Last night, I finally got around to watching Fox's new dating reality show, More to Love.
While I enjoyed it, in the same way that I enjoy watching other reality shows in which people are humiliated and cry on camera, I felt even dirtier than usual watching it. And not just because I felt sorry for these "curvy" women and their shameful exploitation at the hands of Fox.
The problem was that while I was excited to finally see a dating show that featured women (and a man) who aren't size 2, and with whom people like me could identify, I quickly realized that the show wasn't about finally giving us fat folks our time in the sun.
It was about creating a spectacle in which fat women could be gawked at, and laughed at, by America.
One of the pleasures of watching The Bachelor, on which this show is modeled, is seeing women who desperately crave male love and attention go insane before the camera, weeping over a man they've only met that week (or sometimes that night). Certainly schadenfreude is one of the most compelling reasons to watch reality tv.
But More to Love hit close to home for me. I am, like many Americans, a fat woman, and I am evidently quite lucky that someone loves me. (Of course my husband and I met when I was substantially thinner than I am now.)
But the women on this show, during their "confessionals," tell us that a fat woman is not worthy of love. They all told remarkably similar, and heartbreaking, stories about not having had dates before, having been rejected over and over because of their weight, and being consigned to the role of the fat friend--always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Not only never the bride, but most of these women have apparently never even made it to first base. On this show, fat is not empowering or beautiful, but pathetic and sad.
While ostensibly the show intends to demonstrate that all women, regardless of size, can be beautiful and can be loved, clearly that won't be the lesson for either the viewer or the participants. In fact, of the five women who were sent home in the show's first episode, at least one said that it was her "last chance" to find love. So being rejected by Luke, the show's bachelor, means that there is no one out there to love them, even though the set up of the show--20 women competing for one man--means, by definition, that 19 women will be rejected.
And to make matters worse, not only have many of these women not had a single bit of amorous attention in their lives, but Luke gave out diamond rings to all of the women, as a symbol of his promise to accept them the way that they are. After a few of them cry (again, the women go from never having dated to wearing a diamond ring on their ring finger) in relief and delight, they are told to remove the rings, because only those women who are asked to stay get to keep their rings. Those women being sent home go home ring-less, hopeless, and even more despondent than when they arrived.
Oh, I'll keep watching. But I'll feel shameful and ashamed--for the women on the show, most of whom will end up feeling more defeated and deflated than ever, for other fat women watching the show, who are being told that this exploitative show is "inspirational," and for me, who feels grateful that I have a husband, yet sickened at the notion that if I didn't, I would never find love again.
Because as we learned last night, between all the tears, fat women are not worthy of love.