50 fat stories we could tell beyond ‘Insatiable’

Your Fat Friend
Jul 30, 2018 · 7 min read
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Earlier this month, Netflix released the trailer for Insatiable, a new show about a fat high schooler who becomes thin after having her jaw wired shut, and then uses her newfound thinness to exact revenge on her former bullies. Fat people, people with eating disorders, and parents alike responded in a wave of shock, dismay, concern, anger, exhaustion and fear. (For those new to this controversy, Vox has a roundup of responses to the show’s trailer, including my letter to the show’s writers and the petition to cancel the show.)

But the problem posed here isn’t limited to Insatiable — the Netflix show is just the most recent in a long and storied tradition of weight loss storylines. Friends, New Girl, Just Friends, America’s Sweethearts and more have all utilized major weight loss stories as character development, punchlines, plot devices and more. Frequently, when we see fat lead characters on screen, they are played by thin actors wearing fat suits. This is Us, a notable exception to the fat suit pattern here, famously inserted weight loss requirements into Chrissy Metz’s contract.

Regardless of the project, the messages of weight loss storylines are overwhelmingly the same. A fat character’s life is in shambles. They are pitifully unattractive, painfully awkward with love interests, routinely bullied or mocked, and often, they are constantly eating. Then something happens that makes them “take control of their lives,” transforming them into romantic leads, popular students, or career successes. This transformation is nearly always symbolized by major weight loss — despite the fact that for all but 3% of dieters, weight loss efforts ultimately fail.

Despite these facts, weight loss storylines remain major plot points in movies and television. As a fat person, it requires a staggering suspension of disbelief to watch the same reveal, over & over again, which I have seen only a handful of times outside of these media representations. Again and again, thin actors remove their fat suits to reveal taut and toned bodies underneath — an impossibility for those of us who undergo major weight loss and are left with inches of newly emptied skin, hanging from us like a deflated balloon. Again and again, thin actors are shown in montages of running, swimming, dieting until they get thin — as if fat people are not taking these same actions every day. And again and again, thin actors, upon removal of their fat suits, gain confidence, love, sex, humor, friends, social skills, success and more.

But over two thirds of people in the US are now plus size — and for those 218 million, major weight loss isn’t necessarily a part of their story. They are, however, staying fat and getting laid, staying fat and being funny, staying fat and building vibrant communities, staying fat and living their lives with confidence, staying fat and riding out highs and lows, just like thin people. Despite that truth, we are left with the same stale storyline, over and over again.

So, as we await the arrival of Insatiable, the next in a long history of fat suit weight loss storylines, let’s take a step outside of that one, tired story. Here are some fat stories — many of which are real — that aren’t being shown on screen.

There is no dearth of fat stories, fat art or fat artists. But there is a massive gap in those stories getting told. Writers, directors, filmmakers and show runners: there are fifty opportunities for you here, and thousands more where that came from. Run with ‘em.

Your Fat Friend

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Your Fat Friend writes about the social realities of living as a very fat person. www.yourfatfriend.com