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
Appearance related: When someone makes a joke about clothing or body shape/size
Alright, nobody make fun of jerry today - Parks and Rec
These ongoing insult/odd-man-out jokes aren’t funny, in fact, it’s plain awkward. Like the
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.
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.
Weight Related: making a comment about someone’s size or food consumption:
Sweetie those pancakes aren’t part of your diet. - Mike and Molly
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.
Direct: Directly saying that someone needs to exercise or lose weight.
Fat Fat Fat - One Tree Hill
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.
Indirect: Making a comment to someone else about a fat person, often within earshot
Some girl ate Monica! - Friends
'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.'
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.)
Verbal: Directly giving someone advice or commenting about weight loss or their body.
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
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.
Non-verbal: when a fat person sits and the chair or couch squeaks and few words are exchanged
Daddy Pig can't fit through the door - Peppa Pig
“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.
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.”
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:
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.
Seuss: The Lorax
Red Shoes and the 7 Dwarfs
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)
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)
Summer Catch (2001)
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
Raising Victor Vargas (2002)
Love Actually (2003)
Dodge Ball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
Mean Girls (2004)
The Golden Girls
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 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.
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.