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.

Fresh Off The Boat is Hilarious

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As much as I am in love with the success of recent hit shows starring and created by my kinfolk— Blackish, Empire, Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, and the Larry Wilmore Show—I can recognize that diversity is not just for black people. There is a staggering lack of representation of any other POCs on television. This last TV season saw the addition of the Cristela show, an ABC comedy about a Mexican American working woman who’s trying to get her law career  off the ground while dealing with her family. I caught a few episodes, which were unfortunately relegated to a Friday night timeslot.

ABC should be applauded for moving us all a bit closer to being represented in primetime. Although, I’m sure their move toward diversifying their shows is strictly money-based, at least they have the balls to know that the viewership exists and wants to be fed and are actually feeding them. In the same way Scandal’s success made it easier to see a network on Empire, I’m sure the Empire phenomenon will spawn a whole new crop of diverse shows and I am happy for that.

In the meanwhile, I haven’t seen an Asian family on network TV since Margaret Cho’s show aired in the nineties. It was hilarious and she absolutely does not get enough credit for being a trailblazer. When I heard about Fresh Off The Boat, I was intrigued. One, I worked at a bookstore at the time and the book it is based on by Eddie Huang was selling like gangbusters. The cover was hysterical looking and the title was eye-catching and after reading through a few chapters, I was sold.

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This guy was hilarious and relatable. Also, his book and the show are set in the nineties, which, in my opinion, was the best decade ever. His tale of growing up in Orlando and then New York being the fish out of water is universal. Most of us have been there. It offered me a new take on the family experience through Huang’s eyes. He also has a great writing voice: funny, unique, and clever. After last night’s pilot premiere and second episode I was thrilled to find out that the book translated beautifully into a sitcom.While they definitely toned down a lot of Huang’s sentiments, it all still worked.  The opening scene of a young Eddie trying on his b-boy outfit in the dressing room and having his mother deny him his swag because of the price point had me in stitches. The show is wonderfully cast and I genuinely look forward to seeing how many of the tales from the book make it into future episodes.

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I hate that this show and Blackish have to go up against Empire, which is dominating Wednesday night TV for the foreseeable future. In a dreamworld, I would love to see  Blackish and Fresh Off the Boat take the 8 o’clock hour so their success is not derailed by the titan that is Empire. ABC could place proven hits Modern Family and The Middle in the 9 o’ clock hour and retain much of its core audience. I want so desperately for all these shows to have their time in the sun. It’s been far too long since I’ve seen a programming hour encompass the essence of the America I live in.

 

More Broad City Please

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Last year, one of the best shows in television came into my life: Broad City. The story of 2 real, funny, clever, reckless girlfriends, Broad City is a show that the 20-40 year old female demographic desperately needed. Watching the New York-based adventures of Abbi and Ilana as they cause chaos among the coworkers, attempt to score weed and men, while maintaining the realest friendship on TV makes me and every woman I know so hopeful, nostalgic, emboldened, and excited. It’s not often that we’re allowed to see women be goofy and sex positive. It’s even more rare to see 2 women on TV not destroy each other over men or even constantly talking about their men.

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Abbi likes her neighbor Jeremy but it isn’t all she talks about. She has a job as a janitor at a gym. She is a career woman who wants to move up the rankings and become one of the trainers. Her self-involved, meathead of a boss constantly taunts and tests Abbi, but she is resilient and always comes through for him no matter how much he chooses to ignore her desires for a promotion and her career goals. Abbi is all of us. She also had one of the funniest moments in TV during the early parts of the second season when during a massive heatwave she found herself in an apartment with air conditioning…alone. She mimed out Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” as she sauntered through that cozy apartment reminding us all that it’s the little things like air conditioning in the middle of a New York heatwave that need to celebrated with the best pop song performances.

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Meet Ilana. She is Abbi’s best friend and she does not give a single fuck. She wears what she wants, does what she wants, and commands the hell out of a room. She’s like Lucille Ball on LSD and she is the such a master of absurd physical comedy. She has a job (barely) as a telemarketer and when she does manage to show up, she shows UP. Her boss is on the verge of a nervous breakdown when she’s in the building and her coworkers are not her biggest fans but everyone loves Ilana despite her lack of expected social responsibility. She is ride or die for her bestie Abbi even in the midst of going into anaphylactic shock over a shellfish allergy or doing a passport job of babysitting Abbi after a dental procedure. Besides her devotion to Abbi, my favorite thing about Ilana is the way she handles her sexual relationship with her dentist homie/lover/friend, Lincoln played with straightman coolness by the increasingly popular and very funny comedian Hannibal Buress. She is not looking for anything serious though it is obvious that Lincoln would wife her up in a heartbeat. As much as Ilana plays around, she doesn’t actually use this knowledge against him. It is what is.

Though the show is a bit wacky and grounded just outside of reality, it is so nice to see women perform antics like this on TV. The girls don’t hit us over the head with any abrupt feminism reference, or are forward about their feminist objectives like Lena Dunham’s Girls, but they still manage to embody the feminism spirit that so desperately need to be shared on any network but especially the male-dominated sphere of Comedy Central. It should go without saying that women are funny, but let it be known that our humor is not just Sex in the City or Girls, we have some Broad City in us as well. Thanks Abbi and Ilana.

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Tommy Hardy is Coming to FX in 2016

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My dear multi-talented, sexy, adorable, parasocial love Tom Hardy is proving, yet again, that he is a forced to be reckoned with. FX has ordered Taboo, a new drama series from Ridley Scott with Tom set to star.

Set in 1813, Taboo is based on an original story by Hardy and his father, Chips Hardy. In Taboo, Hardy plays the lead role of “James Keziah Delaney,” a rogue adventurer who returns from Africa with 14 ill-gotten diamonds to seek vengeance after the death of his father. Refusing to sell the family business to the East India Company, he sets out to build his own trade and shipping empire and finds himself playing a very dangerous game.

Scott said, “FX is the perfect partner to engage with this dark, fantastic world that Tom and Steven have created. We¹re glad to have them on board.”

Hardy added, “Taboo is the first major production our company, Hardy Son & Baker, is setting sail on, and it gives me great pleasure to know that we are in partnership with FX and the BBC. I believe with the high standard of creative talent – with Steve Knight and Ridley Scott at the helm – and with the support and backing of these two great broadcasters, we have found the perfect home and team for Taboo.”

I love that he conceptualized the story with his Pa. Too cute. I shall wait with baited breath until 2016, Mr. Hardy. Until then, enjoy this picture of Tom on the set of The Drop with Rocco the dog.

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