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Bullets and Bracelets —

January 21, 2013

It’s amazing the change that 36 years can bring.

This weekend, our family went to the library, dragging along our massive tote. Each visit, we get about a 500 books to read at bedtime, as well as whatever movies, games and audiobooks catch my eye.

As I waited to check out, I noticed in the DVD section by the front desk that they had the original “Wonder Woman” series starring Lynda Carter. I got the DVD for our two girls, Linny (6) and Lottie (4 in 6 days). Linny loves superheroes; she went as Spiderman for Halloween 2011 and loves her Spiderman backpack. When she told me that some of her classmates told her that Spiderman was for boys, I told her to respond that Spiderman is for kids who like Spiderman.

But given the overwhelming number of male superheroes, I’ve wanted her to know that there are awesome female superheroes out there as well. So, I got “Wonder Woman” to give her another option to idolize.

As we watched the pilot episode this weekend, I couldn’t help but observe that the corset Lynda Carter wore made her hips look huge by 2013 Hollywood standards.

Wonder Woman HIps

Indeed, photos from Carter’s role as 1972 Miss World USA contestant seem strange to me.

Lynda Carter Miss USA Combined

Am I the only one who thinks she look a little on the heavy side for a Miss World contestant? Her hips and thighs seem positively zaftig, especially when compared to the 2012 Miss World USA, Claudine Book.

Claudine Book

Lynda Carter is not fat by any stretch of the imagination, but we live in an era when any visible evidence of body fat located anywhere except the breasts and butt is considered overweight, as evidenced by the howls of body snark lobbed at Lady Gaga.

Just try to imagine what those same critics would say today about the way Carter fills out her red, white and blue… um… swimsuit.

Wonder Woman2

So it’s no surprise that when NBC decided to reboot Wonder Woman for the short-lived TV show, they decided to go with Adrianne Palicki, an actress with a more “modern” body type.

Compare and Contrast

When casting, it seems the producers wanted to redistribute Wonder Woman’s weight from her hips to her boobs.

New Wonder Woman Adrianne Palicki Simply "Wondrous" On Set

In the span of just three decades, the media’s definition of “acceptable fat” has been radically reduced. Thanks to her perfectly natural hips and thighs, Lynda Carter wouldn’t qualify for the Sweet Corn Queen pageant, let alone Miss World USA.

And that’s where we are as a society: stuck with a media that has gradually redefined “beauty” as the woman with the least amount of body fat and the most amount of boobs.

Fortunately, our daughters aren’t yet aware of any of this arbitrary standard, and have chosen to focus instead on what a badass Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman is. After the pilot episode, Linny and Lottie took turns being WW and Nazi spy, as they chased each other through the house.

But even though the Hollywood body standard has changed dramatically, and depressingly, there are signs elsewhere that perfection is no substitute for talent. Even better, there are shows where size is no reflection of character.

Recently, Veronica and I stumbled across a show produced by Hulu called “Rev.” Although you’ll have to suffer through commercials, it’s well worth watching. The show revolves around Reverend Adam Smallbone’s nearly-empty London church and his struggle to maintain his faith in the midst of broad social apathy toward religion.

Sounds heavy, but it’s not. Considering it’s produced by Hulu, my expectations were quite low. So I was pleasantly surprised by what we actually found. While not a sitcom in the “Father Ted” tradition, it’s nonetheless a funny and insightful examination of the religious life. Unlike Fr. Ted, who comes across as equal parts inept and corrupt, Fr. Adam (Tom Hollander) represents a sincere, but flawed clergy that struggles with faith on a day-to-day basis, while striving to set a moral example.

We also see Fr. Adam’s flock through the lens of humanity and compassion that he carries with him. Refreshingly, that compassionate view extends to the fat characters as well. Whether he’s gushed over by parishioner Adoha (Ellen Thomas), served by Gemma the barmaid (Lu Corfield), or begged to perform an “exorcism” for 70-something Joan (Sylvia Syms), Fr. Adam (and the show itself) shows absolutely no judgement or scorn toward its heavier characters.

It’s as if the show’s creators (Hollander and James Wood) wrote the entire script, then cast the parts based on talent, rather than writing the parts about the weight of the actors they wanted and casting accordingly. None of the fat characters are caricatures. None of the storylines involve demonstrable acts of gluttony or sloth. These are simply people in Fr. Adam’s parish who have problems… oh, and they happen to be fat.

Refreshing, I know.

But best of all, Fr. Adam’s wife is average-sized. The incredibly talented Olivia Colman plays Alex, the solicitor and vicar’s wife who tries to balance her needs as a spouse with the work of her husband, which often involves a host of unsavory characters descending upon their home in need of help.

Colman also co-starred in the brilliant “Peep Show” (which you can see on Hulu or Netflix), and was also the love interest in that show despite not being supermodel thin. Colman is lovely and charismatic in all the characters she inhabits, and it was a delightful surprise to see her starring in “Rev.” as well.

So, if you’re tired of the same ol’, same ol’, I highly recommend “Rev.” as a show bursting at the seams with humanity, compassion and understanding. It’s also a blissfully silent commentary on how fat people are more than the sum of their tissue.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. LittleBigGirl permalink
    January 21, 2013 1:38 pm

    *fangirl squeal* Okay let me get this out of the way first: I’m geeking that you mentioned Father Ted, I love that series! My favorite character is Graham Norton’s Queen-singing Father Noel Furlong (although Ardal O’Hanlon is brilliant as well), but my favorite line comes from Father Jack Hackett (Frank Kelly):
    Mrs. Doyle: “What would you say to a nice cup of tea?”
    Father Hackett: “Feck off, cup!”
    Now about your actual point about how size is used and viewed in entertainment. This really pushed a button for me. My ghast is flabbered that you have found a show in which there are people who happen to be fat, but do not discuss their fat or have their fat discussed. Despite how it may seem to an outsider who watches and reads all that goes on in the FA community, many fat people spend most of their time *not talking or thinking about their fat*. We are people. We have lives. We can eat something without making a comment about it. Yes sometimes going places and doing things falls somewhere on the annoying spectrum because the world was not built for us. In our average day we may have to choose our seats more carefully than others, or only look at accessories instead of clothing when we walk into a (non-specialty) department store, but that may actually be the sum total of our fat-related adjustments. I am not walking to the bank today as a fat person, I am just walking to the f**king bank.

    Our worlds only revolve around us being fat in other people’s heads. This is why I went from being excited about to actively hating “Mike & Molly.” I love the fat actors that play the respective title characters, but I hate the entire show’s premise that fat people a) must be involved in a diet program, b) could only meet someone who could love and be attracted to them in said program, c) spend all their time thinking about food and d) spend the rest of the time telling self-deprecating jokes about their fatness and hearing similar barbs from friends, coworkers and family.

    Yes, our fat is acceptable but dammit WE ARE MORE THAN OUR FAT.

  2. Jan permalink
    April 17, 2013 2:29 pm

    I’m British, and I’m really interested in what you say about Rev, because although I love American TV too (I can’t figure out where you’re based, but you’re talking about U.S. TV in the article, so I’m just going with that), the weight issue is one thing that really saddens me about it. I’m not saying British TV doesn’t have its problems re. representation, but lots of American shows seem not even to feature average-size people (especially women), let alone heavier ones (in roles that are about more than their weight, I mean). The people they do feature are of course very beautiful in their own way, but only representative of a tiny proportion of the population. I can’t help feeling that this actually makes people more likely to abandon attempts to be healthy (note: healthy, not necessarily thin), because if you’re never going to be what the media deems acceptable, why bother? I feel that casting in TV over here is a little more realistic, and I’m very grateful for that. The rest of our media still sucks on this issue though! I hope things get better for all of us.

  3. floacist permalink
    October 14, 2013 10:39 pm

    I have to disagree on one point. Lynda’s is far more busty than Palicki.

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