What happens when your significant other gains a few pounds -- or 30? Love Handles, a new Web series, uses warm comedy to tackle this sensitive issue.
The buzzworthy series by filmmakers Carlton Jordan and Crystle Clear Roberson drops us into the chocolate-ridden world of Leeza (played by Erica Nicole Robinson), who has been dumped by her boyfriend over voicemail because she's been overeating and neglecting her weight and health.
Her ex-boyfriend Derek, a personal trainer, can't see himself tied to a woman who has "let herself go." Leeza, however, believes her weight has nothing to do with who she is as a woman and should definitely not be grounds for breaking her heart. Who's right and who's wrong in this situation? Was it real love to begin with?
The creators of Love Handles seek to spark a discussion about fitness and dating. Is it wrong to make physical attraction a priority in your relationship?
Leeza's two best girlfriends, Charlie (Leilani Smith) and Jade (Skye Marshall), just want the happy (and thin) version of Leeza back. But when they usher her into the world of health and fitness to get her mind off love and sex, they're instantly distracted by the fit men in the gym. "Fat shaming" is a new term that has been circulating the Internet. The series poses the questions: Are you a bad friend for bringing your friend's weight to her attention? Where does concern cross the line?
Throughout each episode we get a glimpse of Leeza's journey to acceptance or rejection of her new body type. At one point she refuses "to be labeled 'plus-sized,' 'thick,' or 'big-boned,'" saying she's "not about that life."
Executive producer Benjamin Hurvitz of Benjamin Films, who often executive produces various reality shows, says:
Having produced multiple reality TV series and having gone through the network staffing process myself as a comedy writer, I'm more interested than ever in working with and cultivating talent outside the traditional channels. I came on board Love Handles to support Crystle and Carlton, whose talent I find immense and whose potential to reach an audience is obvious, on the Web or otherwise. We set out to bring professional industry standards -- in all elements of production, from conception to delivery -- to the project, while enjoying the type of thrilling creative exploration only possible these days online.
Creator Carlton Jordan says:
A lot of Love Handles has to do with my personal journey of up-and-down weight gain and how I feel it has affected my relationships. It's not just a female issue, although we see that journey through our main character Leeza.... It's funny that all the men I talked to believe it is OK for them to dump their women because of weight gain, but don't believe in vice versa.
Co-creator Crystle Clear Roberson has also been affected by body-image issues as a black woman:
Women these days are constantly inundated with the images of what a "perfect woman" should look like. There is an unrealistic standard for beauty and body shape that some of us are literally killing ourselves to attain. I finally matured and said, "Enough is enough!" I had to redefine beauty for myself and let go of what society had defined for me. It's OK to desire health, but true beauty has no size or shape; it emits from within.
Jordan and Roberson decided to give the fans and viewers what they want: a binge-watching episodic format. All episodes of Love Handles Season 1 are available now on YouTube. The episodes are short, and all of Season 1 can easily be watched in about an hour.
"We felt rather than spread out the episodes and air new ones every other week or every month, why not release the entire season in one shot?" says Jordan.
"Viewers have been shocked by some of the things seen and heard in the first season; all I can say is y'all ain't seen nothing yet," says Roberson.
Love Handles is engaging, professionally filmed, and well-written and acted. You think you're watching a network TV show. It deserves a look, and possibly a home on TV for its second season.
Disclosure: Though I have no financial or professional stake in the Web series Love Handles, Carlton Jordan, one of its co-creators, is independently adapting my first book into a screenplay.