For some odd reason (probably because I am impatiently waiting for my long distance lover to arrive after not seeing him for months and need a distraction) this gif just inspired me to have a little word-vomit session about fat shaming on Parks and Rec.
Now, I am going to preface this by stating that I fucking love this show. I LOVE it. I have seen every single episode at least 3 times or more. I am a massive Amy Poehler fan. Nick Offerman could give me a mustache ride any day. Really, there are no characters or actors involved in this show that I entirely dislike.
That being said, there has been this thing nagging at me.
Amy Poehler’s character, Leslie Knope, is a thin-privileged blonde white woman who loves waffles with whipped cream and greasy diner food, dislikes exercise (as portrayed in the above gif), frequently gorges on sugar, and openly detests salad.
She is also thin, blonde, and a central character on the show.
By all intents and purposes, without knowing her body size, some might assume her projected “lifestyle” should result in weight gain and poor health. But she’s thin and thriving.
The show takes place in a fictional town called Pawnee, Indiana - the “4th most obese city” in the United States. While Leslie is portrayed as cute and energetic despite her decidedly “unhealthy” lifestyle habits, her fat coworkers and other city inhabitants are either the butt of jokes or targeted in health campaigns. Although, there is Donna - Whose fatness has never really become an essential part of her character’s story, which I really appreciate.
That being said, overall, I really don’t feel the fat shaming that exists on this show is triggering to me in any way - I just find myself frustrated by what it represents, which is something that always frustrates me anyway - that perception is everything, and hollywood/tv will never cast a fat woman in a central role without focusing (or at least touching) on the negative aspects of her fatness rather than her character. Or determining her character identity through her fatness.
There’s also the whole lack of race and diversity issue thing as well, but I’ve just noticed the time and realized I’ve got to head to the airport soon!
So, good chat!
Yup. I also loooove Parks and Rec but the fat-shaming really gets me down. Leslie Knope is yet another example of the “adorably gluttonous thin woman” trope, which always pisses me off (like Winifred “Fred” Burkle on Angel) because any character even approaching chubby who eats that way would be portrayed as disgusting, not adorable (not that they should be). Then Parks and Rec makes it far worse by constantly joking about Pawnee being the 4th most obese city in the US. The ridiculousness of Leslie Knope, she who lives on ice cream covered waffles and never touches a vegetable, crusading against the obesity in her town is actually something that they could joke about, but don’t. Like imagine a scenario where Leslie goes to the doctor and finds out that she has the worst health indicators of anyone in the office, while the constantly tormented Gerry has the best.
This week’s episode was actually about Leslie fighting to tax these jumbo sized sodas in order to save the people of her town from morbid obesity and diabetes. It was full of jokes hinging on the correlation between fatness and health and fatness and diet, like all the town’s restaurants having names like “The Paunch”. It was not my favourite episode.
Thank you for bringing this topic back with your commentary! I was thinking of writing a bit about the latest episode right after I saw it, but you’ve summed up my thoughts well enough already :3
I love this show, I love Amy Poehler, I do not love the perpetuation of fat “health” stereotypes.
Man, CO-SIGNED SO HARD. And the second episode of this season used the headless fatties trope. Sigh.
This is my favorite show, but sometimes watching it really gets me down.
This bothers me, too. Especially since we never see these supposedly superoverabundant numbers of fat people around Pawnee. The vast majority of the supporting characters are played by thin actors, the people at the public forums are mostly thin, and so on. Almost like they know it isn’t funny or clever, and that that would be obvious if they involved people in these jokes face-to-face?
LOOKIE RUFFLEBUTS LINKED ME TO THIS
And oh god it’s actually worse than I thought!
Also isn’t Ron Swanson kinda fat? And he had that amazing “GIVE ME ALL THE BACON AND EGGS YOU HAVE” thing and he is known for eating a lot + unhealthily but I don’t recall hearing him being made into a fatty stereotype because of it. I guess his body size puts him in the “in between” category? Though I need to admit that my perception of peoples’ body sizes in relation to society is a bit off. I think this has to do with gender + gender performance. It’s not like Parks and Rec is letting fat men off the hook so to speak—because Gerry obviously gets so much shit for being fat—but Gerry is also portrayed as being somewhat feminized, maybe BECAUSE of his fatness, while Ron is portrayed as this almost tongue-in-cheek hypermasculine character.
AND I wouldn’t say Donna’s fatness is necessarily portrayed positively or that it’s positive by default because it’s not really “portrayed” at all—- I mean I think it’s portrayed more subtly, but it does seem like her expression of her sexuality is kind of seen as a joke within itself, which surely has to do with her being a fat black woman.