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Fat Shaming Ep. 3: 6 Types of Fat Shaming in TV

April 05, 2018 3 Comments

Fat Shaming Ep. 3: 6 Types of Fat Shaming in TV

Hi Dr. C chiming in! Today on ask Dr. Deb, we're looking at the 6 main types of fat shaming on TV.

Last month, I was asked:

“From your point of view, do TV Shows have a bad influence on what people think about fat/plus-size people?”

So today we’re dedicating a whole video to it!

YES. 100%. Absolutely. Television and movies are among the worst influence in normalizing negative beliefs, attitudes and behaviors about plus-size/ fat people. it is an area that hits me in the heart because many children’s shows and movies portray fat people in a negative manner and this teaches our children it is acceptable behavior.  Substantial research shows that fat children, adolescents and adults are negatively stereotyped, treated differently, and face discrimination in television and movies (Obesity Research Journal).

The media is powerful because provides us  with visual and verbal information on acceptability of behavior which contributes to the shaping of norms and beliefs about weight. Yes this is a big deal. Based on the media, the social consensus of our culture is that fat is bad. A 2017 study found that 84 percent of the top-grossing kids' movies released between 2012 and 2015 promote weight stigma. A separate 2014 study published in the International Journal of Eating Disorders showed that 58.3 percent of youth-directed TV shows and cartoons also contain some kind of negative comment or incident related to a character's weight or appearance. We see it and hear it on our television every single day. How do we spot it? There are 6 main types of fat shaming or weight stigmatizing on TV

  1. Appearance related: When someone makes a joke about clothing or body shape/size
    1. Alright, nobody make fun of jerry today - Parks and Rec
    2. These ongoing insult/odd-man-out jokes aren’t funny, in fact, it’s plain awkward. Like the
    3. So what gives? Why is this still a running gag? It may have been funny once, NBC, but now, five seasons in, the viewers are wondering what this guy ever did wrong. And why doesn’t Garry/Jerry zing anyone back? The constant insults are one-sided and not ok.
    4. Enough with the insulting Gergich gags already. We just want to see this nice man live his life. A miss opprotunuty to showcase some antibullying material.
  2. Weight Related: making a comment about someone’s size or food consumption:
    1. Sweetie those pancakes aren’t part of your diet. - Mike and Molly
    2. From executive producer Chuck Lorre, who is known for creating The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men, both of which had an abundance of racism, sexism, slut-shaming, and nerd-shaming, Mike and Molly promised to be a progressive show that cast two plus-sized people in the lead. However, much like The Big Bang Theory, which claimed to be a show with 'nerds' in the lead, the show Mike and Molly failed on that promise. The show was littered with fat jokes, and this clip implies that if you even attempt to take food away from a fat person they might harm you - what the writers never understood was that having fat people make jokes about their own weight doesn't somehow make fat jokes any better, because ultimately, you're turning somebody's weight into a punchline. Not Cool.
  3. Direct:  Directly saying that someone needs to exercise or lose weight.
    1. Fat Fat Fat - One Tree Hill
    2. This is a pretty aggressive and rare type of fat shaming on but it isn't unheard of and is still acceptable which is why some people think it’s ok to tell someone they need to lose weight. Most comments are indirect but sadly enough we see direct and aggressive comments like this one too often.
  4. Indirect: Making a comment to someone else about a fat person, often within earshot
    1. Some girl ate Monica! - Friends
    2. 'Fat Monica' did not appear on too many episodes of Friends, but it seemed like a joke about her was always around the corner. 'Fat Monica' was Courteney Cox in a cartoonish fatsuit, and the character conformed to many stereotypes associated with plus-sized people. She was a virgin, which, in the Friends lexicon, meant 'loser.'
    3. Possibly the worst thing Friends did with 'Fat Monica' was to pretend that it did not endorse mocking fat people, because Chandler calling her fat is followed by a chorus of contempt from the live audience. Friends pretended that this was offensive in this instance, but did not stop poking fun at her weight in others. From being the erstwhile “200-pound” child who rode the family's pet dog to being able to catch Ross during their dance routine, Friends never missed an opportunity to poke fun at her weight.)
  5. Verbal: Directly giving someone advice or commenting about weight loss or their body.
    1. Michael: Dwight, I would like you to apologize to this beautiful, beautiful woman for forcing her to walk five miles, which for her is basically a death march. - The Office
    2. What this message says is that first of all fat people cannot walk for extended periods of time and if they do their ‘gams” a person's leg - must be exhausted. False on both accounts.
  6. Non-verbal: when a fat person sits and the chair or couch squeaks and few words are exchanged
    1. Daddy Pig can't fit through the door - Peppa Pig
    2. “Peppa Pig” is a British cartoon aimed at preschoolers. It’s about a family of pigs and their adventures, and as far as I can tell there’s no real educational component or moral lessons involved. But it seems innocent enough.
    3. It wasn’t until i started looking into kids cartoon that I first overheard Peppa talking about Daddy Pig’s “big belly.” And then you heard it again. And again. Apparently, it’s a running gag in this show just how fat Daddy Pig is. Like in this episode, where Peppa makes the password to her treehouse “Daddy’s big tummy” and everyone laughs at him. Daddy tries (and fails) to enter the treehouse, and Peppa tells him that’s because “his tummy is too big.”
    4. This has both verbal and non-verbal cues of how fat shaming is acceptable. Why does Mama Pig, who’s just as big, get in just fine?  Poor Daddy Pig.

This is why I think fat children are a target for bullying.

Here are only a few examples:


  1. Peppa Pig – every episode makes fun of the Dad pig for being fat – his belly is big – he get’s stuck in doors – he tries an exercise routine and fails – each time the baby pigs reinforce that their dad pig is fat. This teaches preschoolers that it is acceptable to judge a person for their size and that being big is not ok.
  2. Seuss: The Lorax
  3. Fat Albert
  4. Red Shoes and the 7 Dwarfs
  5. Arthur
  6. Trolls
  7. Zootopia
  8. Kung-Fu Panda
  9. 2015's SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water

Adolescent/ Teenagers/Adult – I have old shows and movies listed to demonstrate how long this has been part of our media culture – as children we were exposed to this and probably adopted these beliefs.


  • Nutty Professor (1996)
  • Thinner (1996)
  • Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999)
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999)
  • Erin Brockovich (2000)
  • I'm the One That I Want With Margaret Cho (2000)
  • The Tao of Steve (2000)
  • Bridget Jones's Diary (2001)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
  • Monster's Ball (2001)
  • On Edge (2001)
  • Shallow Hal (2001)
  • Shrek (2001)
  • Summer Catch (2001)
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
  • Raising Victor Vargas (2002)
  • Camp (2003)
  • Love Actually (2003)
  • Dodge Ball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
  • Mean Girls (2004)

TV Shows:

  • Growing Pains
  • The Golden Girls
  • Beverly Hills
  • Melrose Place
  • Martin
  • Friends
  • The Office
  • King of Queens (1998-current)
  • Will and Grace
  • Family Guy (1999–current)
  • The Biggest Loser
  • Saturday Night Live: The Best of Chris Rock (1999)
  • The Parkers
  • The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (2004)

This reflects a society that is overly critical about body shape and size, particularly for females but men are targeted as well. This stigmatization sends a message to young people that no matter what their weight, their bodies are not good enough.

Such a social norm is expected to contribute to body dissatisfaction and associated health problems such as disordered eating and depression (Harvard Medical School).It also teaches kids that, as adults, we believe it’s okay to single out a particular group based on physical characteristics that are different from us - not too different from racism - which we can all agree is not ok.

I would challenge everyone to take note next time you watch TV, how many fat jokes are made? Or what subtle ways are fat people made to appear lazy, stupid, overeating or messy? It’s more often than we think because we’ve become so used to that image of a fat person in the media.

(Obesity Facts, 2010)


yoga travel fat cotton women's plus size panties underwear 100% cotton size inclusive full coverage brief thong short Thanks for watching episode 3 of our fat shaming series. Did i ruin your favorite TV shows? Do you notice any fat shaming in TV shows? What about your kids shows. Let us know what you think and like subscribe, share this with your friends! People need to know about the fat shaming! Catch ya on the flippity flip.

3 Responses


June 28, 2018

I don’t know. I’m fat and I like quite a few of those films, especially the My Big Fat Greek Wedding and the Bridget Jones franchise. I grew up with
Fat Albert. EVERYONE liked that show, even the fat kids. Maybe you’re being just a bit overly sensitive? I know who I am and am not easily intimidated or shamed by some movie or insipid TV show like Friends which has been off the air now for more than a decade…try to catch up, honey? There are worse problems in the world than a lousy kid’s show.

Dr. Deb
Dr. Deb

April 30, 2018

Thank you Mary for your comment! I think the best thing we can do is to watch as much TV and movies with our children and use each instance of shaming as a learning moment. Explain to your child that while the media shows fat people in a negative context, not every fat person is mean or a villain or a glutton. Then ask them to point it out next time – but be sure that you continue to address it until they start to see if for themselves.

There are some kids approved books that you could get for you and your daughter to read together (https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/content.asp?id=33&category=Children%2FTeens#results).

There are many non-profit groups that are working to educate people in the media about how their portrayals of fat people has a negative impact. Here are some of the groups working in social justice:
Plus Positive http://www.pluspositive.org/
HAES https://haescommunity.com/
ASDAH https://www.sizediversityandhealth.org/index.asp

There is even a special group for teens (http://www.re-bel.org/). It’s a non-profit where they are empowering individuals to play an active role in changing the world, not our bodies.

And while it may not seem like letter writing is helpful, the Council on Size and Weight Discrimination thinks it will (http://cswd.org/letter-writing). I’d encourage you to send letters if you feel compelled. You could even rally other famiiles in your area to do the same.

My Best,
Dr. Deb


April 25, 2018

Thank you for the list – I believe it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I started noticing so many fat shaming references in kids shows and movies after my daughter was born. Disney is a prime example. Most of it’s villain or idiot characters are the fat ones. What can we do about it? Me sending a letter isn’t going to turn the tide. Thoughts?

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