Huge & The Future Of Fat On TV


Last night, the finale of Huge — the fat camp show from My So Called Life‘s Winnie Holzman and her daughter, Savannah Dooley — tackled eating disordered behavior, popularity, and what really happens when you lose weight.

Early in the episode — which took place at the end of parents’ weekend — Amber and Will sneaked into the kitchen to eat brownies. They were breaking the rules, but Will was also betraying Salty’s trust, since she knew where the key was hidden. The brownies started a conversation about childhood: Amber remembered, fondly, how she used to be able to eat a brownie if she wanted, without it being a big deal. Will recalled that she used to raid the kitchen at other people’s houses during sleepovers.

But Amber’s poor eating behavior — spitting out the brownies she’d chewed, so as not to “swallow the calories” — really bothered Will, who accused Amber of being like Caitlyn — the camper send home for “vomiting” in the first episode. Amber was pretty convinced that what she was doing was totally different.

Meanwhile, Becca confronted Chloe with a question every high school girl has probably wanted to ask at some point: Why did we stop being friends?

The writing here — including the words spoken and the silences — is really amazing, because it’s clear that Chloe isn’t a bitch. At all. And if she is, it’s not because she wanted to “be different.” It’s because she felt she had to ditch her friend to do so.

The episode ended with Will asking Dr. Rand, “What were you like when you were fat?” Dr. Rand answered honestly and bluntly: “I hated myself.” And after she lost weight? Less. Whether Will thinks that hating yourself less is a noble goal is not the point; the point is that this show — unlike most on the airwaves — doesn’t treat weight loss as a cure-all, or a solution to life’s problems.

Whether Huge will return is unclear. But it was an engaging, thoughtful, heartwarming show that should have gotten more attention than it did. The program gave us a chance to talk about weight in a different way from Dance Your Ass Off, The Biggest Loser or More To Love. The characters (based on those in the book Huge by Sasha Paley) were not only painted in a human way, but a humane way. The plotlines didn’t just explore weight as something to lose, but the despair, optimism, guilt, awkwardness, parents, siblings and everyday baggage that these overweight people carry as they function in the world.

In an interview with KCRW, Winnie Holzman — who wrote for Thirtysomething, created My So-Called Life, and wrote the book for the musical Wicked — says that the reason the show is so good is because her daughter, Savannah, “stepped up.” Savannah (who is 25 years old) didn’t just write the scripts — she fully realized the characters, including wardrobe choices.

Whether Huge will change how fat people are portrayed on TV remains to be seen. (So far, it doesn’t look like Mike & Molly has the light, subtle, respectful touch that Huge had.) But for one summer, overweight characters lived full and complex lives on screen; a person’s body type was not a punchline, tokenism or sideshow, and actors without the traditional superslim Hollywood physique were encouraged to shine. And that is huge.

Related: The Mother-Daughter Writing Partners Behind ‘Huge’ [KCRW]

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