Media Expectations of Women.
by Meredith O’Brien
What, exactly, do you people want from women? Really?
Over the past two weeks, women have been sent all manner of confusing, contradictory and, frankly, deeply insulting messages, all centered around their looks. A writer on a national magazine’s web site told overweight people that having to watch them in leading roles on TV -- and even just exist in the world -- is revolting. A prominent newspaper scrutinized all facets of how current female politicians dress, from women who wear form-fitting attire to women who don loose-fitting conservative duds. On the other end of the spectrum, two twentysomething stars of a popular high school TV drama were attacked for agreeing to pose in their panties in sexual poses while they draped themselves around a fully clothed male co-star.
A writer for Marie Claire last week made a series of hateful statements about the lead characters in the new CBS sitcom Mike & Molly – a new show about two overweight people who began dating after meeting at an overeaters’ support group. The article was entitled, “Should ‘Fatties’ Get a Room? (Even on TV?)” and claimed that the show promotes obesity. One of the writer’s observations: “I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other . . . because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them do anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroin addict slumping in a chair.”
Just how many large women – other than Roseanne Barr from Roseanne – have had leading roles in TV shows in recent years? As I struggled to come up with one, off the top of my head I could name several programs where larger men were paired with skinny leading women, like on According to Jim, The King of Queens, Still Standing, the two animated series Family Guy and The Simpsons, and the May-December pairing of Jay and Gloria on Modern Family. But when someone had the nerve to create a show where BOTH the male and female leads are, like a growing number of Americans, overweight and suddenly it’s grotesque and should be banned from TV? If bad or unhealthy behavior or lifestyles should be banned from TV by everyone who’s offended by it, then there’d be nothing left to watch.