One of the most popular new comedies on television this season is “Mike and Molly” a romance about an overweight couple played by gifted performers Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy (“Gilmore Girls”). Freelance blogger Maura Kelly wrote a post on the Marie Claire site titled “Should Fatties Get a Room (Even on TV)?” She said it was disgusting to watch the characters “with rolls of fat” kiss. “To be brutally honest, even in real life, 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 heroin addict slumping in a chair.” She accuses the show of promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.
The show’s creator, Mark Roberts, wrote a superb response in the Hollywood Reporter. He resists the temptation to demonize Kelly, and emphasizes her right to express her opinion. But he says, “I don’t think of anybody by their body type, certainly not people that I work with and love and respect. I think of them as unbelievably talented people who captured these characters and brought them to life. I struggled with weight all my life and I don’t know how to address this without being angry with somebody else’s stupidity about other human beings.”
Kelly has now apologized and admitted that her own history of anorexia may be the source of hyper-sensitivity on these issues. “People have accused me of being a bully in my post. I never intended to be that — it’s actually the very last thing I want to be, as a writer or a person. But I know that I came off that way, and I really cannot apologize enough to the people whom I upset.”
The show frankly but kindly shows that the characters struggle with their weight — they meet at a support group. But what is important is that it does what Kelly missed: it shows them as real, multi-dimensional people who have feelings and longings and a capacity for tenderness and generosity. It is those qualities that the show is promoting. But, as Entertainment Weekly points out, it would be even better if the show could move on from its reliance on fat jokes and let us focus on the very sweet romance at its heart.
Many thanks to Tricia Olszewski for bringing this to my attention.