whom were immediately jettisoned in the first round — were involved with the show out of sheer desperation. One of them had never been asked out on a date. Another had experienced three first dates; period. A third was an actual rocket scientist whose dating game was at grade-school level. The others included a waitress, a teacher, a fitness instructor, and a motivational speaker. One wept and asked, “What if I’m alone for the rest of my life because I’m overweight?”
Hinckley characterized this outburst as “up-front oversharing.” However, in the context of sensationalized vicarious emotional angst marketed as entertainment, excess is exactly what the audience is hungry for, and maybe oversharing could more accurately be described as feeding the psychic vampires. He, for some reason, held the possibly naive belief that “there’s no pleasure in watching… sadness.” On the contrary! Viewers eat this stuff up and ask for more.
It was Bachelor Conley’s mother who convinced him to take a chance with “More to Love.” She figured his odds of meeting The One were as good there as anywhere else. (And when 20 potential life-mates are just served up like chicken wings on a platter, it seems like deciding to participate would be a no-brainer.)
There was a spa date with six of the contestants, then a one-on-one encounter for a couple’s foot massage, and another for a double wine bath. There were conversations. and one of the women told him she didn’t like thinking about him being with the others. Another shared the sadness of losing her mother as a child. Luke told her he loved her sexy confidence.
Journalist Kari Croop from Common Sense Media assured parents that despite some spicy dialogue and on-camera makeout sessions, “More to Love” was actually “a lot tamer than other reality dating competitions,” with overall a quite positive tone — “It’s all about accepting people for who they are inside.” The content offered an opportunity for family discussions about weight. Croop remarked,
It means well, but it loses points for things like posting how much participants weigh alongside their name, age, and occupation. After all, if who we are inside is what’s truly important, why is that necessary? Is the show sending girls positive messages about body image, or is it sending mixed signals? Would the show be substantively different if the person looking for love was a plus-sized woman instead of a plus-sized man?
Indeed. It did seem to send the message that while the chance to compete against other large ladies is the best that an obese women can hope for, a corpulent man is entitled to have his pick of the crop. A woman caller to a talk show said,
If the intent was to show that overweight women can be just as alluring and glamorous as the size two models on “The Bachelor,” it failed miserably. The focus was still on how fat they were, and they came off as pathetic.
The majority of the viewing audience is probably overweight but I’m sure they have no desire to watch people who look just like them in this type of reality show. We prefer to escape the reality of our own less-than-perfect bodies by identifying with beautiful people.
Fat activist Marianne Kirby did not find “More to Love” inspirational, and was asked by an interviewer if the show challenged stereotypes or actually perpetuated them. She replied,
It’s also a lot of women crying about how this is their last chance at love, which really does play into this being a spectacle.
If you watch the regular version of “The Bachelor,” there’s no food at that cocktail party, much less chicken teriyaki, meat on a stick dripping all over their fancy dresses.
There’s all of this great message of acceptance stuff. But there’s all this backhanded, we’re-still-going-to-make-fun-of-you, you know, stuff going on in the editing and the casting and the way people are portrayed.
Kirby also remarked that she doesn’t mind fat jokes — it’s just that none of the ones she has ever heard are funny.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “FOX reality show ‘More to Love’ weighed down by sad confessions from plus-size participants,” NYDailyNews.com, 07/26/09
Source: “More to Love,” LATimes.com, 2009
Source: “More to Love,” CommonsenseMedia.org, 2009
Source: “The Plus-Sized Romance Of ‘More To Love,” NPR.org, 07/29/09
Images by Igor Grabar and DanilKuzn/Public Domain