Sitcom Praise ‘Outweighs’ Sizist Criticism

by Shannon Baldo
Columnist

A few weeks ago, I wrote my column on the new CBS sitcom “Mike and Molly.” Little did I know that soon after it would erupt in controversy.

Focused on the two eponymous characters falling in love, I wrote that “Mike and Molly” is simply adorable. The romantic tension between the two main actors, Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy, is reminiscent of a childhood crush, and each episode is colored with the perfect balance of romance and humor. Plus, the show’s starring couple met at an “Overeaters Anonymous” meeting, and somehow “Mike and Molly” manages to make countless jokes about the characters’ weight without ever becoming simply tasteless.

Unfortunately, not everyone agreed with my assessment, most notably Marie Claire editor Maura Kelly. Kelly used her blog on the magazine’s website to discuss her disgust for the show, primarily from watching the two overweight main characters.

“Yes, I think I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other,” Kelly wrote, “because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room.”

Kelly furthermore called Gardell and McCarthy “downright obese,” not just “overweight,” and accused the show of promoting the American obesity epidemic.

Needless to say, Kelly’s comments have offended a large percentage of her readers and subsequently made headline news, prompting a public outcry against her sizist attitude. Kelly recently attached an apology to her article, but that hasn’t made much of a difference to her offended audience, who is still leaving heated comments two weeks after the original post.

My opinion on the issue?

First, it’s a television show. If you don’t want to watch it, change the channel. It’s not that hard.

Second, a show like “Mike and Molly” is doing far more for the obesity epidemic than any show which only features girls under 120 pounds. Watching two people deal with realistic problems of being overweight and try to actually change themselves is truly inspiring, and only by accepting as a nation that we have these same problems can we begin to change any of them.

Thirdly, “Mike and Molly” as a show is very modest — almost ridiculously so. The couple waited several episodes to even mention sex, and, when they did, they were both so nervous about the other seeing their body that it became simply adorable and relatable to people of all sizes. The most the audience has seen thus far has been an unbelievably chaste kiss, which lends itself equally to the innocence of the relationship and the projected discomfort of its audience. There’s no need to complain.

Lastly, Maura Kelly, along with many other people, is simply sizist. If she is disgusted by even seeing an overweight person in public, she clearly has a lot of hatred boiling inside of her, and she must resolve those issues before she can even begin to intelligently comment on the topic.

The good news is that, in spite of the controversy, “Mike and Molly” has been picked up to complete a full first season, an impressive success for a fledgling show with so many controversial issues. The bad news is that, even though Kelly will hopefully change her mind after the public backlash against her post, there are countless people in the world who have these same hateful attitudes.

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