First of all, all women who are not imaginary are “real women.” Five feet tall or six feet tall, ninety pounds or three-hundred pounds. Are they real? Are they women? Then they are, in fact, real women.
Okay, now that that is out of the way, I want to talk about women on television. On 30 Rock, Jack Donaghy insists at one point that a female character who has gained weight needs to either immediately lose 30 pounds or gain 60—anything in between “has no place on television.” It’s a funny line, because it’s a funny show. But I think that we all know what he was talking about.
No matter how beautiful they might be, women in television tend to be wedged into certain body-shapes, particularly if the audience is supposed to believe that they are attractive. Oh, the exact size of the actress’ clothing might change—there is a range (a range that often increases during times of economic struggle, oddly enough—remember the “top-heavy” models of the early 1980s?). Think about, say, Penny from The Big Bang Theory (a show which could get its own ranting post for a number of reasons).
There are some key examples that are wonderful deviations from this type while remaining beautiful. Did you guys watch Dollhouse, one of the best shows ever made (and, in particular, the best thing that Joss Whedon has every done—which is saying quite a lot)? Eliza Dushku and Dichen Lachman certainly fit the bill for the particular type of stunning beauty that we are accustomed to seeing on television. And, to be clear, there is nothing wrong with that. These are beautiful women. Were I sexually interested in women, that would almost certainly be my preferred body-type. But do you know who else was on that show and gorgeous? Miracle Laurie. She is so pretty, you guys. And she is definitely not fat. But she is definitely not slender, either. Still gorgeous. I love that she was on television, and on television playing …
… a beautiful woman who slept with one of the main male characters.
A less dramatic example is someone new to the cast of The Vampire Diaries this season (season four). Gracie Phipps is a gorgeous actress, and she plays April Young. She is not fat, or even heavy, but she is curvier than we often see on television—particularly than people whom we expect to see playing teenagers on television (I mean, I do not think that anyone is surprised to see the stunning Kat Dennings on 2 Broke Girls, but she is not playing a high school student). And The Vampire Diaries is a show with beautiful and very slender actresses like Candice Accola, Kat Graham, and Nina Dobrev—Nina Dobrev being, in my humble, objectively correct opinion, the most beautiful female human to ever live. Now, Gracie Phipps is not on that show to be a role model to overweight viewers—she would do a poor job at that, I think, given that she is not overweight in the slightest. But she might help some people to expand their ideas of what is and is not beautiful. And that is refreshing. There are so many beautiful skin tones, body-types, and faces in the world.
Now, let’s be clear—what I am talking about is not fat-worship. I am not one of those people who thinks that being attracted to Marilyn Monroe makes a person morally superior to someone who is attracted to Victoria Justice (in fact, I had some very unkind things to say about Marilyn Monroe when I was ten years old and first saw her in a film). You are attracted to, well, people who fit your type. Someone, somewhere might find Honey Boo Boo’s mother attractive, and I have nothing polite to say about that so I shall refrain from commenting further. A lot of teens are just figuring out the sorts of people whom they find attractive, and television is a great way to introduce them to the diverse array of beautiful humans that the world can offer.
PS: I am so not only interested in this for girls. In fact, I am much more invested in seeing this with guys. A lot of the time, a particular casting director has a type and everyone on a given show goes with it. The casting director for Once Upon A Time obviously like handsome thirty-ish men who are somewhat beardy. This is not my type at all, but there are still a couple of male hotties on the show. Or The Vampire Diaries tends to cast guys who are not just very attractive, but have reasonably buff builds (Abercrombie model builds) and short hair. This is so not the only attractive figure for guys. Where are my hot skinny guys? Where are the guys with really good hair (after season one, Steven R McQueen loses his good hair and never gets it back)? I mean, I’m not saying that they have to cast Avan Jogia—The Most Beautiful Man In The World—but a little more physical diversity among future cast members would be neat. Not that everyone on the show so far is not good-looking. I mean, even the moms on that show are hot.