Fat Betty Draper on Mad Men – Let the fat shaming continue

Do you watch Mad Men? I recently got into the show, and ripped through all of the episodes on Netflix, one after another, on hazy Friday nights with a glass of wine and husband by my side. I really like it because it bears a lot of similarities to what I do for my day job (and yes, that is unfortunate in some ways), and it’s a well written, cheeky show.
~~~~Spoiler Alert: Do not keep reading if you haven’t seen the episode yet! ~~~~~~

Last night was the second show of the season, and there seems to be ONE thing everybody is focusing on. Fat Betty Draper. Betty Draper is the frosty yet freakishly beautiful housewife – the ex wife of creative director Don Draper and current wife of politician Henry Francis. Much of her role on the show has been to serve as the 1950s arm candy to her husbands – as a lithe, gorgeous blonde, her main job was to prove to hungry potential business partners that her husband(s) (be it advertising or politics) were all around good guys.

January Jones, the real life actress who plays Betty, was pregnant while filming, so the writers decided to write her in as having a potential thyroid problem, and in the episode she appears to have gained 30-40 pounds. The scene opens with her trying to squeeze into a dress and faking sick when she realizes she can’t get into it. I really empathized with Betty through out the episode – as someone who has perpetually been fat, I know what it’s like to feel like your whole self worth is based on your jeans size. The show was very well written, and didn’t seem to focus on fat as a bad thing, just a change for appearance in a main character.

However, I’m more interested in the reaction of the public. Check out this headline by the Hollywood Reporter – c’mon – was the pun THAT good? Really?

People all over Twitter showed their emotions with expressive tweets like these:

“Betty (Draper) Francis really needs to die. Can’t stand her and now that she is fat, she serves no purpose.”

“My motivation to hit the gym today is chubby Betty Draper.”

“After seeing what fat Betty Draper looks like, I kind of want to starve myself…”

“ill correct that. january jones pregnant. not betty draper fat. thats gross.”

I just want to know what it is about FAT that freaks people out in such an extreme way. I understand the tweets above are directed at a character, not a real person, but the reality is we all know plenty of people who look like Betty or are even heavier. Even with her excess weight she was a stunner, but people can’t seem to handle her metamorphosis from string bean beauty queen to larger leading lady.

Why do people hate fat people so much? Is the sight of obesity really so vulgar and offensive? Also, what makes fat people an easier target to pick on? Sure, sure, people picked on Angelina’s weight at the Oscars – many claimed she was skeletal – but I think this leads to a bigger issue, that we’re a society so accustomed to constantly picking apart the physical appearance of women that it’s become the norm. If Don Draper had porked up in the episode, I bet the reactions would have been more along the lines of, “Oh, he’s got a big beer gut – too much schmoozing with the secrataries!”, and his portliness would be applauded as a direct result of his success, not that he “let himself go”.

What do you think? As a fellow voluptuous blonde, am I just being too sensitive to people’s harsh comments about fat Betty?

Big Sexy

I heard of TLC’s new show “Big Sexy” via word of mouth before I actually saw it being promoted. A few of my friends asked me what I thought about it, and being a “big sexy” myself, I decided I had to check it out.

The show follows “Five Fabulous and Fierce Fashion Divas” living their lives in New York City. The episode I watched tonight was about a singles party. Here are my initial thoughts (I’ll be tuning in later tonight, too – but these are my thoughts after watching the show for the first time.)

  • These chicks ARE actually big. So often in mass media, representatives of “plus size” are barely topping a size 10 and look just like your average sister, mom, cousin or girlfriend. Plus-sized means PLUS SIZED, aka, having to buy clothes from the ‘fat lady’ department. I like that these girls have “plus sized street cred”, if that makes sense, and they’re not the usual skinny girls with cellulite moaning about their fat thighs. Kudos to TLC on casting accurate body types for a show that’s about, well, big bodies.

  • Some of the typical comments from the brilliant citizens of the internet about this show are that it’s “promoting and celebrating the lifestyle of the obese”. I’m obese – and do I celebrate my life? Hell yes, I celebrate my life – I celebrate every breath I breathe, every rose that blooms in my garden, every day that I wake up next to my sweet husband. Life is something to be celebrated. I’m not going to mourn because I have fifty pounds to lose. Like my figure, my life is FULL. There’s a difference between celebrating obesity and celebrating life. These girls are proud of who they are. They have work to do to be healthy, and they acknowledge it – but they’re confident, happy and successful at the same time. I know this goes against mass media’s typical representation of the fat kid, but it’s time to progress. Lots of fat people are miserable, but lots of fat people are happy, too. One size does not fit all. It’s 2011. Celebrating life is a sign of gratitude, wisdom and knowledge – not celebrating the fact that you binged on cupcakes and can’t button your jeans.

  • TV is still up to its usual tricks. In one scene, the girl aspiring to be a plus sized model is shown boxing at the gym, and then it cuts to her working out on the treadmill. The camera zoomed in at least three times on her ample bottom. I don’t know if TLC zoomed in on her ass to be like “Hey male viewers! Look at this booty!” or to be like “Hey viewers! Here’s a big fat ass! We’re going to zoom in on it to make you worry if your ass looks big!” Regardless of the intent, it felt gratuitous and degrading, no matter the size of the ass. Women fight a battle EVERY DAY to be seen as equals and don’t tell me it doesn’t happen, because I see it happen on a daily basis. Zooming in on asses, cleavage and tummy rolls only further perpetuates the idea that we are THINGS, things that are made to be owned, prodded and analyzed. Size 20 or Size 2 – We are people. Leave the ass shots to Jersey Shore.

  • While I admire the fact that there is a show purely for larger women, I sometimes wish TV could just integrate and that so called “Reality television” could actually be realistic. I don’t choose friends based on their weight, so it seems weird to me that shows are always “segmented” by body type or appearance (think Real World, Jersey Shore, The Hills, etc). Does TV need to be so US and THEM? America’s Next Top Model integrates plus sized models among the regular sized models, and I always thought that was a refreshing change. TLC’s “Big Bliss” is another example of plus-sized programming. It’s great to have diversity, but I hope for the future that media will not always be so categorized. The reality is that big fat people mingle with little skinny people in real life – so reality television should follow suit. If we’re representing the mass – make sure it looks mass.

What do you think about “Big Sexy”? Have you watched it? No matter your size, how does it or other shows like it make you feel? Chime in!