Monday, 24 February 2014

Why TOWIE needs to stop fat bashing (and Gemma Collins must play her part)

 
Towies back for a new series and for the same old fat jokes

I watch a lot of low brow TV. It helps me unwind, I need to switch my overactive brain off and semi scripted "reality" shows like Made in Chelsea and Towie are a perfect escape. 
The massive pauses in dialogue (while the hapless "star" try's to remember his or her lines) the endless procession of handbag dogs and the cringey fake social situations which culminate in five people standing in a room whilst listening to  music quiet enough to record dialogue under is to me TV gold. I love it. Or I did.
Last night was the first episode of the new series of TOWIE. It featured new snazzy credits, the promise of some new characters as well as the old faithful. Millions tuned in and I was one of them.
As always with this kind of viewing experience I kept one eye on my twitter timeline. A huge part of watching these sort of productions is a shared piss take with your fellow twitter brethren. Yesterday however it got really ugly.
Gemma Collins one of the shows stars has famously "struggled" with her weight. Beautiful, confident an astute business woman (her clothing line sells on Simply be) her and fellow fatty Arg's relentless pursuit to be slim (and in the language of the show "attractive) has been at the centre of many plot twists and turns. 

Less than five minutes in and we are off

The show is in is 11th series and old ideas are being rehashed, it looks slightly tired and perhaps that's why the stereotyping of Gemma and Arg has been ramped up to eleven.
The show had barely started when we were shown Arg working out without his teeshirt on, watched and teased by his slimmer buffer male counterparts (who were all clothed) Slipping into the role of rotund butt of everyone's jokes with apparent ease this then set the stage for Gemma to come bounding in wearing a bright pink poncho and taking one of the buffer fellas with her to "power walk"
What ensued was much "hilarity" as the less interesting (but thinner) characters laughed and pointed as they sat sipping their cappuccinos in a cafe with not a hair out of place "whats she like" cackled Jess Wright. I don't know Jess what is she like? Like a woman keeping fit?
The subtext was simple. Fat people exercising is funny. Fat women are unattractive. Lets laugh.
Twitter took the bait on its chomping mouth.
A picture of a pink car with the line "Gemma Collins Power walking" quickly began to trend:



 Along with a barrage of hate tweets. Here are just a few

Imagine how good it would be to punch Gemma Collins in the face

you know TOWIE's set up when Gemma walks in the gym

If Gemma and Arg had kids I reckon they'd eat them 

"Gemma Collins is repulsive. Sick in my mouth"

Can't they kill Gemma off. fat bitch"

In a show so based around the notion that looks and money are the key to success it perhaps not surprising it attracts this sort of demographic but what I found really depressing was how complicit Gemma Collins was in this body shaming.
I met Gemma for all of two minutes at the Plus size awards last year. She was beautiful, confident and actually looked much smaller than her on screen persona (which suggests her fellow cast mates are very slim) Im a size 18/20 and here she is next to me.She looked like a curvy Diana Dors.
Gemma Collins with me at the Pus size awards

She wasn't crying about how fat she looked, she was celebrating winning new designer of the year in recognition of her clothing brand. So why then does the Gemma Collins we see on Towie stand at a social event with Arg and laugh hollowly about how they would have "chubby kids" 
It obviously serves the character arc of "sad looser" that's been created for her but it just feeds the notion that fat girls are pigs, alone, unloved, lucky if they will even ever have kids.
The irony of course is that between Gemma's clothing range and Args singing career (he earns an absolute fortune doing PAs and private bookings) these are the only two characters who seem to have carved out anything resembling a career and both do something that would actually be quite interesting to watch. This wont ever happen of course because the slimmer cast members are scripted as "winners" even when all they appear to do is get beauty treatments and sit in jacuzis.
To portray Gemma as anything other than a diet obsessed looser would interfere with the carefully constructed cliches on which the shows success relies. 
Never mind that amongst the milions of viewers tuning in will be lots of impressionable girls who will swallow hook, line and sinker the notion that its probably better to be dead than be fat.
With such a big audience reach wouldn't it be amazing if the producers and Gemma sat down and decided to show the reality. That Gemma is a successful business woman who has no problem attracting friends and lovers (she only recently broke up with her fiance Rami) and that she is one of the real TOWIE success stories.
Now that would be TV worth watching.


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6 comments:

  1. That's really sad. I've never watched it myself (used to be hooked on Laguna Beach and The Hills so have a fair idea of how it works) and you're right, they have a huge, captive audience, so it's not only sad they aren't doing something positive with it, but also quite irresponsible. Of course younger viewers are going to take it all in and treat 'fatties' like a joke, if the show does. It's quite disgusting.

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  2. I don't watch TOWIE anymore but I know what you mean, I also met her at the Plus size awards and was surprised how tall and nice figure she has I wonder if they dress her in awful outfits in purpose... x

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  3. I don't watch it any more either, but I remember the pool incident where she was telling Arg he wasn't getting any of her jelly (or whatever phrase she used), noting she was shot from below for some of it to make her arse look huge. It's very sad that she has to play the stereotypical fat girl to stay in the show, and it's even sadder in this day and age that their lazy script writers can't do better than this bullshit trope! x x

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  4. I've never watched it and this is the sort of reason why. TV like this, in fact TV in general, portrays fat women in this way and it's hard for someone who struggles to find confidence in themselves as a fat woman to watch. That's how I feel anyway

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