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A Tale of Two Big Shows

No, don’t adjust your television! Yes, you are seeing lovely, luscious ladies on your screen. This Fall 2011, TLC and MTV are giving “substantial” airtime for two new series featuring plus women in the full-figured sexy glory. Both “Big Sexy” and “Chelsea Settles” follow the lives of fashionable women living life in New York City while pursuing their dreams. Despite criticism from the hysterically fat-phobic, both cable networks have pushed ahead and are making a major marketing push for both series with high-profile promotions and plenty of show promos. And the buzz is working…these are two of the most talked about new programs.

Will we finally see something approaching the real life of plus-sized woman? Will they show how we live, love, cry, laugh, fight, chat, shout, dance, breathe, rage, sing, cheer, and survive? Or will it be yet another stereotyped fat person living life in shame and despair? Well, if the shows are anything like the previews and press releases… “Big Sexy” and “Chelsea Settles” are most definitely tigers of a different stripe. One is bold and unapologetic; the other is the SSDD in a Generation Y package.

Big Sexy

When: August 30th at 10 p.m. ET/PT
Where: TLC (cable network)
What: Directly from the TLC press release:

  • “They are big, they are beautiful, and they are not sitting at home waiting for life to happen. They know better than anyone that real women can be sexy with curves — no matter what society says.”
  • “Leslie, Tiffany, Audrey, Nikki and Heather hope to expand and revise this commonly-accepted idea of what is beautiful and sexy – giving viewers a candid look into their lives as confident plus-size women who are shooting for the stars with their careers.”
  • “…it is their mission to prove that a bigger girl – the girl that most Americans can relate to — can break the mold and change the fashion and cultural norms…”

Perception Change Potential: 10/10 – Fun, smart, attractive and well-dressed. Could TLC really be showing sassy and self-assured fat women? With the emphasis on life in New York City, the show is already being called the Fat Sex in the City. Lots of hopes are being pinned on this series from plus girls with dreams of modeling to women clamoring for better fashions to fat people who deserve better media images. TLC has a history of portraying those marginalized by mainstream society (little people, large families, polygamists, etc.) with compassion, respect and a dash of humor. Let’s cross our fingers for a “big” success!

Chelsea Settles

When: October 11th at 11 p.m. ET/PT
Where: MTV (cable network)
What: Directly from the MTV press release:

  • "a new kind of MTV heroine";
  • "an opportunity to expand her social life by confronting the social phobias that have been holding her back;
  • "[She'll have a chance] to take control of her weight in an effort to get healthy."

Perception Change Potential: 0/10 – While Chelsea is beautiful and engaging, the word “transformation” is tricky. Based on teasers and the emphasis on her 324lb weight, “Chelsea Settles” appears to be a season-long episode of “Made” meets “The Biggest Loser”. Is Chelsea going to be the symbol of the “good” fat girl who is losing weight like she should? With MTV it is hard to tell how the program will fully play out, but hopefully they will use this chance to help combat the last acceptable frontier of bullying…the fat person. With millions of young people in its thrall, MTV has the chance to influence how they view and treat the “overweight”. Only time will tell if MTV will wield that power wisely.

Written by: Anita Williams

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