An Open Letter to Glee’s Creator on Behalf of Fat Girls Everywhere
By Elizabeth.Hawksworth on October 23, 2012
I’m a big fan of the show Glee. It’s actually one of my favourite shows. It started out as a show that was about the underdogs, the ones that society steps on. It’s followed the stories of characters that I fell in love with over the past four years, and though I haven’t been very fond of the way that the show’s direction is going, I still love to hear the covers of the songs and watch the characters. Call it nostalgia, I guess. I think it’s done a lot of good for teens in our society, and I have to credit Ryan Murphy, its creator, with that.
Mr. Murphy had a question and answer session on his Twitter yesterday, and I was half-heartedly following it when a question asked by one of the fans stopped me cold. Actually, it wasn’t the question that was asked – it was the answer that Mr. Murphy gave.
He replied to a question about his character, Marley, and her eating disorder with:
“It's a really moving storyline. Girls need to learn to love themselves and not believe the media bullshit.”
Mr. Murphy, I agree with you wholeheartedly. But I’ve got a few quibbles, let’s say, with your reply to this fan question.
1. Almost every girl on your show is skinny and pretty. In fact, some of the girls on your show I’d go so far to say are underweight and probably do not know at all what it’s like to be fat.
2. The fat characters on your show (Lauren Zizes, Mercedes Jones) were made into jokes for the audience to laugh at. There were a few brief hints of “maybe they’re beautiful, too”, and then you buried them in storylines that centred around how much they wanted junk food or how much they could eat. Fatphobic songs like “Big-Ass Heart”, while funny, were also written to highlight how big and fat they were.
3. Eating disorders are very important to cover, I agree. But I’d like it if you’d stay away from the traditional skinny girl who throws up to look good, though I do understand that this is a problem in society, and focus on a bigger, less pretty girl. Because there are a lot more of us out there that feel inadequate. We’re the underdogs, Mr. Murphy. We’re the ones that no one looks at, that people scoff at. While your character, Marley, is an “underdog” because she’s poor, she has no trouble getting noticed because she’s pretty and thin. Why not focus on a less pretty character? Why not focus on a girl who’s always in the background, who is overweight and maybe feels like no one cares about her? You already sort of did this with Mercedes, but you didn’t follow through.
4. While I’m wishing, can we stop with the fatphobia and misogyny? I think you’re moving in the right direction – Rachel has finally told Finn that she doesn’t need him to be great. I’d like to see a loudly single, proud girl who doesn’t need a man to tell her she’s worth something. And all of your characters need men to “mansplain” their worth to them. Come on, Mr. Murphy – you’ve done such a great job with bringing these issues to the fore. Can you please handle them better?
I know I’m just some overweight chick in Canada, and I probably don’t understand all the work that goes into making a show like Glee. I probably don’t understand your demographics, or what will make your ratings go up. But I do watch your show. And though I’m not your intended demographic, I look after girls and boys who are. And they’re seeing that it’s okay to make fun of fat people, because Glee does. It’s okay for a woman to need a prince in shining armour to save them, because that’s what happens on Glee.
If anything, I’d like to see Marley’s eating disorder addressed by another girl . . . not a man. I’d like to see Marley realize that she can be amazing without a man telling her what to do.
But honestly, Marley isn’t the girl you should be focusing on. She’s pretty and perfect. There are lots of us who aren’t, Mr. Murphy . . . and lots of little girls who will never grow up to look like Lea Michele or Melissa Benoist or Dianna Agron. How about focusing on those girls and showing them their worth? How about really looking at the underdogs, the ones who get bullied in school, and giving them a character they can relate to instead of a beautiful starlet that will never know what it’s like to be too fat and too ugly to be noticed?
Don’t you believe they deserve it as much as the pretty girls on your show do?
On behalf of fat, nondescript girls everywhere, I hope you read this little post from a fellow writer, Mr. Murphy. It’s from my heart.
I know you want to tell your story. But I want to see mine on the screen, too. I want to feel like “the media bullshit” is really just that – because right now, sir, I don’t think you’re practicing what you preach.
Just some thoughts.