Thursday, February 10, 2011

Glee's view on fat

Glee: definitely my guilty pleasure. Pleasure because it's a freaking musical every week! and guilty because Glee faces a lot of accusations of abelism, racism, biphobia, and sexism. To Glee's credit they have attempted to change these things in the second season (although the biphobia has not yet been addressed in the least). So watching is always a mixed experience- getting angry at all of the forms of bigotry that can be seen in a single episode and taking blissful joy in the group performances of every genre of music. Sizism, however, has not yet been addressed. And I don't mean that sizism doesn't exist in the show- I mean that no one really cares about that bit when they're talking about the bigotry of the show (actually I haven't seen anyone talk about biphobia either.. I tacked that one on myself).

In season one we meet Mercedes, a sassy, loud, and spirited heavy girl who struggles with disordered eating during one episode in season 2. After hallucinating that all of her friends were food she passes out and decides that loving her body is a far better option. After barely  being able to get through the first episode of season two (which was sexist beyond words), I was really excited to see an episode on loving your body (note that she still wouldn't wear a skirt while on the cheerleading squad because of her size- she wore pants instead). That was the only episode that really addressed weight at all.. until the introduction of a new character, Lauren Zizes (is that supposed to look as much like 'sizes' as it does? youtube even thought that's what I actually meant to type in), who is recruited for show choir. Despite the fact that she didn't want to join, she agreed to in exchange for candy (specifically cadbury eggs which were out of season) and seven minutes in heaven with Puck (resident badass). In fact, there is almost no point in any episode where she has speaking lines where she is not eating. She refuses to perform at sectionals without candy- we see Rachel, desperately begging someone for candy, afraid of having to throw the performance without it.

In this past Tuesdays episode, the show focuses on Puck's crush on Lauren- progressive, right? Fat girl finding love? He gives her a box of chocolate- which she eats all of. She then walks over to him and says "by the way, the chocolates you gave me? They suck." Puck replies "but you ate them all!". The obvious implication being that fat girls will eat anything, whether it's good or not. Although Mercedes is a girl of size, we never really saw weight shaming in the show until Lauren shows up and gets called a rhino by Santana. While I don't ever condone real life violence, it was refreshing to see Lauren kick Santana's ass. Mercedes is, while not thin, one of those bigger girls who is more socially acceptable, and I'm pretty sure the show producers would never consider having this song sung to her.

The episode did have at least one redeeming factor- Puck tries to woo Lauren with a love song called Fat Bottomed Girls, and she completely rejects it as completely offensive.. which it is since the entire song focuses, not on his feelings for her, but on her weight. Lauren tells puck "that's the first time anyone's ever sang a love song to me.... and it made me feel like crap". Later when Puck asks her out and she thinks he isn't trying hard enough he says "but I sang to you!" to which she replies, "yeah.. an offensive song!".

On the whole it feels like they're trying... sort of... and yet still manage to include typical stereotypes about fat people. It is, however, nice that Lauren is tough, secure (in both her sexuality and her body), and definitely stands up for herself since most people assume fat girls are completely desperate and will sleep with anything that passes by and offers. What do you think gleeks? Going in the right direction?

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