As a society, we generally want our girls to be healthy, happy, and well-adjusted, with a positive self-esteem. Being healthy doesn't necessarily mean model-thin, and happiness and good self-esteem can be found in all builds of people.
So what happens when society and self-image collide? ABC Family, a US cable TV station, is exploring these issues of health, weight, and self-esteem in Huge, a new TV series that premiered in June 2010. Huge is set at Camp Victory, a "fat camp" for teenagers, and centers around Willamina "Will" (played by Nikki Blonsky), a girl sent to Camp Victory by her parents, but against her wishes. Will claims to be happy about herself and her weight, saying at one point "I'm down with my fat... my fat and I are like BFFs." She's even planning on gaining weight while at Camp Victory, while everyone else struggles to lose weight.
Although there are occasional flashes that Will is unhappy, perhaps in part because of her weight, it's refreshing to see overweight characters on TV in a starring role, not cast as "the sidekick" or "the friend," but who are truly developed, nuanced characters in their own right. It's doubly refreshing that at least one character is proud of who she is. Haley Hasselhoff, another cast member, believes that Huge can help girls develop a healthier body image. And certainly, presenting overweight teens in a more positive light can't hurt the self-esteem of overweight teens.
There are criticisms as well, and well-founded ones, though most critics still applaud presenting overweight people in a positive manner. Being overweight is undeniably unhealthy, and can lead to a wide range of medical problems. One concern is that Huge will actually discourage overweight teens from losing weight; viewers will see that Will--and by extension, Nikki Blonsky--is happy with her weight, and so they won't see the very real health issues that can go hand-in-hand with excess weight. Huge deals with health issues like diabetes in a natural way. Executive producer Kim Rozenfeld says "the health risks, including diabetes, will not be glossed over or over-dramatized on Huge." He also said "We attempt to illustrate a lot of the conditions that revolve around teen obesity, but in a way that ties into the story and the characters, so makes more of an impact. . . . [One] episode is not about [diabetes], but it's a featured part of the character, so we try to incorporate it organically."
Girl Museum Inc.