Life

Finally, there’s going to be a television show that knows how to portray fat women

Posted by
Hannah-Rose Yee
Published
Aidy Bryant

If you’re as troubled by Netflix’s Insatiable as we are, then you’re going to love the sound of this new series

Show me a fat woman on television and I’ll show you a damaging stereotype.

Kate on This Is Us is the sad, tragic fat woman whose perilously low self-esteem is intrinsically tied to her weight. Sookie on Gilmore Girls is jolly, bubbly and beloved, but constantly overlooked and put down by the woman whom she calls best friend. (Lorelai, I love you, but I swear to God you are so selfish, and you are the reason Sookie is railroaded time and time again on that show.)

“Fatty Patty” on Netflix’s forthcoming Insatiable is perhaps the most damaging of all: a fat woman who needs to have her jaw wired shut in order to lose weight, at which point she becomes gloriously good-looking and her life truly begins.

Because nothing – good, bad or otherwise – can ever happen to you when you’re fat, right? 

Dallas Roberts and Debby Ryan in a scene from Netflix's Insatiable

In Insatiable, Patty is punched in the face and loses a lot of weight, which changes everyone’s perception of her. Sounds like a pretty terrible premise for a show, right? 

But all that f**kery is about the change, hopefully, with the announcement of a new television show called Shrill starring Saturday Night Live’s Aidy Bryant, coming soon to Hulu. Based on the brilliant, bestselling, critically-acclaimed memoir Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman by blogger Lindy West, it will follow protagonist Annie, a young journalist with a demanding job, a phone full of f**kboys, a wise-cracking best friend and sick parents.

It’s the kind of story we have seen and read and heard a million times over… From the perspective of thin women.

But Annie has no desire to be thin. She, embodying the message so empoweringly conveyed in West’s original memoir, understands that her size is in no way a representation of her self-worth and that her weight is just a number, and not even an exciting one at that. It shouldn’t stop her from doing, or having, or being anything that she wants to be.

Annie, the show’s description reads according to The Hollywood Reporter, is “a fat woman who wants to change her life – but not her body.”

Lindy West, blogger and memoirist, will have a fictional version of her life play out onscreen in Shrill

Finally, television has cracked a way to tell a fat woman’s story that doesn’t involved turning her into the quite literal punchline of a joke. (Insatiable, we’re looking at you.)

Finally, television has realised that it’s possible to show a fat woman in a leading role, as complicated and complex, as likeable or unlikeable, as the decades and decades of other female leading roles have been. (Gilmore Girls, are you listening?)

Finally, television feels confident enough to stream images of a fat woman into millions and millions of devices around the world that don’t show her sobbing silently while looking in a bathroom mirror, or weighing herself, or cracking under the pressure of her low self-esteem.

When people turn on their devices next year and watch Shrill they’re going to see a fat woman who has a great job, a veritable buffet of a sex life, good relationships with her friends and parents, in short, everything that a modern woman could ever dream of. They’re going to turn on their devices and see a fat woman who is – crucially – buoyantly, ebulliently, positively radiantly happy.

A big, resounding, fat amen to that!

Images: Getty, Netflix