How television influences body image

Published on
October 28, 2010

Most of the time, when we are talking about television and other media influencing body image, we are talking about the pretty, skinny women. In this case, a controversy was started by a new television show on CBS called "Mike and Molly," about an overweight (I don't have their BMI stats, but they could very well be obese) couple who met at their Overeaters Anonymous group.

A vehement on-line discussion about the weight of the characters began when Marie Claire writer Maura Kelly wrote a blog that said she was completely disgusted by looking at fat people, much less looking at fat people making out with each other.

"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 doing anything," she writes. "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."

She's since apologized as the outrage poured in after she posted the blog, with people citing her view as one of the reasons this country has an obesity problem. In the end, she apologized, stating that she herself has had anorexia and she was projecting her own issues onto others via the "Should Fatties Get a Room" blog.

I don't know what the television show is like, but it makes me curious as to how obesity will be addressed. Will it be just some big joke? Will the characters struggle with the very real health issues that come along with obesity? Is anyone else besides me tired of overweight comedians whose repertoire is mainly about how fat they are?

It is great to accept one's body and be happy with it, but it is not good to leave it at that if one's weight puts them at risk for health problems. While Kelly's blog did not seem productive in and of itself, at least it sparked a dialogue.

I don't want anyone to feel like their body is so "gross" that people don't want to look at them - that would indeed make me want to buy the nearest bag of potato chips. I'm a comfort and stress eater, and I've lost 25 pounds in the last year after many years of being sedentary and not following the best diet. I feel fantastic, and I even hung by the knees off the monkey bars at the park yesterday to show off for my 2-year-old son (my arms are saying this may have been a bad idea). Even a year ago, I don't know if I could have, would have, done that. So losing weight and getting in shape has definitely helped my own self-esteem and psyche, though it has not been all about just how I look. It's how I feel physically, and mentally knowing that I'm taking care of myself.

At the same time, I would dread for people to embrace obesity to the point where it's OK just to laugh it off. Because it's not a joke, not to me, not to the health care system, and definitely not to those who have limbs amputated due to diabetes, or suffered heart attacks before they were 40. So once again, it's a fine line that the media and the public have to walk with a mentality towards obesity.

I hope this show will give viewers the best of both worlds: that it's awesome to feel good about oneself no matter what, but it's important to always strive for a healthy body.