Fat People Deserve Better Than “Love Is Blind”

The rise of the surprise hit Netflix series Love is Blind has sparked a major conversation about the cookie cutter bodies of the series’ inaugural cast. The show places participants into soundproof pods where they have 15-minute dates with other singles, sight unseen. During these “dates” they learn about each other and build strong emotional connections.

The stakes are high for the contestants as they are only allowed to see the people they’ve fallen for after becoming engaged. But for the stakes are low for the viewers who are able to see that the contestants’ fears are unmerited since 100% of the cast look like they could have appeared on any given season of The Bachelor or Bachelorette.

As far as diversity goes, the show includes a few non-white people including a bisexual Black man, whose coming-out story is played for high drama and viral clips, but there is no body diversity to be seen.

Many have lamented the show’s casting of conventionally attractive people, a decision that ultimately calls into question the premise of the social experiment. It’s not a reach to say that love can be blind if the bodies are cisgender, able and an “acceptable” size.

Teen Vogue’s Matthew Rodriguez wrote in a recent essay that the show should be more inclusive of bigger bodies but I fall on the other side of the fat coin. But I disagree. We need not fight for a seat at a table where we will be disrespected. I would rather our community be excluded from what would be a harmful, very public, very shameful narrative. Love is Blind is designed for high drama and to exploit sensitive situations. And bigger bodies have been exploited and mocked enough for several lifetimes.

Imagine this: Barnett has fallen in love with Amber and asks for her hand in marriage then the doors to the magical meeting room flew open and Amber was a size 20. I still remember his exhalation of relief when he saw her body so by my math, her being plus-sized would have most definitely garnered a different reaction, which would have been incredibly hurtful to her and to the plus-sized viewers watching her heartbreak.

In my experience, love is not blind; it has 20/20 vision.

Jessica and Mark provided a glaring example of this. Mark is a conventionally attractive guy but he was not Jessica’s type (her type was admittedly Barnett) and watching her force herself to try to love him was painful to watch. His strong emotions for her blinded him to her true feelings, and we watched that train moving full forward toward a massive wreck on their wedding day, all in the name of this spectacle called a social experiment.

My body is already a spectacle as I maneuver around the highly judgmental streets of Los Angeles; I’d rather not watch a plus-sized person be toyed with for ratings on this show.

And then there’s the pervasive fetishism that plus-sized women have to deal with in the dating scene. For every, “no fatties” missive in dating profiles, there are ones proclaiming there love for plus-sized women because they are plus-sized. Every fat woman I know that has discussed the difficulties of finding love has been told, “You know, there are guys who only like big women,” a disheartening (and cringeworthy) statement from the fatphobic people in their lives.

And as if dealing with the constant othering in real life isn’t enough, we get no reprieve in the entertainment that is made about women of size. It is rare to see a plus-sized woman who is loved wholly in broad daylight in entertainment. Bigger women are often desexualized and are rarely shown as subjects of affection. For every Shrill, which follows the dating life of a plus-sized woman with gentle, sympathetic hands, there’s a High Fidelity.

The new Hulu show based on the hit movie starring John Cusack, features Da’Vine Joy Randolph, a dynamic Black plus-sized actress, in the gender-swapped Jack Black sidekick role of Cherise who is completely desexualized over the course of the season’s 10 episodes.

We watch Zoe Kravitz’s Rob go through men like underwear and David H Holmes’s Simon gets an entire episode devoted to exploring his romances but we never even find out Cherise’s sexual orientation. Though Randolph says it will be explored if there is a season two, it is a damning and purposeful admission that did not go unnoticed.

Plus-sized people should be showcased as being deserving of love and romantic feelings and physical affection. I think there should be a dating show that focuses on that without exploiting the subjects. Preferably one produced by a plus-sized person who understands the perils of being single in a dating scene that can be emotionally damaging for women of size.

Showcasing the nature of loving differently sized bodies is one that should be handled with nuance and care. While Love is Blind has proven to us that they are not that show, maybe the public pleas for a show that highlights our types of bodies will lead to one from a source that can handle our pursuits of love with care and empathy.

The Hack Heard ‘Round The World

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I awoke this morning to the news that Ava DuVernay, a brilliant and talented director of many amazing films (who happens to be an African-American woman) was nominated for a Golden Globe. I have followed Ava’s directing career since the release of her documentary, This is the Life. She provided an insight into hip-hop culture that I had never seen before—she opened my eyes to all the cinematic possibilities. I have eagerly watched her talents blossom and her scope widen over the years. With the release of Selma next month, DuVernay stands to break even more ground by becoming the first African-American woman to receive an Oscar nomination and, God willing, an Oscar in March 2015. It will not be a “pity-Oscar” or an “affirmative action Oscar,” no, she will win because she provided the best direction of a film and because she is one of the best working directors in the world today—male, female, white, black, or otherwise.

 

I floated while eating my bowl of oatmeal this morning. She’s one step closer. I was a proud fangirl flipping through my tablet to see what other movie news had transpired when I came across this headline:

“Scott Rudin Apologizes After Leak Of Sony’s Hacked Racially Insensitive E-Mails On Barack Obama”

Racially insensitive? Nice wording. That’s the tidiest PR way of saying:

“Hey guys, the execs of our billion dollar company just got caught insulting the leader of the free world with some blazing hot racism and we’re kind of hoping an apology will shut up all YOU PEOPLE who might take offense at our casual racism and continue to give us your hard earned dollars for such upcoming gems as “Jump Street Meets the Men in Black” and “Spiderman Reboot #4.”

And below that headline was the statement that Rudin released:

“Private emails between friends and colleagues written in haste and without much thought or sensitivity, even when the content of them is meant to be in jest, can result in offense where none was intended,” he told Deadline. “I made a series of remarks that were meant only to be funny, but in the cold light of day, they are in fact thoughtless and insensitive — and not funny at all. To anybody I’ve offended, I’m profoundly and deeply sorry, and I regret and apologize for any injury they might have caused.”

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Things are a bit too racially charged in this country for us to pretend that the email hacking is a bigger deal than the content of the email. Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin just got Donald Sterling’d. We took The Clippers away from him, post-haste, so why should Pascal and Rudin not feel some heat? I wonder if they were thinking of the fact that some of the biggest grossing releases for their studio are movies with African-American leads like Kevin Hart, Jamie Foxx, and Denzel Washington.

If you operate so casually using the company email, I’d hate to hear the punch lines of your dinner party conversations. You are in positions of power, not as great as Obama, but positions that affect the public’s entertainment. I wonder how long you’ve been scared that this info would be released? Was it an afterthought? Is the worst yet to come? I shudder on your ignorant behalf.

The recent candid interviews from Chris Rock have only shown a brighter spotlight on the race problem in Hollywood. He doesn’t believe that things will change in our lifetime, but I hold onto hope. As long as the DuVernay’s and Shonda Rhimes’ of the world continue to dominate and uplift then we may actually seem some change. It doesn’t matter that commercial Black films are making big money and that the Black movie-going audience is growing. There is an appalling lack of respect for us that is ubiquitous in Hollywood. We don’t only watch “Black movies” we watch movies, in general. We support “our movies” as it is the only chance we have to see people who look like us represented on the big screen. I’m going to watch “Top Five” tomorrow and I’m going to buy 2 tickets because I want more movies like that to get made.

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We are not just the reflection that reality TV has created of us. We are not just looters on the nightly news. We are not illiterate. We are not only knowledgeable about our own cultures. We are innovative, intelligent beings who balance the immeasurable eternal weight of negative public perception on our backs. Like every culture, our people are bad, good, and in between.

Amy and Scott, like my beloved sitcoms from the ‘80s and ‘90s, I want to end with this personal anecdote that doubles as a moral conclusion. Cue the saxophone slow-riff.

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I’ve kept a journal since I was 9 years old. One day, I was writing a very explicit paragraph chastising my mother for not letting me watch “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” (I wanted to watch a non-minority movie * gasp *) until I finished watching the dishes. My dad (Yes, my dad, stereotype de-mythed!) walked into the room to talk to me and I threw my journal to the opposite side of the room.

“Why’d you do that?” he asked me. “I don’t know.” My general response to all potentially bad situations when I was 9.

He walked over to the journal and picked it up as my heart nearly thumped out of my chest. I looked around feverishly. I could probably jump out of the window and make a run for it.

He passed the journal back to me and said, “I know you like to write but don’t write things you wouldn’t want others to read. You never know who your audience might be.” I shook my head in understanding and he walked out of the room. I cried because I thought about how my mom might feel if she had read the terribly defamatory things I wanted to write about her. This was 1991, long before the days of social media and NSA wire-tapping. My empathy wrecked me. I’m not sure if my dad’s advice applies to all situations (I actually think he may have been admitting to reading my journal) but it definitely always makes me think of others before I character assassinate.

Today, I operate under the notion that my words could be read by the Queen of England or the head of Sony Pictures. This keeps the writing honest and responsible. Be responsible and leave the jokes to the comedians. Outrage is so exhausting. I wish we could have a break.

It’s almost 2015—can we just try to do better?

*This article by Danger Bowie was previously ran on blackgirlnerds.com on December 12, 2014*