Sitcom “Mom” Should Know That Fat Suits Aren’t Funny

facepalmThe sitcom “Mom” has decided to hide Jaime Pressly’s pregnancy by having her wear a fat suit and pretend to be “addicted” to food. In the past the show has dealt with alcohol and gambling addiction and they plan to deal with food the same way.

That’s a hot mess. The idea of “food addiction” being the same as an addiction to alcohol or gambling is highly controversial for a number of reasons, including the fact that nobody needs to drink alcohol or gamble so “abstinence” is possible, but everyone needs to eat.

If what they are actually talking about is a health condition such as Binge Eating Disorder, they should know that  binge eating issues happen to people of all sizes, so conflating them with her new body size fat suit, is playing to stereotypes and creating a confusing and inaccurate message about eating disorders and body size.

Regardless, wearing fat suits is seriously questionable even when people claim that they are trying to learn from it (yes, even if it’s Dr. Oz) since we have plenty of fat people telling their actual lived stories and we could just listen to and believe them. It’s 100% wrong when does for a Halloween costume, or for cheap laughs.

It seems very much like this is an example of the latter, and not just because it’s being done in a show that’s part of a genre that has “comedy” in its name. In addition to enjoying blithely donning a fat suit and engaging in stereotypes about fat women in a world where fat actresses face almost impossible odds of getting hired at all, in an attempt to claim that they won’t be making fat jokes (though the interviewer says that “…seeing the petite Pressly in puffy prosthetics will certainly be a gut-buster…”) Pressly made a fat joke:

“They don’t make fun,” says Pressly. “The writers are very careful. For everything we talk about on the show, there’s a fine line between what’s right and what’s wrong, and what we what can and cannot say. There is sensitive material in recovery. The other women kind of tiptoe around it. They don’t want to make Jill feel bad. There’s a big elephant in the room and that elephant is Jill.”

She’s an elephant – because she’s fat. Get it?  It’s so funny I forgot to laugh. According to Jaime, having her hide behind tables and such would have been too “cheesy” – so that had her dress up as a fat person instead?  Dressing in someone else’s skin is a terrible and offensive idea. Especially when we know that once the babies are born she’ll shed her pretend fat skin and return to her life of thin privilege while people clamor to ask her what it’s like to be fat.

This is crap. Apparently it’s not enough for Hollywood to burden the few fat actresses who get work with scripts chock full of stereotypes and shitty jokes about their food intake, now they’re putting thin actresses in fat suits to do the same.

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15 thoughts on “Sitcom “Mom” Should Know That Fat Suits Aren’t Funny

  1. This isn’t even original. “Frasier” did the whole horribly unfunny “fat Daphne” bit when actress Jane Leeves was pregnant. Because nothing’s funnier than ridiculing fat people, amirite?

    1. I recently binge-watched Frasier, and absolutely loved it, until I got to that part. With that many seasons in, I was too invested to walk away, but it really left a bad taste in my mouth (hsee hee! See what I did there?) and bothered me for the whole season.

      One thing I did like about it, though, was that Niles didn’t love her less, or care about her weight, until SHE cared about it, and then it was just a matter of supporting her in her goal. That’s how you relationship, folks! Frasier, on the other hand… Well, he’s Frasier. Judgement is kind of his thing. I laughed at him freaking out about her.

      I wonder why they don’t just write the pregnancy into the show, though, you know? If the character is having sex, why not have the character get pregnant? It works! Unless there is a real reason not to have the character get pregnant (series based on books, where no one has a baby, for example), then you might as well incorporate that. And if the writers don’t want to incorporate a baby into the show, they could have the character give the baby up for adoption, or they could have a “very special episode,” where the baby dies at birth, or SIDS, or something, and end with one of those PSAs about resources for families, or risk factors, or how to talk to your friends going through that. They do it about other things, but somehow, that aspect of life is just taboo. Interestingly, I did see a TV series that dealt with the death of a baby. I thought it was a sit-com, and they didn’t even introduce the drama until episode 3, very subtly, and then later it came out that the couple had lost their baby, and the drama had percolated for years. Yet they still managed to make the show funny, as well as heart-string-tugging. It was fantastic! It CAN be done! And as someone who lost her niece at birth, I felt so connected and (I’m searching for the right term here, and this is as close as I can get) validated, having that experience, and the way it affects people shown on a funny TV show. It was called Roger & Val Have Just Got In. Because comedy and drama are so very intertwined in real life, you know? I wish it was still on Netflix. At least we have Call the Midwife (which is funny, but also deals with death and drama, including the loss of children).

      1. Or they could just let a character’s body change without it being a major plot point. It does seem pretty sloppy that no one has figured out how to let pregnant people or fat people exist on tv without being a device.

        1. I suppose it would depend on how her body changed. If she is an “all-over” pregnant type, then it’s simply a matter of her getting rounder and bigger, and then, not. But if she looks like my thin friend, who is one of those “naturally thin, no matter what” types, who was frequently “counseled” about her “anorexia” when she would routinely eat a quart of ice cream every day, and no purging afterwards, because BODIES VARY, DAMMIT! Umm, sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah. When she was pregnant, she looked like a popsicle stick swallowed a beach ball, so there’s no way to say, “she’s not pregnant; her body’s just changing.” Either it’s pregnant or one helluva cyst, and either way, it’s going to have an affect on the character, you know?

          I agree, though, that bodies do change, even randomly, and they could have simply ignored it. I would have been fine with it, if they had. In fact, until they made an issue of it, I didn’t even notice it, myself, but then again, she didn’t look like a popsicle stick that swallowed a beach ball. Jane Leeves’ pregnancy was more all-over, anyway.

      2. I remember for ST:TNG and ST:VOY when 2 of the main female characters got pregnant, they gave them an extra jacket to wear (Dr. Crusher and Lt. Torres) and stuck them behind a desk. But they did use Roxann Dawson’s pregnancy in a holodeck episode where she played a preg. woman. In the TNG Companion they said they didn’t know what else to do, and the plot lines didn’t sound very good looking back, but in the case of B’Lanna she was a highly active character, and it might have put her and the baby’s health at risk, so I can understand their decision. I thought it was well played and I actually liked the jacket she got to wear, and missed it after the baby came.

        1. That sounds like a great way to deal with it.

          For an active character, with an actress who needs to be inactive during the pregnancy, they could have written in an injury that required sedentary recuperation.

          “Gee, it sucks that you fell down that shaft, Lieutenant, and now you’re stuck on desk duty, but your mind is still as sharp as ever. What’s your take on the current situation?”

          Illness works, too.

          There are a whole lot of ways to deal with it! A whole lot of ways that don’t hurt people. Why they continue to go for the gut-punches, I don’t know.

  2. Thank you for writing about this stupid show that I have dropped from my pvr and will never watch, ever again. I actually felt hurt when I saw it – when really, I am just so disgusted.

  3. Jokes or the absence thereof is not the problem here. Reinforcing the provably erroneous belief fat bodies are temporary suits you get trapped in as punishment for being too mean or sad that you get to take off when you start being “good” again is the problem. This misconception is causing people pain and real physical harm, and it is still a misconception even if you handle it with “the utmost sympathy.” My body isn’t Springtrap.

    1. I don’t know what Springtrap is, but if you mean that the old adage about “inside every fat woman is a thin woman screaming to be let out” is a load of horse hockey, then I absolutely agree.

      1. It’s from Five Nights at Freddy’s, and I’m about to spoil most of the third game after the break, so head’s up:

        (Spoilers here)

        A serial killer who used animatronic animals to trap kids defined contrapasso for them when, while trying to destroy evidence, he crawled into an animatronic rabbit and got crushed by the gears. This being a horror story, FNaF3 sees his decaying revenant hunting the protagonist while still trapped in the animatronic rabbit. Springtrap is the rabbit.

        (Spoilers over)

        So it’s not *just* this constant insistence on claiming that “inside every fat woman is a thin woman screaming to be let out,” (although that is indeed horse hockey in and of itself), it’s the further insistence that Inner Thin Woman became trapped in the first place because she did something immoral or reacted the “wrong” way to a crisis. Even if they don’t come out and say it, the fat body is presented as a punishment, one she no longer has to “suffer” once the narrative has decided she’s “done her time for her crime.”

  4. Almost no mention was of the movie Fargo’s sheriff and TV show Psych’s chief of police when they were pregnant. TV show The Nanny ignored CC’s pregnancy minus a couple of jokes about the fact that they were ignoring it.

  5. I recently started watching Mom in syndication and have really liked it and the way it deals with addiction issues, recovery, and the family dynamic. The recent episodes I have been watching are those with Jill in the suit; I thought it was a really bizarre plot turn and actually googled why they did it. I think it was a really bad idea, and is not funny at all. I may just find something else to watch. Sad.

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