I just saw the third episode of Huge. I missed the first two. I caught the third on Hulu, because I'm one of those people who watches laptop, not TV. For those who don't know, Huge is a show about the kids at a weight-loss summer camp. It's from Alloy Entertainment, the company that spits out endless strings of trendy content for teenage girls, like a massive, bejeweled pink computer that tirelessly clicks through gigantic amounts of old data about girls and introduces new buzz words like "liquid jeans" and "Justin Bieber" into the formula until a satisfactory plot line emerges. I read the Sweet Valley High books as a kid (much to my mother's chagrin), and back then the protagonists were very, very blond, and very cool, and definitely very thin. Gossip Girl shows similar symptoms. But then there's Huge, which is, well, hugely different. And yet, completely unsurprising somehow.
I automatically loved it. It's hard not to. The characters have been bullied their whole lives. You want to hug them and tell them they're beautiful. Plus, they just look really huggable.
A show like Huge is never really very daring. It's there because the time is right. People are going to love it. The group of people in question are social rejects. They're like the nerds of, like, last year. Or the gay people of a few more years ago. And one of the main reasons they're popular for being unpopular is that there are so many of them. It's only cool to be uncool once there are enough people who are uncool for the same reason as you to start your own group.
Television is fascinated by large people. This is not the first show about being fat. The Biggest Loser, Dance Your A** Off, and Kirstie Alley's Big Life spring instantly to mind, and, as I said before, I don't even really watch TV. Every media outlet continues to blast headline after headline about the obesity epidemic that has been sweeping America for what feels like forever at this point. We are a nation obsessed with weight. Our people are heavy (except for here in Manhattan, where being overweight is punishable by social death), our models are, for the most part, devastatingly underweight, our girls are gulping down diet pills, we're buying our pets lowfat, organic pet food, and we're struggling to figure out exactly how OK it ever is to have extra weight on our bodies.
Huge is capitalizing on all that. It isn't revolutionary, it's a smart business move.
But what really impressed me about the episode I saw was that the characters LARP in it. LARP= Live Action Role Play. That's where people (usually teenage or college aged) dress up as fantasy characters and interact with one another in their roles. "You, traveler! Disarm! I am the wizard Klallsprack of Urnguld, and this is the border of my kingdom!" It's really dorky. I mean, so dorky, that even I, as a dorky kid, wouldn't go near it. I made fun of the kids who did it. As far as I can tell, LARPing is still something that is decidedly uncool. As in, not enough uncool people are doing it for it to have become uncool cool. (I can see how this will begin to get confusing if I keep saying "uncool" and cool".) The characters in Huge are not only stigmatized in their lives outside of camp for being heavy, they are willing to LARP. And we, the audience, are willing to find their LARPing adorable, moving, and empowering.
So maybe something a little new is happening here. And even if it isn't, I appreciate and enjoy Huge, because the truth is, no one is really cool. We're all struggling with how we look (I blog about body image every day). At some point, maybe we will just accept that. But until then, shows that point out exactly how human we all are, in all the same ways, can't hurt, they can really only help.