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A Chicago Set Show Provokes Controversy

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BY SARAH TEREZ ROSENBLUM
Recently, Marie Claire blogger Maura Kelly wrote a well-thought out, thoroughly researched and compassionate piece entitled “Should "Fatties" Get a Room? (Even on TV?)” Despite never having seen CBS sitcom “Mike and Molly,” a show revolving around a plus-size couple, she used the series as a jumping off point to make astute observations such as “I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other,” and “I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroine (sic) addict slumping in a chair.”

“Mike and Molly,” set right here in Chicago, follows a policeman and a teacher who meet through overeaters anonymous and embark on a romance. Born in Plainfield, Illinois and graduated from Joliet Catholic Academy, lead actress Melissa McCarthy is well equipped to play a Chicagoan of any size. But size takes center stage in the series and in Kelley’s strongly worded blog post.

Although Marie Claire is usually seen as one of the more body positive publications, its Editor in Chief Joanna Coles seems to support Kelly, calling her a “very provocative blogger,” as opposed to an insensitive fatophobe, and adding “this is a subject she feels very strongly about.” Interestingly, many others feel strongly about the subject as well, specifically those compared to drug addicts and told to stay seated rather than walk past a thin person.

As a blogger, I sympathize with Kelly, but as a human being I sort of want her injected with paralyzing venom and nibbled to death by a tortoise. Blogging, a strange and solitary activity, straddles the line between public and private. Obviously, Marie Claire blogs are absorbed by countless readers, however, alone and on a self-disclosure high, it’s easy to forget how significant one’s thoughts become once typed and published, if only online. No doubt the blogger’s credo, controversy equals page hits, also inspired Kelly’s discourse.

While Marie Claire has launched a counterpoint series allowing writers like Lesley Kinzel to debate Kelly’s opinions, using her stunningly mean-spirited statements to begin an exchange of ideas seems questionable. If Kelly were writing that Gays or African Americans disgusted her, if her defensive assertion “I have a few friends who could be called plump,” read Latino or Jewish, she’d be charged with hate speech, not understood to be opening up a dialogue.

Kelly’s supporters (and believe it or not, she has them) argue she’s merely voicing the beliefs of many and some of her detractors have started a vaguely intentioned anti-Kelley Facebook page. Meanwhile, over at Marie Claire, Kelly has apologized. She attributes her insensitivity to her “own body issues, history as an anorexic, and life-long obsession with being thin,” an appeal which informs our understanding of her flawed thought process, but doesn’t excuse it, and to those unfamiliar with anorexia’s devilish hold likely seems an evasion. In the end, Kelly can mea culpa up a storm, but she can’t apologize away her beliefs. Now, despite a year of living flirtatiously and an upcoming novel, Kelly will be remembered for her vitriol, a fate worse than death by turtle, and one she created for herself.

Photo: "Mike and Molly" star Melissa McCarthy

A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually.

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This page contains a single entry by Sarah Terez-Rosenblum published on October 28, 2010 1:55 PM.

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