Weight on TV: Has it crossed that line?

I recently heard about a Marie Claire piece talking about the show “Mike and Molly.” The piece was called “Should fatties get a room? (even on TV).” I have not read the piece, but the apparent gist of it was that overweight  people making out on TV is offensive. I got excited when I saw there was someone discussing the TV,  but for entirely different reasons.  My question about the show is whether or not it is portraying these people in a favorable light, or staying within the lines of fat people script?

I am really enjoying the show so far.  If you haven’t seen it or heard about it, it is a show about two overweight people (Mike and Molly) who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting and start dating.  The show follows them and their quirky friends through the ups and downs of Mike and Molly’s relationship.  The characters are lovable — Molly is played by Melissa McCarthy (Sooki from the Gilmore Girls) and Mike is played by Billy Gardell (I remember him from Yes, Dear) — and the writing is pretty good.

The show tackles some of the challenges of being overweight — the jokes, the disapproving family, how hard it is to lose weight, and the insecurity with your body.  I think it accomplishes all of these pretty well.  Telling her story at one OA meeting, Molly says that she doesn’t want to be a size 2, she just wants to not be teased anymore.  I love that she has a healthy image of herself and her goals.  Mike’s friend and cop partner Carl helps Mike stick to his diet and supports him in his goals.  He does it while making fun of Mike’s size and how much Mike can eat — which is my problem with the show.

I love that the show is trying to tell the story of two ‘regular’ people who don’t fit the standard idea of beauty.  But are the fat jokes necessary? A lot of those jokes are where the comedy is meant to come from (I think it comes more from the characters of Mike and Molly themselves, without the fat jokes), which makes me think that the show is undermining its purpose to get viewers.

Both Mike and Molly respond with eye rolls to many of these jokes, but also take them in stride, which I think is admirable.  Both Gardell and McCarthy have good comedic skills and can create funny without relying on their weight for the punchline.  The show, however, does not.  I don’t think the show feels that it can stand without joining on that bandwagon and making fun of its main characters.  We are supposed to love them, but be disgusted by them at the same time, which doesn’t work.

As the show has moved beyond its pilot episode, it has turned the focus from the weight to the relationships between the characters, which I think is great.  The show should be about how Mike and Molly interact with their friends/family and each other and not about their weight.  That being said, I do love that the show doesn’t pretend that weight is not an issue — it’s painted as a struggle for both the main characters, and it has an impact on their relationship too.  But it is not the weight that has the impact, it is the insecurities from the weight that have an impact, which I think is pretty realistic.

My point in all of this is that I am wondering if this show is the first sitcom to try to cross the line from just showing fat people on TV as the butt of jokes, to making them real people that are interesting and lovable.  I would love it if it is, and I hope this show sticks around long enough to really evolve beyond the obvious jokes.

What are you thoughts?

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