My Mad Fat Diary gives us the bigger picture
The final episode of the magnificent My Mad Fat Diary on E4 was aired last night. This was our last chance to spend time with the titular diary's author, Rae Earl, who is 16 years old and 16 stone. Earl knows what she wants (a hot boy is perfectly described as causing "Gushington Central"), but she's convinced that she'll never get to act on her desires, stuck as she is in the "wrong" shaped body. The brilliantly conceived fantasy scene in episode two, where Earl finds the zip at the back of her neck that allows her to peel her way out of her fat prison, is achingly resonant of what a fat body can feel like. Sarah Millican has said she wished the show was on when she was young. I have to agree.
In HBO's Girls, Lena Dunham's character Hannah isn't as fat as Earl, but her body is chunkier that we are used to seeing on screen – where female bodies are almost exclusively young, white and (very) thin. She is certainly fat enough that when, in the latest episode, One Man's Trash, Hannah has a brief affair with an attractive doctor, this simple twist of plot is met with surprised gasps. One critic even compared the likelihood of Hannah's fling with an Adonis to a man giving birth to a sandwich: basically, a physical impossibility.
Gah! Of course women who look like Hannah get to have sex; where do you think more women who look like Hannah are gonna come from? But the "oh, my poor boner" brigade complaining about Hannah's body not looking like the bodies that ought to be on TV led to other responses that were far more interesting, such as women saying that seeing Hannah's body made them feel better about their own.
These feelings aren't surprising. I've got a couple of decades on Hannah and Earl, but I can remember what it felt like to be a young fatty, with a body that didn't fit clothes or expectations (it's not that different from being a middle-aged fatty). Not only do I agree with Millican that these programmes would have made me happier when I was younger; they make me happier now.
I want more onscreen stories about sex and love being for everyone who wants them. That wanting a boyfriend (or a girlfriend, or a wild affair, or a single kiss) isn't impossible without the right body type. Seeing a wider range of body types on screen can make everyone feel better about whatever body flaws bother them. Given the chance to watch the different kind of bodies in the world, you realise that they can all be sexy or funny or entertaining or beautiful. This is why I want to see more shows like My Mad Fat Diary and more characters like Hannah, more contestants on Strictly the shape of Lisa Riley, and more roles for actors like Melissa McCarthy and Gabourey Sidibe. And if that happens, maybe we can even get to a point where we see the lady fatties on screen in stories and shows that aren't just about the fact they are fat.
And before the dude-bros of the internet throw down their keyboards in disgust at the suggestion that they all have to look at fatties now and forever instead of their favoured body type – wait up, dude-bros, be cool. I'm certain that the genre of pretty people getting naked is well enough established that it's safe, even with some fatties around.
so what did you all think of the finale or the entire series even? 10/10 from me. Bravo to the show and its writers, actors etc. I need the soundtrack from this show asap.
If you haven't watched the finale episode, i'd advise you to before entering this post...there will be gifs galore no doubt. You have been warned.