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More to Love: Celebrating or Marginalizing Plus-Sized Women?

July 28, 2009

Fox has done it again.


Tonight is the premiere of the network’s newest reality program — More to Love. If you didn’t already guess from the title, the premise of the show is much like any other dating show (which is no surprise, as it’s from the creator of The Bachelor), with one noticeable variation: contestant Luke Conley, who weighs over 300 pounds, must date and choose between twenty beautiful plus-sized women in the quest for true love.

You know, I really don’t think this is necessarily the worst idea ever for a reality show. It’s rare to see any piece of media in which nearly everyone — including the host — weighs over 200 pounds and is still depicted as being attractive. And it’s definitely refreshing to see that image.

But this isn’t a show that features people who just happen to be plus-sized. This is a show that highlights the weight of the contestants and focuses on it for the duration of the series. Heather Havrilesky sums it up perfectly in Salon:

“More to Love” aims to open our eyes to a glorious alternate reality where everyone focuses on “what’s on the inside,” but instead of actually learning what these women are like on the inside, all we hear about is their outsides — how they feel about their weight, how many disappointments can be linked to their weight, how they’re wearing Spanx right now. It’s like airing a show about addiction and recovery that features a room full of addicts rhapsodizing over the crazy stuff they did when they were high.

Any progress that could have been made by featuring plus-sized women in the spotlight is quickly undone by the fact that these women are only characterized by their appearance. I mean, sure, the audience will probably get to know the personalities of a select few contestants over the next few months, but that’s not what will keep viewers tuning in, at least not initially. People who choose to watch More to Love over any other similar reality show will likely keep tuning in to hear about weight issues. And because this is a Fox reality program we’re dealing with, the talk about weight will be far more sensational than sincere. After all, a show that was originally titled The Fatchelor (yes, really) is not going to be a show that treats wight issues seriously.

Furthermore, there is nothing innovative about shows that glorify heavier men. In fact, the overweight-man-gets-a-beautiful-woman trope is the status quo. Where is the reality show where a larger woman — who may not even be conventionally attractive in other respects — nabs a sexy, beautiful man at the end? It’s doubtful such a show would actually be of higher quality than More to Love, but at least it would be original.

Is there any way for a show of this nature to work? Is there any way to feature plus-sized women on television without the focus of the program being their size? I’d like to think there is, but as long as sensationalist reality television exists, I don’t have much confidence.

For further reading, Jezebel has a good analysis of More to Love‘s successes and shortcomings.

  1. July 28, 2009 2:52 pm

    I do not see “More to Love” or other shows centering on plus size people as empowering. “More to Love” describes the women solely as “curvy” as if their only defining characteristic is their weight. And by creating separate shows for plus size people, we are “othering” them even more and further making them second class citizens. Yes, it is nice to see people who aren’t a size 2 on TV, but I don’t see these shows as a positive light for plus size people.

    I talk more about “More to Love” here:

    I talk more about plus size centric shows focusing on “Drop Dead Diva” here:

  2. July 28, 2009 6:31 pm

    thin, fat, huge, tall, hairy legs, big boobs, big ass…you name it, it doesn’t matter, it has been and will be fetishized in this culture and on TV. Nothing new here. NOTHING NEW HERE!!!!!!!!!

    when women have more power, will this change? I don’t know. We have barely touched the issue of internalized misogyny…in the meantime, calling out TV people on their perpetuation of misogyny/fetishizing of women is, imo, not the solution. I understand why you and others like Jennifer Pozner write about these things, and I’m not saying that you or Pozner shouldn’t. But it’s not getting to the root of the problem and TV will always be by bottom-feeders for bottom-feeders, say I. Frankly, I don’t watch it. Life’s short.

    • Carrie permalink
      July 28, 2009 8:02 pm

      But it’s not getting to the root of the problem and TV will always be by bottom-feeders for bottom-feeders

      I understand your argument, MadamaAmbi, but I have to respectfully disagree. As someone who works in television (public television, mind you, but TV nonetheless), I strongly believe that film and television are incredibly powerful and can make a difference in society. Now, is More to Love or any reality show on the Fox network really going to inspire social change? Probably not. But is it possible for television to change the perceptions of the general public for the better? I believe so. For instance, as flawed as they may have been (and flawed they were), I think Will & Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy deserve a little credit for the advances the LGBT community has made in the U.S. over the past five years. After all, those shows helped heterosexuals become used to the idea of gay people as normal, upstanding citizens — which is the sort of mentality needed for marriage equality to pass in states like Iowa and Maine.

      On the same token, I think we need to call out sexist/racist/homophobic media when we see it, so that there will be higher standards for the type of media that’s produced and aired. Perhaps the reason why misogynist reality programming is thriving is because not enough people are screaming about how terrible these shows are. If we want better media, it’s our responsibility as consumers to cause as big a ruckus as possible when bad television shows and films are made. It’s not the entire solution, but it’s certainly part of it, and it’s not something to be trivialized.

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