Last night ABC Family joined the fat-tastic eating disorders and weight-obsessed "War on Obesity" media fray with its new family-oriented drama, Huge. It has been interesting to read Facebook viewers' reactions pre- and post-show - everything from "I don't think I'm ready to watch this," to "the previews scare me," to "I'm taping it," to "I loved it."
I fall somewhere in between.
On the one hand, here we have an entire show dedicated to developing the personalities behind the forms and faces. Now we have feelings attached to "fat." We have depth. We have heart. We have spirit. Giving credit where credit is due, I overheard one teen viewer mention that she was already getting to know the characters - to "forget that they were fat."
There is no lead-in describing how the guys and gals arrived at "Victory" (aka fat) Camp. There is no pre-qualifying explanation about the medically-prescribed path that brought them there on registration day. Even a thoroughly outdated discussion of BMI (body mass index) as some minimal measure of "health" (a subject touched upon camper-to-camper but never directly addressed by camp staff, amongst whom thus far there has been no directly-identified dietitian in sight, but only a Jillian Michaels/Biggest Loser-type trainer team and a surly cook who shouts out "no seconds!" by way of introduction) would be a welcome addition here.
So what we are left with - intentional or otherwise - is a blanket assumption that these kiddos were sent to fat camp because they look...er...fat.
What this tells us is that Huge, thus far at least, carries a lot more of its content in from the adults who have scripted, directed, acted in, marketed, and launched Huge and their fears and preconceptions --about what "fat" looks, walks, talks, acts, and is able to live like without first "getting thin"-- than any sound grounding in a medical application of the term "fat" as it relates to obesity, fitness, genetics, culture, and individual health.
Which therefore means that today I am both encouraged and disappointed.
Of course I also have to remind myself that last night was only episode number one. We have a whole season ahead of us. Furthermore, if we don't like something we hear or see, we have loud, adult voices with which to make our viewing preferences, needs, and dreams be heard.
We also have to remember that as adults, we don't come into this somewhat erratic turtle race toward mentoring our kids into size acceptance unblemished. We have our own wounds, our own fears, our own scars. Our ability to mentor the next generation into genuine respect - even love - for their bodies will be in direct correlation to our ability to model that same bodily respect and love in our own lives.
So it will take time. We can only safely expect ourselves and our children to take one, small, revolutionary step at a time.
The good news is that this is a process our children, and their children, and their children, also need to witness, understand, and learn. Our children need to understand that they can't expect themselves or the world around them to turn on a dime. All truly productive change takes time, not because it needs to take time, but because we need it to take time.
And that is a-okay.
Is Huge a perfect show? Nope.
Is it a step in the right direction? Possibly.
The most important thing is that we each ask - and answer - that question for ourselves. And pass it on.
p.s. If you are looking for a way to use your voice as a media and size acceptance mentor today, surf on over to www.eatingdisorderscoalition.org. These are the powerhouse folks who are up on Capitol Hill every day of the year lobbying every single political type in sight to pass critical legislation that protects and enforces our right to knowledgeable, quality, comprehensive health-based, size-accepting medical care.
Follow Shannon Cutts on Twitter: www.twitter.com/shannoncutts