Sunday, July 13, 2008

Being the Butt of the Joke (Or Not?)

This week, I'm filming an episode of a show that used to be/is again the twinner of Sesame Street--"The Electric Company." They were a more adult S.S., and taught principles of grammar and reading. They were popular in the early '70s and are now resurfacing. I'm very excited--this is my first TV bit--but I'm wondering about the implications.

If we imagine that there are 2 types of young, Caucasion fat gal: (1) being super outgoing and funny and the goofy gal who works it (i.e.: Tracy Turnblad) and (2) being the very cloistered, sheltered, outcast, self-hating fat gal, I am--both character-wise and in real life--very much the first choice. I'm too bubbly and happy, physically and personally, to be the latter. However, if I'm ever able to fool producers and casting directors, I could be cast as the second. That's what had happened in last month's movie auditions, and that's what's happening now, I believe.

I was cast in "The Electric Company" to be part of a group of nerds. They were specifically looking for Trekkie-types (which I am not), but I thought, hey! Maybe I can squeeze in if I play on my body shape! Lo and behold, they can envision the fat girl as a loner and 'square' and all that, and so of course I can be in the nerdy group.

I am very much looking forward to filming this week, but I constantly worry about spitting in the face of FA with my job. I am an actor; for the time being, I need to make my money being what society thinks fat people are. It's a damn shame, and we've seen it happen to all the fat actors out there--even worse when they get ridonk-skinny and change their tune. I do work with companies and people who challenge social stereotypes and think I'm marvelous, but they're still not as aware of the stereotypes and stimuli placed on fat people and how it hurts our cause.

I've worked with this in several projects, wrestled it; I have a post comin' real soon about some previous roles...

The good news? There are absolutely companies and people and artists of all sizes out there who think the way we do (or at least crudely), and who are willing to have a fat girl be a love interest or healthy know, any number of things that we're not otherwise allowed to be. The hard part is being able to make a living off them for the time being.

In my mind's eye, if I see large enough success, I see myself drawing attention to FA and the entire Fatosphere, trumpeting our purpose out over the airwaves and internet. Who knows?...

Maybe I should contact Joy about being co-spokesladies down the line. ;-)



Aurora96 said...

My first thought was "the woman has to make a living!!" and you have to take the roles that are out there. Period. Eventually things will come around but for the time being, this is what is out there.

My next thought was that it's important that kids see people of all shapes and sizes out there and every little bit counts. I looked for people like myself (a larger Star Trek geek ;) and didn't have much luck.

I watched EC as a kid - can still sing the theme song. Break a leg!

devi42 said...

You’ll have more opportunity to work within the system for change if you are successful and working.

That’s how I view it. I’m a graphic designer and I work with images of different body types where I can.

The Zaftig Thespian said...

Aurora, that is an excellent point about the kids--like Joy said in her 3rd opus. The more fat people that people see--and especially ones who aren't tormented!--the more balanced these kids' perspectives will be. :)

Devi, I totally agree. People have to get through the muck to have enough sway--and it must be really hard doing graphic design, too.

Thanks both for your support!!

spacedcowgirl said...

I might be being naive here, but I am hoping that PBS (if they are still doing this version) wouldn't allow as much fat stereotyping as some other purveyors of kids' programming. Either way, I agree that you raise visibility where you can.

I loved The Electric Company. Just the other day my mom and I were quoting a line from a set of Electric Company game cards or something that I had--for some reason, one of them said "The sun is shining, but it's raining." I imagine it was something to do with the sentence structure.

Anyway, congratulations on getting the role! Let us know when it's airing!