THE PLANK JULY 28, 2009
Despite my honest efforts to avoid watching or reading about--much less commenting on--reality TV, the very concept underlying some offerings is too troubling to ignore. Several years back, in the more innocent days of the genre, "Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire" fell into this category for me. What could be more culturally corrosive, I wrote, than a show specifically geared to perpetuate the stereotype of women as self-abasing, cat-fighting gold-diggers? (Oh, how naive was I.)
The idea underlying Fox's newest exercise in public humiliation, "More to Love," is less aggressive but more insidious in its ickiness. It's not that the show is particularly mean to its participants--20 plus-sized gals competing for the affections of one adorably warm and fuzzy plus-sized gent. In fact, according to the WaPo's Tom Shales, "MTL" is, if anything, overly delicate in its handling of the trials, tribulations, and heartaches of its Rubenesque competitors.
But, in general, we are talking about a program that sets obese people apart as some exotic species with its own peculiar datings rituals and rules of engagement. (Note that "MTL" isn't about chunky women competing for a non-chunky guy. Mustn't cross-breed! That would go against nature.) And, of course, we get to gawk at the gals as they weep about how hard it is for them to function as XXLs in an XXS-worshipping culture. "More to Love" may be excruciatingly sensitive in the particulars, but the show could just as well--and more honestly--have been named: "Look! Fat People Trying to Mate!"
Of course, the screaming irony here is that our entire society is fast approaching XXL. Fat Americans don't occupy some alien subculture. They are America. Which, on some level, makes it even weirder that we're treating them like some gawk-worthy if sympathetic circus freak show.
Then again, no one has ever accused Fox of being overly tasteful. For next season, I hear they have a show in the works that will pit two dozen uninsured, chronically sick gals against one another for a shot at marrying a guy with really great health coverage.