When you see something upsetting, disappointing, or unjust, do you get sad or mad? I tend to get mad. And that’s good, because sadness can make us feel hopeless and helpless. It makes us less likely to act to make change. But when we’re mad, we feel that fire in our belly, and we take up a pen or pick up the phone. We need to do something with that fire, like emailing an organization that only sells straight-sized clothing, or calling out fatphobia when you see it, or sharing fat-positive articles or media, or signing a petition.
Let me tell you what I’m mad about today. AMC has cancelled Dietland. Did you get a chance to watch this remarkable show? I’ve never seen anything like it. Plum, as played by the revelatory and astonishing Joy Nash, hates her body, and is preparing to have weight loss surgery so she can finally become the thin person she’s always known lived inside her. Now, I know what you’re thinking: That isn’t fat-positive at all! But wait. Through a series of events, Plum comes to realize the insidious hold that diet and beauty culture have on her, and she begins to rebel. She begins to transform.
Y’all, I’m not exaggerating when I say this show made me cry every week. I’ve never before seen so many of my own experiences and feelings play out on a screen. She monitored every bite of food that went into her mouth. She questioned why men paid attention to her. She was humiliated and rejected and mocked and bullied. She felt shame and guilt. Seeing those things on screen was important and hard and real. But even better was seeing Plum’s journey to self-acceptance and love. She stopped hiding her body in big black clothes, and embraced color and pattens. Her eyes and smile brightened. She ate what she craved. She became more herself. I’ve been through all that. I wonder how much easier my own journey would have been if I’d seen Plum go through it first.
And on top of that, they had an actual fat woman play this role. Not a “Hollywood fat” actress, like Renee Zellweger after she’s put on a few pounds, or Amy Schumer, but someone who looks like me. And they truely showed her body. Naked! I gasped when I saw it, and then I sobbed. There was a body like mine, on TV, not being mocked or shamed or ridiculed.
This is why I say, on repeat, that representation matters. I needed Plum. I still need her. Fat women need her.
Instead, Hollywood takes Plum away, and gives us more Patty. Patty is the main character of Insatiable, a Netflix show about a fat teenager (played by a thin actress in a fat suit) who gets her jaw wired shut, gets thin, and proceeds to get revenge on everyone who treated her badly when she was big. I haven’t watched the show, and I won’t. There’s not a thin person inside me struggling to get out, a better life doesn’t only start when you’ve finally gotten skinny, and I don’t need to see that narrative played out on the screen again. It’s hurtful and harmful and unnecessary.
I’m mad that Hollywood thinks we want Patty. I’m mad that Hollywood thinks we don’t need Plum. If you feel the same, take action. Sign this petition. Make noise. Let AMC and Netflix and Hollywood know you’re mad. Use your fire, like Plum.
Did you watch Dietland? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!