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.