More to Love: “Real Women” and Reality TV

My DVR has been somewhat on the fritz of late.  It’s still good with the recording what I want and with basic playback, but not so good with the fast forwarding*  The unexpected — one might even say unwelcome — side result is that I’ve been seeing a lot of commercials for Fox’s new reality dating series More to Love while I’ve been getting my obligatory So You Think You Can Dance fix.

More accurately, I’ve been seeing the same commercial over and over and over again…. It’s the one that starts by saying (to paraphrase) “The average woman is a size 14/16. The average female reality show contestant is a size 2. You call that reality?!?” Then the roast of the ad goes on to lay out the premise: 20 “real-sized” women will via for the affections of Luke Conley. In the clips from the initial meetin’ and greetin’, one of the contestants even goes so far as to express her pleasure that Luke likes “real women.”

Le sigh. How does this bug me?  Let me (incoherently) count the ways:

  1. However much the ex-grad-student in me appreciates the pomo/meta irony of a reality show ad commenting on the unreality of reality TV, I am still a bit galled at the disingenuousness of this opening.  Hey, here’s a wacky notion: if there has been a disproportionate representation of hollywood bods on reality TV, d’you think that might be because of the deliberate casting choices of those of you creating reality TV?
  2. Real woman, misspeaking. I get that fat bodies are usually troped as ugly, unattractive, desexualized — even how the discourse around fatness can be so dehumanizing that it makes sense to stand up and claim one’s humanity and womanhood. But to do so in a way that (intentionally or no) implies that skinnier women are unreal? Really not helpful. I understand that the contestant claiming her “real woman” status may well have taken a more nuanced position, so I’m not sure whether I’m frustrated with her or the magical editing elves. Either ay, I’m frustrated. Denigrating other body types just isn’t gonna help with the project of getting folks to stop denigrating fat body types.
  3. Real women, nitpicking. On my side of the TV screen, I’ve seen some people respond to this commercial with an argument that goes along these lines. “They say the average woman’s size 14 to 16. Well, these women look to be size 18 and up. What’s with all these disgusting fatties?” Way to miss the fucking point.

Is it really that hard to grasp? All women are real women. All women deserve love, and partnership if they so desire it. The skinnies, the fatties, the average 14-16s, the inbetweenies. Nothing about this whole tangle of fat acceptance, body acceptance, self-acceptance will be helped by finger pointing and denigrating, whether in a carefully edited soundbite on the television, or a clever-intending bit of snark on Teevision without Pity.

All that said, I have to admit I have a uneasy wonderment about how the show is actually going to go. I’ll likely have more to say once I’ve actually seen the premiere, rather than just a single commercial.

* And really, isn’t the capacity to ff through commercials the sine qua non of what makes DVR so great?

ETA: I’m not surprised to see so many other fatosphere writers taking on this topic. For full-on reviews, see Kate Harding’s over at Shapely Prose and Marianne Kirby’s over at The Daily Beast.

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