Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Fat Best Friend...And Buffy. Yep, the Vampire Slayer.

"The fat best friend" as a stereotype is alive and well in this country but not on our televisions.

As someone who has filled the role of fat best friend for her whole life, I can tell you from experience it is not just a stereotype, but a reality. When the FBF is best friends with another girl, she fills the role of someone who will always be there because she doesn't have a life of her own, someone to talk about boy problems with because she doesn't have a boyfriend of her own, someone to shop with even though she can't buy clothes from the same store you can, and someone who will always be there because where else is she going to be? When the FBF is best friends with a guy, she fills the role as a de-feminized girl, someone you can talk to like another guy but who somehow magically knows about women. Someone who will be a standby date if nothing else pans out. Someone who you never think about in "that way".

Yeah, I sound bitter. Because I am.

I talked to a friend from college yesterday who I have not spoken to in nearly three years. She had been trying to get ahold of me for months but I just never had the energy to engage her in a conversation. But yesterday I picked up when she called and she told me all about her boy problems and how she has gained so much weight and how all of her friends were either married or in couples and how she blamed her singleness on her recent weight gain. And she never once asked me if I was seeing someone. She just wanted me to commiserate with her weight gain and loneliness. Because that it how she will forever see me. Fat and alone.

I racked my brain trying to come up with examples of the fat best friend on television. I came up with Natalie on the Facts of Life and Carmen on Popular. I am guessing there must be more, but I can't think of any right now. (Maybe you guys can think of some). Because the American public doesn't want to see fat people on Television.

But everyone knows that. "TV fat" is when size 8's are made to seem obese next to the size 2 stars, and that is the representation of fat people we get as a reflection of ourselves on television. But I wouldn't have even bothered to write this post if I hadn't stumbled across a clip on youtube (shown below).

I am outing myself right now as a closeted fan of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. That's right. I'm a huge Buffy enthusiast. Pun intended. I enjoyed seven years worth of slaying, sarcasm, friendship, apocalypses, and hot vampire sex. But I never knew that Willow, Buffy's best friend was originally supposed to be a fat best friend. Sure, she was only TV fat, but she was fat none the less.

I am totally disappointed with Joss Whedon. I really think he could have kept Willow as a chubby girl and made her character even more complex and interesting. Sure, there was nothing great about the girl in the Pilot, but Joss could have stuck with the concept and shopped around for a different better chunky Willow. And to those of you who are huge Alyson Hannigan fans, I have nothing against her. I just like to watch fat people on TV and Alyson's Willow is as wispy as they come.

I know it's strange that I am simultaneously complaining about how much I hate what the role of fat best friend means while at the same time promoting the idea of having more FBF's on television, but I don't think it has to be a contradiction. Joss could have written chubby Willow to have her own storylines. Her own boyfriends and/or girlfriends. Chubby Willow could have been amazing. But she never had the chance.

38 comments:

Robb said...

Oh em gee! You also enjoy Buffy? This is truly a friendship made in heaven, I assure you. Buffy is my all-time favorite show, and Joss Whedon is the one who convinced me to major in Television Productions and Screenwriting. Anyways, yes. That was awesome.

A few weeks ago, I too discovered the original pilot episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Regan Riff, the larger and original Willow, was quite a shock to me. It isn't that I think the fat plot bothered them at all, it was a nifty concept in itself, it's another thing. Regan Riff can't act to save her life. And they switched actors because of that fact. Sad, I know, that the best actor in auditions was thin, forcing Joss to re-write her personality a little, for a thinner gal.

Still, go back and check out Regan's acting just once more. Then think: could you picture that chick going all lesbian and evil later on? :|

As Buffy would say: "Deal with that outfit for a minute." She's straight outta the 50's! Very pleasantville. Very creepy. XD

Buffy and a fatty lover said...

Whichever one of you wrote this
--->Can we be friends in real life?

I think we would get a long.

And I think I may love you.

Buffbuff said...

Yep, another shameless Buffyholic here.

I knew Willow had originally been cast as a fat girl but only recentlysaw the documentary evidence on youtube – and have to say I feel torn. Because much as I agree with our webmistress and would love to have seen Fat Willow, (which would have been perfectly in keeping with Buffy's band of misfits), I also agree with Robb that Regan Riff just isn't as good an actress as Alyson Hannigan.

But yeah, we live in a world chockfull o' fat people and it's really time TV and the movies reflected that.

Anonymous said...

WHERE DID KATE GO?

BRING KATE BACK NOW!

Anonymous said...

How about "sookie" on Gilmore Girls? She might not count since she found someone in the later episodes.
There was also Lesley Boone who was Molly Hudson on "Ed".

fatty mcgee said...

Sookie on GG is a perfect example of a FBF!

Sookie even yelled at Lorelai once because Lorelai was rude and said she wouldn't understand something because she never had any relationships of her own.

Anonymous said...

I'm a massive (har har) Buffy fan as well! Let alone a fat best friend, how many fat people are there on Buffy in the first place?

The only ones I can think of are two vampire cannon-fodder types: one of the southern vampire brothers involved in hunting Cordy and Buffy on Prom night; and one of the female hench-vampires in the college. Were there any others?

Lovely quote from Buffy. Try it in real life!

"Does this skirt make my ass look big?"
"No, your fat ass makes your ass look big".

Heather said...

I am very thankful that my BFF is someone who I've known since the 9th grade (when we were both a size 6). So even though I am now a size 16, I know that our friendship has nothing to do with weight!

Anonymous said...

There are a lot of male FBFs on TV, but the dynamic is different (obviously): George Costanza, the Skipper, Al on "Home Improvement," Denny Crane on "Boston Legal," Jeff Garlin on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Seth Rogen on "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared," Hurley on "Lost," Randy on "My Name is Earl," etc.

It really bugs me when male comedians trot out the stereotype of the female FBF who's a cock-blocker. I have never, ever seen that happen!

Anonymous said...

That was really depressing.
I am totally the fat best friend.
And it sucks.

Emily said...

Lindsey,

What does that make us? Are we our own fat best friend?

Emily

Buffpuff said...

I have to say I don't think anyone's ever chosen to be friends with me because they reckoned I made them look good. I think it helps that most of my female friends are the kind of women who actually like other women though. My het male friends though - yeah, I think they do view me as de-feminised sometimes. But then I think they view any woman they don't actually fancy that way, size notwithstanding. And even then it's only a problem if you'd like the friendship to be more.

I always wanted an FBF of my own so we could go shopping together (and, y'know, bitch about thin supremacism), but up until relatively recently, most of the fat girls I met ended up not being my kind of people at all. Here's the thing: choose your friends because they like doing the same kind of stuff, watching the same kinds of movies, reading the same kinds of books and lusting after the same celebrities etc as you do. Then it won't matter a monkey's what they - or you - look like.

Anonymous said...

You know what else the FBF does? She holds the purses and watches the drinks while the cute and fuzzy bunnies meet/flirt with guys. I'm the one saving the table while they're shaking their asses on the dance floor. And when I tell them I'm coming to dance or don't like being invited out only to be ingored they act as if I'm from another planet.

bloomie said...

Sookie is totally the FBF, but what I love, love, LOVE about the GG is the preponderence of fat, female characters who have sex lives. There's Sookie and Jackson, Babette and Morey and Ms. Patty, and well what seems like many, many, many men around the world. Lots of lovely fat ladies on tv...AND they have love lives, get married, have babies and in the case of Sookie have rockin wardrobes.

Life as we Know it which lasted longer in the UK than it did in the US and which I loved featured Kelly Osborne as the "fat" friend. Her boy friends friends even teased him about her size, but he had a voiceover where he talks about how much he loved her body.

And...I just looked a ton of shows over on televisionwithoutpity.com and it seems as if those are the only shows with the FBF. Aaah! How crazy!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Robb. As a Joss fan, I fely compelled to defend his decision to re-cast Willow, but now I don't have to. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Robb. As a Joss fan, I fely compelled to defend his decision to re-cast Willow, but now I don't have to. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh. You totally hit the fat best friend on the head--helping your thin friends shop, listening to them about their guy problems, always being the fun friend to your guy friends but never having any possibility of being more. Wow. Just, wow.

Being the fat best friend blows hardcore. WTF?!

erica said...

Yeah, the FBF thing sucks.
There aren't a lot of cool FBFs on tv, but I echo what was said about Sookie above. I also loved Molly on "Ed"- even though she was primarily there to boost stupid Carol Vessey's ego, she also had relationships of her own. If I remember correctly, there was even a storyline where she was tempted to cheat (or did cheat, I forget) on her very nice boyfriend who loved her very much with another guy who really liked her. Who knew fat girls could have more than one person attracted to them?[/sarcasm]

emily pound said...

anonymous 12:56, you are so right. If I had a nickel for every time I sat and watched while my friends had a ball and got all the guys, I'd be a friggin' millionaire.

Anonymous said...

I used to get off work at midnight. There's a lot of really bad television on at midnight. What I'm geting at is dating shows.
There was one that comes to mind where the frat boy type guy was talking about "the DUFF", or "Designated Ugly Fat Friend". According to him, if he goes and hits on a girl and she doesn't like him, she will try to push him off on "the DUFF". It sounded like crap at the time but now I'm wondering if some girls might actually invite their FBF along for this very reason.

Anonymous said...

Look, all of you who have thin friends who treat you like shit...well, why are you friends with those people? Just because you knew someone in HS or college doesn't mean you have to spend every weekend holding their purse at a nightclub.

Take a class or join a club or volunteer or something. Meet new people! I am fat and NONE of my friends treat me like a sexless loser.

Buffpuff said...

Yep. What she just said.

littlem said...

>"Look, all of you who have thin friends who treat you like shit...well, why are you friends with those people?"

Co-sign, Buff and Anon 8:07.

Mindy Cohn is producing now. FBF revenge IMO.

Anonymous said...

There is a power dynamic you all are missing.

Anon, Buffpuff, and littlem are all wrong I am betting. When was the last time one of those "friends" set you up on a date? FBF are not on the same level as reglar friends. You are kidding yourselfs.

Sheila said...

Okay, but what if you're on the thinner side -- no swimsuit model, but single-digit sizes -- and you happen to have a friend who is smart and funny and kind and a terrific person, and also fat? My friend does have a life of her own; she doesn't have a boyfriend, but she has a life, and I'd be thrilled if someone loved her even more than I do. We could dish about boys together. So, should she not be a close friend of mine because that makes her the FBF?

buffpuff said...

Anon at 10.11, sorry to burst your bubble but I'm afraid I can indeed boast generous friends with matchmaking tendencies. I can also assure you I've never minded my pals' drinks in a club while they were getting their groove on down on the dance floor. We came to dance and dance we did. All of us. By the way, got any friends who'll still be there for you if and when the lover moves on? Or do you all dump each other the moment you relinquish single status?

Sheila, you sound like a great mate to me. True friendships are not predicated on size. And true friendships are, in my view, the only ones worth having.

Anon 8:07 said...

Anon 10:11, I think I'm just feeding the troll here, but...

I've been in a relationship for 6 years, so nobody's set me up in a while. But I've been set up by friends before (and I was fat at the time), and I've set my fat friends up at least twice that I can remember.

But honestly, who relies on their friends to set them up anymore? Almost everyone I know uses the internet to find people to knock boots/go on dates with.

elainebenes said...

how about chunk from the movie the goonies? all he talked about was food. i also noticed a fbf on the show "stacked" w/ pamela anderson. peter on the cosby show.... he was TOTALLY the fbf. kathy najimy on veronica's closet (w/ kirstie alley when she was thinner).
and what's worse about this whole phenomenon is that not only are the friends fat, but they almost always make the character unbelievably annoying.

elainebenes said...

check this out - could this be the next big movement???

http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/europe/09/13/spain.models/index.html

Anonymous said...

I actually thought they did such a good job with the Marisa Janet Winokur FBF character on "Stacked" that I wished the show was better so people would actually watch it.

G. said...

What about Fat Friends?! Its a great series-really funny, successful and true to real life. It was on ITV1 in the UK.
Somehow I doubt it would be shown in the US.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0264246/

Anonymous said...

I love fat friends! I'm not overweight myself, but it was good because it treated fat as a peripheral issue as opposed to something that dominated the character's lives, and was really upbeat as well. In fact, the only one I can remember being terminally unhappy with her size was the bulimic fat fighters leader, and she wasn't very pretty either. Round of applause to fat friends!

littlem said...

Well, 10:11, for one of my good friends - with taste you lack, I might add - to set me up on a date, as most of them know my significant other quite well, would be most tacky.

But I wouldn't think you would be aware of those gradations of good manners.

So please take "yourselfs" out of the conversation.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this is out of the ordinary but maybe you are playing on steorotypes. My two best friends are fat, and I am not. I am the one without a boyfriend, I am the virgin, I am the one hearing their boyfriend problems. Because I am the shy one. They are really outgoing and much more comfortable around boys. They just dont let the fact they are fat stop them.

Dolley said...

Word to Bloomie! I thought Kelly osbourne was so cute on Life As We Know It. Cute and acute, as well. Now, Kelly Osbourne would have been a rockin' Best Friend Willow to Buffy - except, that if Kelly Osborne was Willow, I wouldn't have been rooting for her to get killed in that one cr@ppy story arc.

Friggas Own said...

FBF's on American TV: I didn't watch the show Ed when it ran so I don't know who the characters are, but there was a thin woman/fat best friend on there. The FBF even railed against the thin woman for how she was being treated.

The Practice, where Lara Flynn Boyle's character was the thin friend, Kelli Williams played her fat friend, and the gorgeous Camryn Manheim was the ultimate fat friend. Camryn should never play that role, she's so sexy and confident, whatever show or movie she's in the supporting actress should have to play "The Thin Best Friend", who's too obsessed with dieting to hold down a boyfriend while Camryn goes out with a new guy every week.

Mindblowingly dumb as it was The Parkers broke the fat-woman-role mode by having a completely confident and sexy woman with a fat friend who was also confident and sexy, just a bit more grounded. Well ok, the friend was thinner and got fewer dates. I love how Nikki Parker never sat at home obsessing over whether or not she should lose weight to be more attractive to the Professor. It wasn't a particularly good show but it could have been worse.

Beyond that, I can't really think of the fat friend on TV. It could be because I watch a lot of cop shows with ensemble casts, and it's sad that when they go to pick a new cast member they don't ever find a big woman to fill the role. (Law & Order, I'm looking at you. Why have all the assistant district attorneys been supermodels?)

It was nice to see Willow become more than an akward hanger-on in Buffy, the first few seasons were painful to watch as Willow's character got consumed in Buffy's shadow.

Anonymous said...

I'm a fat best friend too... you summed it up perfectly. I think I'm going to read this blog regularly.

osmodiar said...

Sookie is especially awesome because she acts and dresses like a fat woman who loves herself, not like a woman who wishes she was skinny.
Also, what's up with fat people on TV being played by skinny people in makeup, like on Friends and in Hairspray. What, you just couldn't find any fat people who could sing? What's next, blackface?