When it comes to the way the media represents fat people, we’ve got a long way to go. Fatphobia isn’t often talked about, but it can be found in a lot of the media we consume. From our favorite TV shows and classic movies, making bigger people the “butt” of the joke is hardly seen as problematic. But here’s the deal: it definitely is.
Basically, think of some of your fave plus-sized characters. Their size is their most defining trait, and they’re relegated to being the “funny” one, or they’re super sad because they need to overcome the fact that they’re fat. Wouldn’t it be nice to see a bigger character treated just like everyone else? We think so. The fat acceptance movement is picking up steam, and while we work to make everyone feel comfortable in their own skin, certain movies and TV shows need to be called out for their anti-fat attitudes. Here are 16 popular movies and TV shows that are guilty of fat-shaming.
Looking back on some of the jokes in Friends, they can be pretty shocking. Granted, this show was created over two decades ago, so it makes sense that some of the humor is pretty dated by today’s standards. While you could call out pretty much any episode for having some offensive joke in it, one of the worst of these running jokes is definitely centered on younger Monica. If you didn’t know, Monica’s character used to be a lot bigger before she went to college and lost a ton of weight. Every time they have a flashback, Monica is portrayed as an embarrassing, dorky, unattractive girl who *literally* can’t stop eating. It’s only after she sheds some pounds that she’s finally perceived as an attractive woman who’s not totally embarrassing to be seen around.
15. New Girl
In general, New Girl is honestly a pretty progressive show. However, it’s really similar to Friends in how it casually incorporates a lot of jokes that are rooted in fatphobia. Schmidt’s character is almost identical to Monica. He was chubby throughout college, and was the butt of every joke. No one was attracted to him, and his life only got better once he dropped some numbers on the scale. Everyone teases him constantly for his days as Fat Schmidt, and he blames all of his bad personality traits on the fact that he used to be fat. Seems to be saying something pretty clear about fat people, no?
14. This Is Us
This is Us may be one of the most heartwarming and tender shows on television, but its representation of a fat woman, Kate, plays into a lot of typical ideas associated with fatphobia. Basically, Kate is a plus-sized woman, and that’s pretty much the most important thing about her. Seriously, was there one storyline in season one that DIDN’T have to do with her wanting to “lose the damn weight”? Her entire life and relationship with her mother revolves around her weight, and her desire to change. Basically, in this day and age, it would be nice to see a fat character whose entire personality and struggles aren’t based on the fact that she’s fat. Season two seemed to take steps in the right direction involving fat-shaming attitudes, but there’s still a long way to go.
13. Pretty Little Liars
Okay, Pretty Little Liars is a ridiculous (and ridiculously addictive) show for so many reasons. Still, it’s super exhausting to see yet another teen show that incorporates so much fatphobia. If you don’t recall, Hannah’s character used to be chubby. She was ostracized and poked fun at for it and deemed totally uncool. Ali used it to manipulate her, and pretty much forced her into developing an eating disorder. The show does a bad job addressing the issue, and basically teaches viewers that if you want to be popular and beautiful, try losing a ton of weight in a super unhealthy way!
12. How I Met Your Mother
To be fair, How I Met Your Mother is your typical, cheesy primetime sitcom. That means there’s a lot of bad jokes, stereotypes, and ignorant remarks in order to get a laugh or two. A lot of times, these come from Barney Stinson, the show’s trademark womanizer. Almost every time Barney makes a negative comment about a woman, it has to do with her looks, and usually, it’s SUPER fatphobic. He constantly criticizes women for their appearance, and he usually implies that a woman being at all big is some sort of crime against humanity. Barney’s problematic in a lot of ways, but this is just one glaring example. He’s a fat-shamer!
To be fair, Huge is a well-intentioned show with a few awesome characters. Nikki Blonsky plays Willamena, a girl sent to fat camp by her parents. The reason this show is great is because Willamena constantly talks about how fat camp is just designed to make people hate their bodies. True. Unfortunately, the show still is all about the fact that fat people need to lose weight, and it’s yet another show that only has fat characters because of the fact that they’re fat.
We’ve reached the movie portion of this list, and it’s no less problematic than what we saw on the TV shows. Yeah, remember favorite tween movie Sleepover? It was everyone’s preferred wholesome slumber party movie in the mid-aughts starring Alexa Vega and Sara Paxton. But looking back on it, this movie is crazy inappropriate when it comes to fatphobia. If you can recall, there’s exactly one plus-sized character in this movie, which was honestly pretty good for teen movies at the time. However, towards the end of the movie, Yancy (the plus-sized character) says that she feels self-conscious and worries she’ll never be in a relationship due to her size. Her friends comfort her by essentially saying that she should just find a bigger guy to date! The exact line was, “just date guys who like brownies.” As if no one else would be attracted to her. Um, ouch? If we were Yancy, we’d be ditching those girls ASAP and finding some friends who realize that there are a lot of guys who’d be interested in her, not just “guys who like brownies.”
Norbit is just a bad movie, straight-up. But if you were looking for another reason to dislike this crazy-dumb flick, allow us to direct your attention to the rampant fat-shaming found in it. In the movie, Eddie Murphy plays both Norbit, and his wife Rasputia. For the role of Rasputia, Murphy dresses up as a woman in a fat suit. Basically, she’s supposed to be a disgusting, greedy, villainous character who bullies Norbit constantly. Apparently if you want to make a woman seem as evil as possible, she should be fat.
8. Love Actually
Love Actually is a classic for so many reasons. Not only is one of the best rom-coms ever, some would consider it a staple holiday movie. However, there are some jokes and plot lines that are outdated… to put it lightly. Take the prime minister, played by Hugh Grant. Not only does he objectify his secretary (which, like scummy), he feels crazy for being attracted to her because she has a “fat arse.” Plus, everyone else sneers at her because she’s what they have deemed “chubby.” Not only is this some pretty obvious fatphobia, it’s straight-up inaccurate considering she has a completely normal body type. Check out the movie and see if you would consider her even remotely fat.
7. Shallow Hal
TBH, you may have not even heard of this movie because it was pretty much a flop. Shallow Hal is about a man named Hal (played by Jack Black), who falls in love with a 300-pound woman (played by Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit). However, he only falls in love with her because he’s been hypnotized to only see people’s “inner beauty,” instead of judging them for their outside appearance. Basically, this movie says men need to overlook fatness in order to see “inner beauty,” because there’s nothing beautiful about the outside.
6. Run, Fatboy, Run
This movie isn’t super bad when it comes to fat-shaming, but Run Fatboy Run has a few problematic and fatphobia plotlines. Basically, a man named Dennis dumps his pregnant fiancée the day of their wedding then regrets it. To try and win her back, he decides to prove his worth by running a marathon, even though he’s a super lazy person. The title is what makes this movie kind of gross since it basically suggests that a fat or out-of-shape person can only be worthy of love if they put themselves through physical hell. It has some serious “Biggest Loser” vibes.
5. Bridget Jones’s Diary
Bridget Jones’s Diary is a fan-favorite romantic comedy, mostly because Bridget Jones is such a lovable and scarily-relatable disaster. While it’s nice to see someone with a bigger (ish) body having options when it comes to love, it also perpetuates some problematic values, particularly for women. The premise of the movie is Bridget trying to better herself. A lot of that, she believes, will come from losing weight. She tracks her weight every day and is constantly disappointed by what the scale says as it’s seen as the true measure of her worth. Not only can her obsession with a specific number be triggering for those with eating disorders, looking at life like it’s better if you weigh less is totally not what body-positivity is all about.
Bridesmaids is very similar to Pitch Perfect in its particular brand of fatphobia. Essentially, Melissa McCarthy is crazy-talented and gorgeous as an actress. We saw her in Gilmore Girls – she’s a stunner! Her character in Bridesmaids, Megan is hands-down one of the most memorable and hilarious characters in this movie. However, her job is to be the butt of every joke. She’s portrayed as unattractive, way too aggressive, and her one, brief romance in the movie is supposed to be taken as a joke. (Because it’s so funny that a fat, aggressive woman could actually find someone who was attracted to her?!?) It makes you wonder, why did the only plus-sized actress play this character?
Bachelorette is another movie starring everyone’s fave, Rebel Wilson. Unfortunately, this is another movie that shoved Rebel into the role of “the fat friend.” While her character is still hilarious and unique, a lot of her storylines revolve solely around her weight. There’s even a super unnecessary scene in which her “giant” dress can fit two of her thin friends inside of it. Plus, her “friend” is super bitter that somehow, against all odds, her ~fat friend~ was getting married first. Can we just please put the “fat friend” trope to rest?
2. The DUFF
Now I know, you’re probably thinking “The DUFF isn’t even really about a fat person.” But TBH, that’s why this movie is kind of problematic. If you’re not familiar with the movie, it follows a high schooler named Bianca as she navigates her senior year. Her two best friends are way more popular than her, and it’s revealed to her that it’s because she’s “the DUFF” — aka the designated ugly fat friend. Basically, you don’t even have to be fat to be the “DUFF,” you just have to be less attractive/cool then your other friends. So in this case, “fat” is just synonymous with ugly? Confusing.
1. Pitch Perfect
It may be hard to hear, since Pitch Perfect is such a beloved movie, but this movie is pretty dang guilty of fat-shaming. Don’t get us wrong, Rebel Wilson is a top-notch comedian, and Fat Amy is a dope character. It’s just super irritating to see that the only character who isn’t crazy-thin is only used for comedic relief. She’s the stereotype of a female character who people learn to love and appreciate despite the fact that she’s fat.