Monday, June 19, 2006

Oh yes, there were bikinis

I meant to write this post a few weeks ago, right after it aired, but I forgot. And being as I don't have tivo, I have to write this from memory (which, sadly, is pretty shot), but here goes...

The Learning Channel aired a show called Welcome To Fatland (which incidentally could be the title of my biography) that fits in well with their obese repertoire of the 600 lb Woman and The Half Ton Man. It made a lovely three hour block of shows dealing with really fat people, and it was a pretty damned good lineup of tv'ing for me. If you missed it, worry not, TLC tends to rerun shows constantly.

Welcome to Fatland was about five fat British people who are sent to a resort in Mexico that caters to really fat people. It has beds, showers, hammocks, and lounge chairs which are built for very large bodies. I suppose that is all well and good, but if I was going to a resort for fat people, the size of the beds and hammocks would not be the main draw. I mean, I am fat, but the size of beds and showers are the least of my concerns...I would want to be in a resort where the majority of people were fat (preferably fatter than I am) with fat employees. One of the things that bothered me about the resort, called Freedom Paradise, is that the show made it seem like the only fat people there were the British people brought there for the show! I think it's a great idea, but for it to work, there would have to be some actual fat people there. Incidentally, the website for Freedom Paradise makes little or no mention of their fat friendly ways, so if you are planning a vacation or honeymoon, read this synopsis for some basic information.

The British people are brought to the resort, and are told that they are going to be engaging in some size acceptance workshops where they can work on their self-esteem in between deciding whether or not to wear a bathing suit to the pool. And that's when things got interesting.

Along came Marilyn Wann, author of Fat?So!, a well known activist in the fat community, and their size acceptance coach. Marilyn entered the picture wearing a furry fuchsia boa type thing wrapped around her neck (disregarding the fact that she was in sunny Cancun), and before anything happened, I knew the turn the show was going to take. The five British people were very...er...British. Marilyn was like the epitome of what people hate about Americans. She was loud, fat, brash, embarrassing, and just sort of out there. It might as well have been a show about clashing cultures.

Marilyn proceeded to try to make the fat Brits feel better about their fat by alternately singing, screaming, "flirting", body painting, and synchronized swimming. Yeah, I don't know how Marilyn came to settle on that itinerary, but it was sort of disastrous. The Brits rebelled for the most part, Marilyn got her feelings hurt, and there did not seem to be that much learning or teaching or accepting happening. I mean, I think I get what she was trying to do, but in my opinion the best way to empower people about their size is not to embarrass the shit out of them. I felt bad for Marilyn, and it was almost painful to watch at some points. The British folks sort of sucked and had generally bad attitudes, with the exception of the young virgin cab driver who seemed really sweet and earnest, and did seem to grow as a person due to the experience at Fatland.

For me, the most poignant moment came towards the end when one of the women asks Marilyn if she would chose to be thin if the option were presented to her. After a pregnant pause, Marilyn says no. The girl later tells the camera that she doesn't believe Marilyn. I know that Marilyn's identity and livelihood are based around her large size, and that she accepts and embraces her fatness more than most people, but her answer did not seem very convincing to me either. Maybe some of our readers watched this program and can give me their interpretation of this encounter.

All in all, the resort seems like an awesome idea, but it needs some more of the millions of fat Americans I keep hearing about to help it come to fruition. Marilyn needs to reconsider her approach if she wants to actually reach the people she is trying to help. And 4 out of the 5 British people need to remove the sticks from their up their arses. And I learned something about myself...I will watch/read anything that centers around fat people. Even if it sort of sucks. Even if it makes me uncomfortable.

47 comments:

plain_jane said...

I am so glad I was not alone in how uncomfortable Marilyn made me feel as a fat American woman! As I watched her I kept thinking to myself that I would never want to be thought of as that kind of fat woman. She was embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

The virgin cab driver did seem really sweet. I hope he gets laid soon!

Anonymous said...

I really wish I caught this program and had extra money for a vacation to Cancun. Seems like a great idea!

Leira said...

Hey! I LOVE YOUR BLOG! I've read all the entries, and check regularly for updates.

I'm an slim chick, but I used to be obese.. so I'll always identify with being 'fat', even if I'm not :(

fattest said...

I really wished, while watching this, that the people brought to the resort were American, (I don't have anything against the Brits!), but, I think they would have reacted differently.

And, I totally agree with you. That Marilyn lady made me very uncomfortable. Who asks a man in his forties to scream at the top of his lungs that he's proud to be fat? Not me!

floradoragirl37 said...

I haven't watched the program, but if it comes on, Ill be sure to. It almost sounds to me like a cultural conflict more than anything. I have known several British people, and they do seem a bit on the conservative side. I hope that they air it again soon. Was this like a documentary, or a series?
I hope to catch it
Have a great day
Jennie

Twisted Fatty said...

I missed it but hopefully I'll catch it sometime this week.
I think it's awesome that Marilyn is proud of her weight and the way she looks but when pride crosses over to brash and obnoxious, it makes all fat Americans look bad.
@(*0*)@

PS-Love the blog.

Anonymous said...

fattest, I agree with you. I think Americans would have been more "game" and tried to play along. And I wondered if they didn't edit the special to just show us the scenes with the most conflict.

I can't believe nobody has mentioned Mr. Used-to-be-a-male model! That guy turned not cooperating into an art form. I especially liked at the end when he had lost some infinitesimal amount of weight and was like, "I'm so glad not to be a big guy anymore!" It made me realize it's all so mental, the line where people decide they're fat or not fat.

Anonymous said...

Note to the networks: I will watch amost anything about fatness or weight as well...

Anonymous said...

i have already looked at the resort, its all inclusive. Are you kidding about not caring what size the showers are? its much easier to manuever in big shower stall. thats what would draw me to a place like that, not to mention the buffets.

Justin's Girlfriend said...

How do we know this place is really for fatties though? I think it would be horrible to go there and have it not, actually, be for fatties.

floradoragirl37 said...

There might be people of all sizes, but they are kind enough to make their resort "size friendly". I have a really tiny tub in my apartment, my knees come up to my chin...and when I wash myself, all the water spills everywhere...I wish they were "size friendly" when they built my apartment! lol

Stephb0b said...

I'd totally go to a fat resort! That would be great. I could just be fat with other fatties!

Anonymous said...

hi. im english. ive watched that program it was on a while ago, if i remember correctly marilyn cries because she doesnt feel accepted by the group or something, which was shown that she wasnt happy with her weight.

its nice of you to comment down on the british, well at least they kept their dignity and the american lived up to the sterotype of overweight, loud, in your face, annoying and over the top.

the media creates sterotypical, dont be so ignorant.

littlem said...

Like Anon 12:48 said, shows do tend to edit with an eye to a certain story.

I'm of a bit more cynical mind - I've heard Marilyn was an extrovert, but I'm wondering if some producer told her to exaggerate her approach, and the Brits weren't briefed at all as to what approach to expect.

I mean, she's a Stanford grad; it's not like she can't adapt and Brits aren't somewhat amenable to graduates of "finer" American schools. Culture clash indeed.

Justin's girlfriend, you can always call first.

fidgreen aka preacher john said...

Didn't see the program (chucked out my TV years ago)... Re. culture clash tho' - I'm a Brit and it's a common impression held by Americans that we're surly and rude 'cos we just don't go for all that "Oh I'm so wonderful look at me!" thing common among American practitioners of high-self esteem... Such people will be referred to as "the big I am" (i.e. someone with too great a sense of their own self-importance) it's part of our overall surly, sarcastic, ironic, black-humoured take on life...

I'm sure Marilyn did her best but she'd have been better off inviting everyone to get pissed and go lounge around the pool/beach go mad at the disco as British inhibitions are generally highly soluble in alcohol - hence al fresco sex / violence / vomiting all over beaches in other people's hot countries much to disgust of locals...

Why are we like this? I could write books - several even but I think this example difference between the two cultures is telling - when I travelled all over the US a few years back everywhere I went people would proudly say "Welcome to America!" like it was their country (belonging to them in some personal sense as citizens)... Visitors to Britain will never hear the equivalent (unless someone's trying to make cash out of you) cos it doesn't belong to us (the subjects) it belongs to "them" (royals, aristos, moneyed in general, including gov't and corporate leeches)... and it's been like this since the Romans invaded pretty much... so what with a 2,500year history of occupation, subjection and alcoholism you can start to get a sense of why Brits ("le f*ckings" as they are referred to in the French foreign legion) are such grumpy, negative, bad tempered b*stards... and perversely proud of it too! heheh :)

Anonymous said...

When I think of the UK fatness as a characteristic doesn't immediately spring to mind. Maybe the reserved British character precludes overeating and generally people are not as overweight as they may be in other countries. Just a thought.

But the different personality? That's there for sure. Digressing slightly from the topic of fatness, the British do appear to others as being extremely reserved. I am technically British myself but haven't lived there for any length of time and still don't quite 'get it' sometimes.

To give an example, once when driving a hire car at night and inadvertently having the foglights on, I was followed for 15 kms down narrow windy lanes until I pulled over. I was expecting death or dismemberment, as per usual road rage, but the guy had simply followed me that far out of his way to tell me I had dazzled him and that he didn't like it and I should turn my fog lights off!

kittyrex

krs1 said...

Hi, I enjoy reading your blog, please keep it up! I saw that program, and your culture clash analysis was right on, I think. Remember also, Marilyn made an ass of herself when she lied about singing a silly little ditty to psych herself up for public events. She got caught in the lie (which the Brits made too much of, IMO) and it sort of solidified her stereotype as someone who was trying way too hard. She didn't do Stanford proud if she couldn't be bothered to do some background work on the difference between English and American culture, esp. as it pertains to fat (paging Susie Orbach, hello?). She and a few other "fat activists" seem to paint themselves in all kinds of rhetorical and philosophical corners insisting that fat is ALWAYS GOOD. She would be better off updating her way-out-of-date website, and leaving the workshopping to the more sensible HAES (Health At Every Size) movement.

Stacia said...

Sounds like the program was more about stereotypes than fatness.

As for Marilyn's question, as to whether she would be thin if given the choice, I can see why she would hesitate. I'd like to see the clip so I knew what her reaction was.

Me... man, I dunno. I don't like how society judges people based on appearance (fat being one of many factors) and I have no problem being fat in and of itself. But society is going to be jerky whether I'm fat or not, and being thin would be one less thing for me to have to think about. It certainly wouldn't be a cure-all, but it would make doctor's visits and clothes shopping easier. I just don't know what I would answer.

Becky said...

I found this on the web. It really looks like the resort is designed to make larger people feel comfortable and accepted.

http://www.tribe.net/recommendation/Fat-Friendly-Vacation-Spot/f4c6d131-0277-45b9-afbc-000237e3e2df

Kate said...

I have no problem being fat in and of itself. But society is going to be jerky whether I'm fat or not, and being thin would be one less thing for me to have to think about. It certainly wouldn't be a cure-all, but it would make doctor's visits and clothes shopping easier.

This hits the nail on the head, Stacia!

As for the Brits, both times I was there, they were all very kind to me. It seems that many of them still want to thank us for engaging in WWII (as late as we were to do so).

My then-boyfriend John and I went to the UK in 1986. One Sunday, we attended a small church in High Ercall (I hope that I spelled that correctly). Before the service, the minister came out to chat with us and introduced us to the rest of the congregation during announcements. We were mobbed after the service. One woman, who must have been in her 80s, was so excited to meet us, she had tears in her eyes. We were the first Americans she had ever met.

dusty said...

I'm glad the Brits (or if having been from the U.S. or any where else) didn't make "asses" out of themselves like Marilyn seemed to want them to.

I liked it much better when the participants started to make friends and encourage each other...the two girls sitting on the deck, going for a swim and jumping off the high dive (all without Marilyn) was so much better then doing pointless and embarrassing stuff. (Synchronized swimming??? WTF?)

It must have been nice to be able to sit any where knowing you would fit and not being afraid the chairs would break. I do remember thinking (since they did say that their employees were all overweight) I should move there. I'd love have a job working on the beach as a bartender.

Anonymous said...

Was the stuff Marilyn was asking them to do really so awful? (I saw the special, so that's a rhetorical question). They're on vacation, they're not likely to ever see anyone there again...it would kill them to do a little synchronized swimming and sing a dumb song? Wasn't the whole idea to take yourself less seriously? And I get that they're on TV, but I'm sure they *agreed* to be on TV! I guess I think of it like those people on Wife Swap: why consent to be on the show if you're not going to follow the rules?

crystal said...

I saw the program and thought it was quite interesting. Am I the only one who was a little squicked out at seeing so many fat people in swimsuits? I mean, I'm fat, and I know and accept that, but it just seemed WEIRD to me to see so many really fat people walking around in bikinis. I guess that's the point of the resort, though...

Glib Gurl said...

Ooh, I will have to watch out for this show! I want to say "ditto" to two comments above -- one, that being thin would make my life easier in that there'd be one less thing to worry about in society and two, yeah, the show totally should've had Americans . . . .

Anonymous said...

As a counterpoint to the hogging article from a few posts ago, check this out from salon.com http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2006/06/22/big_love/

Anonymous said...

Large chick being fisted
http://toronto.craigslist.org/cas/174197102.html

Kate said...

Thanks for posting the URL to that Salon article. It made my day. (And made me very jealous of his wife.)

As for the fisting, ew, just.... ew.

stiffupperlip said...

I saw this ages ago when it was on British TV. The trouble was the woman was american. Very american. In fact, she embodied everything about americans that the rest of the world hates. She was loud, stupid, massively fat, obnoxious, idiotic, garishly dressed, overly emotional, arrogant, and infuriatingly annoying. So putting europeans, or anyone who isn't used to the spectacularly crass nature of americnas, was bound to be a damp squib. They should have found some similarly vast, stupid Californians and put them on the show if they wanted everyone to get along. But the real point of the programme wasn't this at all. It was intended to amuse British viewers by showing us that whereas in the UK people are rightly ashamed to be walking planetoids, in America there are people crazy enough to believe that morbid obesity is really just another form of empowerment, and good self-esteem is more important than having a fully functional heart. We don't have idiotic feel-good emotional crap for television in Britain; the idea behind the show was to have a laugh at the delusional and self-indulgent "philosophy" that has taken root with some americans.

littlem said...

"We don't have idiotic feel-good emotional crap for television in Britain"

Well, I've always enjoyed Bean and Ab Fab.
*smirk*

To "stiff" - you'll forgive me for not bothering with the rest of your supercilious, bloviated, over-generalizing post. Please remain in your little shell wherever you are - and don't come visit.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't call Ab Fab either feel-good or emotional...

Anonymous said...

Hey Stiff,

Suck on my big fat AMERICAN/CALIFORNIAN ASS.

Anonymous said...

hahah Kate..yeah, british people want to thank us for WW2. are you like 75 years old?

go to england like NOW, if you want to talk about english people.

and stiff upper lip is right (i'm american and live in europe).

i didn't see the show but i can perfectly picture some obese (and proud! ), loud, obnoxious idiot trying to get a bunch of reserved british people to do stupid american stuff.

how embarassing. british people are a lot more down to earth and are more comfortable not acting like total idiots.

stacia said...

They can thank me for WWII if they want, my dad fought in it ;) I'll be happy to take the credit for him! Heh.

As for Marilyn being "American"... well, sounds like she was being overbearing, loud, and obnoxious. Not "American". The most overbearing, loud, and obnoxious person I ever knew was a chem major in college who was from Britain. And there was no way you could sum him up as simply "British", because obnoxious comes in all sorts of nationalities. Only those interested in promoting lazy stereotypes aren't aware of this.

Kim said...

I too saw this show -- I thought it stunk...it wasn't done very well at all.

Anonymous said...

why are fat americans so funny? there is just a comedy twist to fat americans, remember the big breakfast when they did fat american tourists? lol very amusing.

the usa is making the world fat with their kfc, mcdonalds, burger kings, all usa companies, supersize was born in usa. they are spreading fatness to the rest of the world.

pepa said...

Marilyn Wann is someone that I admire for her fat acceptance philosophy. I think she's very intelligent and articulate, so... I really don't understand how she could have been duped into doing this program. Reality shows in general are an exercise in humiliation. Situations and people are set-up and manipulated and the scenes we get to watch are rarely "realistic". She should have known better.

pepa said...

Speaking of reality shows and different cultures, you know there's an Arab version of The Biggest Loser. I don't watch it regularly, but I've seen a few snippets in the past. It has the usual: blue vs red, making fatties do impossible exercises, tempting fatties with candy and sweets (Arab pastries), etc. On this version of Biggest Loser there's a lady that looks very sweet who cries often after the impossible and yes cruel demands of the show. And then there's the hottie trainer that I'm sure had no idea what he was getting into. When one of the fatties gets emotional on him in the gym he gets this look on his face that is priceless; the poor guy doesn't what to do with the sensitive fatty so he just listens in silence.

Kate said...

the usa is making the world fat with their kfc, mcdonalds, burger kings, all usa companies, supersize was born in usa.

Ah, yes, the only reason people get fat is eating supersized fast food and there we Americans are, holding guns to poor hapless citizens allaround the world. force-feeding them our evil trans-fats. It's all a diabolical plot towards world domination. MWAHAHAHA!!!

Beee said...

I wouldn't go to a resort like that if you paid me! I don't want to focus on my fat.. I want it to vanish :)

Tim said...

I just wanted to say how much I love fat girls in bikinis :) There, nuff said! there should be a resort like this in EVERY state so all BBW lovers can share in the enjoyment.

Anonymous said...

Whole thing sounds creepy - why not just put up a sign saying "fat women and feeder men welcome"? I always thought the line between "BBW lover" and feeder was WAY too blurry, this discussion just confirms that.

Anonymous said...

Just FYI for anyone who will still read these comments...

There is a BBW Network Bash in Vegas every year. I have never been myself, but some of my friends and aquaintances have. They keep going back every year so they must like it!

It's a chance for people to just relax and be themselves. So yes, there is a pool full of "fat chicks" in bikinis. There are also workshops and dances etc.

http://www.bbwnetwork.com/

There's the link.

andi

Neekeela said...

I've been watching this crazy brit show in WE (Women's Entertainment Network). I know, I should be ashamed, but I was on vacation. It was called Supersize Surgery and the episodes I saw dealt with this woman who lost 140 pounds after getting one of those bands, had surgery to remove the excess skin and had a boob job to lift her breasts. It was fascinating and expensive work. After all that, she was a size 10 and for the first time in almost 20 years, she was feeling great about herself and her body.

What amazed me about the show was how her family reacted--with fear and anger! They thought she had become 'too vain' and the kids (all skinny, attractive, blond teenagers) complained she didn't pay enough attention to them now that she was thin. It was such a jolt to see how this family in Britain had all these demands and needs and made no apologies or even realized how selfish they seemed. Maybe because I've been very heavy and now I'm merely chubby, but I think after 20 years of never fitting into clothes, feeling so unhappy, and spending all her time and energy caring for her kids and hubby, she deserves a little me-selfishness. I wonder if that is also an American thing--the acceptability of entitlement the once fat have to being vain even if it annoys.

buffpuff said...

...in the UK people are rightly ashamed to be walking planetoids

I do so hope you're still reading, Stiffupperlip – ignorant, supercilious, stereotype-foisting snob that you are.

I'm British; an unashamedly fat Londoner born and bred and living proof there are also folk on our side of the pond labouring under the self-indulgent delusion we are every bit as entitled to respect as our slender counterparts. Guess we'll have to agree to differ on that point.

In the mean time, with regard to your snooty assertion,"we don't have idiotic feel good emotional crap for television in Britain" – like hell we don't. We have exactly the same cheap, mindless, exploitative, rubbish TV as everybody else in the western world - Big Brother, Wifeswap, Faking It, Pop Idol and all the rest. The mere fact you even watched this programme in the first place negates your attempt to pull cultural or intellectual rank on anybody else here.

Now sod off and next time try picking on someone your own size.

ttiger said...

I have actually been to Freedom Paradise. My wife and I went in December of 2004.

First and foremost, let me say thank my lack of god that Marilyn wasn't there! I didn't see the show in question but I have to think they just brought her in for her. And, I also have to think that the show was designed and edited to show conflict and "humor." From what I've heard from people who know or have met Marilyn I believe she can be perfectly civilized when she wants to be. If she was playing up loud and proud I'd probably go hide in a corner!

Anyway, the showers and sturdy chairs and such were a big, big plus. But, the lack of any other guests, fat or otherwise, was a big drawback. We too would have enjoyed having other fat people or FAs to hang with. During our visit a few people did pass through. Some vaguely friendly (tight smiles, no annexations) Germans, if I remember correctly. I was not inclined to try my high school grade see German on them.

It is the lack of other guests that is the biggest problem with the place. First off, it's amazing they've lasted as long as they have with so few visitors. I suspect that in an effort to broaden their base by reducing their visitors' size they seem to have sanitized fat on their website. Now they speak only of a "respectful" environment. They used to have pictures of truly fat people on the site but now there are maybe one or two pictures of not so fat people that they seem to have missed in the cleansing process. It appears they are hoping to get the fat people on word of mouth and that any smaller visitors will get the hint to "respect" and not abuse any of the rounder visitors.

I don't know for sure why they didn't get more fat people down there. My guess is that a flight to Cancun is a bit more of a trek and expense than a lot of people can handle. Flight being a notable point because from most places that is one long flight in tiny little seats that don't respect fat butts! It’s much easier all around to get to a bash full of fat people in Vegas or Philly. The last Vegas bash I went to even had some Brits who’s butts were anything but tight…nice and round in fact…yum yum.

As far as the amenities of the resort, the entertainment and such: Don't count on it. I suspect nothing has changed in that regard. That is to say, they don't really offer much of it. They seem to have given themselves more wiggle room these days on just what is offered as far as restaurants. When we went they were still touting three restaurants to choose from. One was never open. The other two were not open at the same time. In fact, it was all the same place three meals a day, everyday, with the exception of one night when the other restaurant was open. That said; the food was mostly good. Yet and still, for variety we purposely didn't eat every meal there.

One last point: Cancun is the nearest big city and international airport; the resort is not located in Cancun. For us that was a plus. We really aren't the party ‘til ya puke beach lizard type. But, if that's what you want, Freedom Paradise is 90 miles down the crazy Mexican highway and not a party hot spot. Be warned.

In the end, I'll say that we had a good trip. Freedom Paradise was a decent enough place to stay and offered all we needed but it wasn't all we would have liked or what was promised. If we had expected it to be the end all and be our entire trip we would have been sorely disappointed.

If you'd like to see pictures and read more about our trip including lots more about Freedom Paradise please visit our website: www.ranchogordo.net

(I'm also sorry if it is bad form to leave a response that may be longer than the blogger's original post but I'm hoping it's OK since I think it's the only post from someone that's actually been there)

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