Monday, January 10, 2005

BIG, FAT DOUBLE STANDARD

In his article in Slate titled "Beauty and the Beast," writer Matt Feeney points out the trend in contemporary sitcom: fat or not conventionally attractive husband paired with hot, skinny wife. I read the article with great interest, thinking it would eventually point to the dearth of realistic women on television as a problem for the expectations it breeds in men, for their partners, and in women, who will put further pressure on themselves to conform to sitcom size standards. But that's not how the article went.

Feeney notes that the previous trend in sitcom home life, was a husband who was "comparatively plain"--but times have changed:

In the current sitcom lineup, by contrast, several shows pair extremely attractive women, who are often clad in plunging tops and tight jeans suitable for a Maxim photo spread, with TV husbands who are not only not studly but downright fat, and a couple who are not only not mensches, but are ugly on the inside, too.

He cites King of Queens, According to Jim, Grounded for Life and Still Standing, and then points out that "in addition to their girth, a signal characteristic of these men is immaturity."

In one of his final paragraphs, Feeney concludes:

It's tempting to register a feminist complaint about the message these shows convey—that they perpetuate the view that women shouldn't expect autonomy or fulfillment in romance and marriage. They do, after all, play to a certain male fantasy: living the gluttonous, irresponsible, self-absorbed life of an infant and basking in the unconditional love of a good-looking woman.

I'll take the feminist complaint issue a bit further, focusing on the message that these pairings send to both men and women viewers:
a) These pairings create an unrealistic expectation among American men of all shapes, sizes and emotional stripes, that they "deserve" a hot wife, no matter how they look or behave.
b) The absence of realistic-looking actresses on TV says that there is only one standard for attractiveness in leading women--the Maxim standard, which should be kept throughout one's life, children, career and responsibility being secondary to looking good.
c) It conveys the message that women over a size 6 (and I think I'm being generous using that size as an example) don't deserve the comedy and pathos of a functional relationship, or at least, their relationships are not fun or interesting enough to be the subject of a sitcom.

This is Hollywood's problem. Sitcoms are not Hollywood in the breaking box-office records with epic stories and gorgeous bone structure splayed across a 100-foot high screen sense. I would be very surprised to see Brad Pitt or Jude Law, or Nicole Kidman in a sitcom. They are the golden, glamorous icons of the big screen. But sitcoms are supposed to be more universal, urban, and reflective of some relatable reality. In other words that may be familiar to comedy performers the world over, "funny because they're true." Not true in the sense of a documentary, but truly human.

Mix it up, Hollywood. The reason people have switched sitcoms off and tuned into reality shows is because we're all self-centered, looking for ourselves on television.

Mandate to Hollywood: reward talent, not dress size. Casting a soap opera? How about an actress who weighs more than 95 pounds? If there's a Bridget Jones 3 in the works, at least give Marissa Janet Winakur an audition. Give Camryn Manheim a sitcom, and make her the lead, instead of the funny best friend next door. Next time George Clooney--or Jim Belushi--needs a leading lady, let Catherine Zeta-Jones and Courtney Thorne-Smith (dang hyphenates) sleep in and send Sara Rue instead.

People--men and women--of all different shapes and sizes find love, happiness, family, and fun. It's not because of what they look like outside--it's because they forge a connection. Through attraction, yes, but also presumably through personality, and a chemistry that's not just about her abs and his childlike immaturity. If the TV sitcom alters its attitude, maybe America will also embrace the change. Or maybe I'm delusional. But it doesn't hurt to hope.


5 Comments:

At 11:29 AM, January 10, 2005, Blogger Shoshana said...

I hope, too.

 
At 2:33 PM, January 10, 2005, Blogger Yaron said...

Someone in Entertainment Weekly described it as "fatty gets a family". :) I thought nowadays women watch sitcoms more than men (men watch sports or whatever). Which makes me think it’s actually a female fantasy, despite surface appearances; though I wouldn’t go with the female "persecution fantasy" theory either, because the women aren’t suffering. I’d call it an "indispensability fantasy" - "good thing I’m always around, because things would fall apart around here if I left and my clueless husband were in charge".

 
At 9:35 PM, January 10, 2005, Blogger Plantation said...

You're on an entertainment roll. First pretty ladies on the big screen and now the small screen. Sex sells. Some things never change. A guy will always tune in to Jennifer Anniston, but not likely to Camryn M.

 
At 7:27 PM, January 12, 2005, Blogger Lyss said...

And if you are larger and a woman and on a sitcom, don't think that you can stay that way. I recently saw Sarah Rue (forget the name of her sitcom..Almost Perfect?...maybe?) on Ellen or Oprah or something. She was suddenly sooo much skinnier. I used to like her for being a good depiction of a more average woman. But I guess the pressure can get to anyone.
Margaret Cho also tells horror storeis about her attempt at sitcom stardom (with Americna Girl) and the producers obssessing about her weight.
Sitcomland can suck.

 
At 8:07 PM, August 02, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good points all around, specially from the author.but I wasn;t impressed with feeney's bit. While Feeney attempts to veil his contempt for the "not conventionally attractive" male with some hastily added explanation about their being "immature, emotional disconnected, etc etc etc", we all know whats the real issue here.

WE (americans) have rigid conceptions about who's HOT and who's NOT, and we pass EVERYONE through our filters regardless of what he/she has achieved in life. Einstein had a paunch for most of his life btw......thank heavens he wasn't american all his life ;)

So what can we say about America? Not too much except that we're stuck on looks and little else.
Go to any other country in the world and you'll find the emphasis on looks (for both men and women) is significantly lower.

Men and women value each other for a combination of intelligence, looks, strength, capability, emotional maturity and stability, loyalty, etc in no fixed order. Very often one of the big four: strength, smarts, looks, wealth may be even ignored.and the one thats most commonly ignored is looks (even more often than strength). The net result is that we have India and China the clearly brainiest countries in the world, spiriting away jobs from our nation, with the HOT dudes ending up pumping gas at Minitmarts or flipping burgers at Wendy's (NOT every looker ends up on television).

Tech jobs leaving the country at a steady rate, american college kids adding NOTHING to their pathetic skill sets and parents focusing on getting their gals b**b jobs instead, the US owing its edge in Science and Technology strongly to immigrant Asians and foreign students and researchers (NOT particularly good looking usually), and so on and so on.

AND NO....the purpose of these sitcoms is NOT to staisfy any female fantasy. it is to convey the idea to the predominantly overweight (but not necessarily unattractive btw) americans that HERE IS A LOSER..A George Costanza if you like....HE gets dates, he is happy, women love him, BEAUTIFUL women love him.......so ANYTHING you can do to improve your lot will raise your image in the eyes of the opposite sex. Good luck bro......

YES.......we should have pairings of physically imperfect women with idealised men, but I doubt that Feeney is arguing about THAT. The author of THIS blog is..I can see that.

In any case, if we also had "imperfect" woman-studly dude pairings alongside 'imperfect guy-hot babe', television would finally be sending some refreshing messages.

And oh yes, when do we plan to get rid of this combination of fat and unattractive that we are used to....seen Kevin James real-life wife? hotter than his on-screen one..BUT a filipina - NOT caucasian. Caucasian women are dumber, shallower and an order of magnitude more useless to the human race, can I draw that conclusion. NOT from this for sure....but from what I know through my 60 years of life, working in national security, fighting with the marines, earning a doctorate in engineering, etc etc etc....maybe I can. Anyway two points I can make here:

since its physical attractiveness that rates highest among americans I have this to say: When you're ugly, you're ugly, fat or thin.
If you're good looking, you stay good looking, even if youre heavier, your appeal may reduce though above a certain level of body fat as you make the transition from chubby to obese.
Check out the "BUTTFACE" segments on Howard Stern and you'll agree with some portion of my first contention. THEN look first at the swelte Condi Rice and then at pudgy Bill Clinton for further confirmation of both points in order.

To continue..how did "Sex and the City" begin? with the disclaimer that the women you were gonna see on screen would not have liasons with regular-looking guys but the blatantly studly variety......why did the concept work? Because America probably has the highest percentage of sexually insecure (and yet vain) middle aged women who need constant reminders that they can feel attractive and be romantically linked to younger guys. Interesting side note here:
We as a nation are allowing our women to evolve into good looking vegetables. we don;t care if you don;t contribute to our economy or in the science and tech arena,,,,,,,we don;t care if youre dumb and physically inferior.just stay hot.

Why do we have women in the army when they are clearly physically inferior to male recruits? (I;m an ex-marine btw) Why do we have women in research when most men would do the job better......why DO we have women...cos theyre the only way we can propagate the human race. are women encouraged to enter these male fields. not really, we'd much rather see you on "Girls Gone Wild"......go get your b**b job, hon....your brother is needed for some inportant work here. Try and argue with me on this point.......

We have to see how the human race needs to evolve. WHAT characteristics are required to maintain the current rate of progress (and improve on it)...and looks while important from a personal standpoint is NOT one of them. We might have been better off as a bunch of totally hot dudes and dudettes dragging ourselves to our caves, clubs in hand (if american preferences were the world standard)!

 

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My Urban Kvetch: BIG, FAT DOUBLE STANDARD

Monday, January 10, 2005

BIG, FAT DOUBLE STANDARD

In his article in Slate titled "Beauty and the Beast," writer Matt Feeney points out the trend in contemporary sitcom: fat or not conventionally attractive husband paired with hot, skinny wife. I read the article with great interest, thinking it would eventually point to the dearth of realistic women on television as a problem for the expectations it breeds in men, for their partners, and in women, who will put further pressure on themselves to conform to sitcom size standards. But that's not how the article went.

Feeney notes that the previous trend in sitcom home life, was a husband who was "comparatively plain"--but times have changed:

In the current sitcom lineup, by contrast, several shows pair extremely attractive women, who are often clad in plunging tops and tight jeans suitable for a Maxim photo spread, with TV husbands who are not only not studly but downright fat, and a couple who are not only not mensches, but are ugly on the inside, too.

He cites King of Queens, According to Jim, Grounded for Life and Still Standing, and then points out that "in addition to their girth, a signal characteristic of these men is immaturity."

In one of his final paragraphs, Feeney concludes:

It's tempting to register a feminist complaint about the message these shows convey—that they perpetuate the view that women shouldn't expect autonomy or fulfillment in romance and marriage. They do, after all, play to a certain male fantasy: living the gluttonous, irresponsible, self-absorbed life of an infant and basking in the unconditional love of a good-looking woman.

I'll take the feminist complaint issue a bit further, focusing on the message that these pairings send to both men and women viewers:
a) These pairings create an unrealistic expectation among American men of all shapes, sizes and emotional stripes, that they "deserve" a hot wife, no matter how they look or behave.
b) The absence of realistic-looking actresses on TV says that there is only one standard for attractiveness in leading women--the Maxim standard, which should be kept throughout one's life, children, career and responsibility being secondary to looking good.
c) It conveys the message that women over a size 6 (and I think I'm being generous using that size as an example) don't deserve the comedy and pathos of a functional relationship, or at least, their relationships are not fun or interesting enough to be the subject of a sitcom.

This is Hollywood's problem. Sitcoms are not Hollywood in the breaking box-office records with epic stories and gorgeous bone structure splayed across a 100-foot high screen sense. I would be very surprised to see Brad Pitt or Jude Law, or Nicole Kidman in a sitcom. They are the golden, glamorous icons of the big screen. But sitcoms are supposed to be more universal, urban, and reflective of some relatable reality. In other words that may be familiar to comedy performers the world over, "funny because they're true." Not true in the sense of a documentary, but truly human.

Mix it up, Hollywood. The reason people have switched sitcoms off and tuned into reality shows is because we're all self-centered, looking for ourselves on television.

Mandate to Hollywood: reward talent, not dress size. Casting a soap opera? How about an actress who weighs more than 95 pounds? If there's a Bridget Jones 3 in the works, at least give Marissa Janet Winakur an audition. Give Camryn Manheim a sitcom, and make her the lead, instead of the funny best friend next door. Next time George Clooney--or Jim Belushi--needs a leading lady, let Catherine Zeta-Jones and Courtney Thorne-Smith (dang hyphenates) sleep in and send Sara Rue instead.

People--men and women--of all different shapes and sizes find love, happiness, family, and fun. It's not because of what they look like outside--it's because they forge a connection. Through attraction, yes, but also presumably through personality, and a chemistry that's not just about her abs and his childlike immaturity. If the TV sitcom alters its attitude, maybe America will also embrace the change. Or maybe I'm delusional. But it doesn't hurt to hope.


5 Comments:

At 11:29 AM, January 10, 2005, Blogger Shoshana said...

I hope, too.

 
At 2:33 PM, January 10, 2005, Blogger Yaron said...

Someone in Entertainment Weekly described it as "fatty gets a family". :) I thought nowadays women watch sitcoms more than men (men watch sports or whatever). Which makes me think it’s actually a female fantasy, despite surface appearances; though I wouldn’t go with the female "persecution fantasy" theory either, because the women aren’t suffering. I’d call it an "indispensability fantasy" - "good thing I’m always around, because things would fall apart around here if I left and my clueless husband were in charge".

 
At 9:35 PM, January 10, 2005, Blogger Plantation said...

You're on an entertainment roll. First pretty ladies on the big screen and now the small screen. Sex sells. Some things never change. A guy will always tune in to Jennifer Anniston, but not likely to Camryn M.

 
At 7:27 PM, January 12, 2005, Blogger Lyss said...

And if you are larger and a woman and on a sitcom, don't think that you can stay that way. I recently saw Sarah Rue (forget the name of her sitcom..Almost Perfect?...maybe?) on Ellen or Oprah or something. She was suddenly sooo much skinnier. I used to like her for being a good depiction of a more average woman. But I guess the pressure can get to anyone.
Margaret Cho also tells horror storeis about her attempt at sitcom stardom (with Americna Girl) and the producers obssessing about her weight.
Sitcomland can suck.

 
At 8:07 PM, August 02, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good points all around, specially from the author.but I wasn;t impressed with feeney's bit. While Feeney attempts to veil his contempt for the "not conventionally attractive" male with some hastily added explanation about their being "immature, emotional disconnected, etc etc etc", we all know whats the real issue here.

WE (americans) have rigid conceptions about who's HOT and who's NOT, and we pass EVERYONE through our filters regardless of what he/she has achieved in life. Einstein had a paunch for most of his life btw......thank heavens he wasn't american all his life ;)

So what can we say about America? Not too much except that we're stuck on looks and little else.
Go to any other country in the world and you'll find the emphasis on looks (for both men and women) is significantly lower.

Men and women value each other for a combination of intelligence, looks, strength, capability, emotional maturity and stability, loyalty, etc in no fixed order. Very often one of the big four: strength, smarts, looks, wealth may be even ignored.and the one thats most commonly ignored is looks (even more often than strength). The net result is that we have India and China the clearly brainiest countries in the world, spiriting away jobs from our nation, with the HOT dudes ending up pumping gas at Minitmarts or flipping burgers at Wendy's (NOT every looker ends up on television).

Tech jobs leaving the country at a steady rate, american college kids adding NOTHING to their pathetic skill sets and parents focusing on getting their gals b**b jobs instead, the US owing its edge in Science and Technology strongly to immigrant Asians and foreign students and researchers (NOT particularly good looking usually), and so on and so on.

AND NO....the purpose of these sitcoms is NOT to staisfy any female fantasy. it is to convey the idea to the predominantly overweight (but not necessarily unattractive btw) americans that HERE IS A LOSER..A George Costanza if you like....HE gets dates, he is happy, women love him, BEAUTIFUL women love him.......so ANYTHING you can do to improve your lot will raise your image in the eyes of the opposite sex. Good luck bro......

YES.......we should have pairings of physically imperfect women with idealised men, but I doubt that Feeney is arguing about THAT. The author of THIS blog is..I can see that.

In any case, if we also had "imperfect" woman-studly dude pairings alongside 'imperfect guy-hot babe', television would finally be sending some refreshing messages.

And oh yes, when do we plan to get rid of this combination of fat and unattractive that we are used to....seen Kevin James real-life wife? hotter than his on-screen one..BUT a filipina - NOT caucasian. Caucasian women are dumber, shallower and an order of magnitude more useless to the human race, can I draw that conclusion. NOT from this for sure....but from what I know through my 60 years of life, working in national security, fighting with the marines, earning a doctorate in engineering, etc etc etc....maybe I can. Anyway two points I can make here:

since its physical attractiveness that rates highest among americans I have this to say: When you're ugly, you're ugly, fat or thin.
If you're good looking, you stay good looking, even if youre heavier, your appeal may reduce though above a certain level of body fat as you make the transition from chubby to obese.
Check out the "BUTTFACE" segments on Howard Stern and you'll agree with some portion of my first contention. THEN look first at the swelte Condi Rice and then at pudgy Bill Clinton for further confirmation of both points in order.

To continue..how did "Sex and the City" begin? with the disclaimer that the women you were gonna see on screen would not have liasons with regular-looking guys but the blatantly studly variety......why did the concept work? Because America probably has the highest percentage of sexually insecure (and yet vain) middle aged women who need constant reminders that they can feel attractive and be romantically linked to younger guys. Interesting side note here:
We as a nation are allowing our women to evolve into good looking vegetables. we don;t care if you don;t contribute to our economy or in the science and tech arena,,,,,,,we don;t care if youre dumb and physically inferior.just stay hot.

Why do we have women in the army when they are clearly physically inferior to male recruits? (I;m an ex-marine btw) Why do we have women in research when most men would do the job better......why DO we have women...cos theyre the only way we can propagate the human race. are women encouraged to enter these male fields. not really, we'd much rather see you on "Girls Gone Wild"......go get your b**b job, hon....your brother is needed for some inportant work here. Try and argue with me on this point.......

We have to see how the human race needs to evolve. WHAT characteristics are required to maintain the current rate of progress (and improve on it)...and looks while important from a personal standpoint is NOT one of them. We might have been better off as a bunch of totally hot dudes and dudettes dragging ourselves to our caves, clubs in hand (if american preferences were the world standard)!

 

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