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IF there is one thing that fat people hate seeing on television, it is shows where large people get screamed at to lose weight.
Another is the predominance of waif-like actresses in a nation where some two-thirds of United States adults are considered overweight.
Huge, a new drama series about a group of teens that are sent to a fat camp, suggests that the fat acceptance movement may finally be making some headway in Hollywood.
After years of reality weight-loss and diet shows such as The Biggest Loser, Dance Your Ass Off’ and Celebrity Fit Club, the first episode of Huge on cable channel ABC Family this week featured a rare scene on scripted U.S. television.
“A screen full of actors with rolls of fat who aren’t there to be frowned upon as freaks,” said Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker, describing the new show as taking a tricky premise and turning it into a clever, well-written hour of TV.
Later this year a new romantic comedy series Mike & Molly, about two people who meet at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, will debut on CBS.
Huge features seven male and female teens and their emotional journeys at the fictional weight-loss Camp Victory.
Hairspray actress Nikki Blonsky — whose swimsuit-clad curves promote the show on billboards around Los Angeles — leads a largely unknown plus-size cast.
Blonsky (21) plays a sarcastic rebel who is quite happy with her size (as is the actress in real life) and who is mad with her parents for sending her to fat camp.
The new series made a splash with audiences, drawing 2,5 million viewers and becoming ABC Family’s biggest series debut among 18 to 49-year-old women, according to ratings data.
While groups that are fighting discrimination against fat people lamented the fact that the main premise of Huge was, once again, about weight loss, there were signs of hope.
“So far, we don’t see people being pushed and abused like we do on reality shows, which is nice,’’ said Peggy Howell, public relations director for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (Naafa).
“And it is nice to see that so many fat people have an [acting] job,’’ Howell said.
Naafa, which encourages healthy eating and active lifestyles, but without focusing on weight loss, says that discrimination towards fat people in the U.S. workplace, in schools and in the health-care system is growing rapidly.
The brightest spot in Huge was seen as Blonsky’s character Willamina, and her rejection of the notion that weight is a problem.
“Fat people are supposed to be ashamed. They are supposed to want to change. They are supposed to want to look like thinspiration pictures. So when someone like Willamina says that they are not buying into that, no one knows how to handle it. This to me is a good thing,’’ said Deb Lemire, president of the Association for Size Diversity and Health.
What the fat-acceptance movement would really welcome, however, are more TV shows like the award-winning 1990s sitcom Roseanne. The blue-collar characters played by Roseanne Barr and John Goodman “were just fat people who had children and a family and it was a hysterically funny show,’’ said Howell. (Goodman recently unveiled a new, svelte figure.)
“Why does everything on TV about fat people have to be based around weight loss these days? There are a lot of us who are fat, who are not on diets and who aren’t going to go on diets. And the rest of the world can just get over it,’’ she said.