So, I’d seen some GIFs floating around Tumblr from this show, My Mad Fat Diary, and it seemed intriguing, but like most things on the Internet, it wasn’t sourced or tagged, so I had no idea what it was. THANKS, INTERNET. Okay, this is clearly not the point. When Maya (ppyajunebug!) commissioned me to watch the pilot, I was excited! Well, that was partially because Maya wasn’t commissioning me to read something that would evaporate my soul within my body. (She’s responsible for me reading 50 Shades of Grey. THANKS. THANKS, MAYA.
Trigger Warning: It is impossible to talk about this show without talking about fatphobia and body image issues. This post all the others I do on it will have this warning.
- While I’ve mentioned things here and there, by and large there hasn’t been much talk of body image or weight in the Mark Does Stuff world. It’s a topic that makes me uncomfortable, so much so that I have never been able to have the courage to do so. I am particularly unmotivated to ever bring it up because it’s one of the few things I can’t seem to feel good about. I grew up as skinny kid who couldn’t gain weight or bulk up like all my friends were, despite that I worked out. My clothes never fit right, and I hated it. Add in a whole bunch of self-hatred because of being gay, and lord… A MAELSTROM OF AWFUL.
- And then I got to college and my body suddenly decided to gain weight. Initially, I was excited! Finally, I could actually fill the clothes I was wearing!
- And then I kept gaining weight.
- And then it didn’t stop.
- And then I was 120 pounds heavier than I was as a senior, and I was in a new city, and I was trying to date for the first time, and I discovered that the gay community in Long Beach had very little interest in an “overweight” brown dude. (Let’s just dispel this notion that you can effectively deem someone “overweight.” It’s 100% bullshit. I am currently 208 pounds, and that’s technically overweight based on my height, age, and that arcane BMI. I can run faster than most people, and I’m damn quick on a bike. I’m in excellent cardiovascular shape, and I work out often. But because I don’t have under 10% body fat, I get called all sorts of names, people don’t take me seriously, and I’ve had folks concern troll me because they think I’m “unhealthy.” Hey. Fuck you.)
- I had a lot of self-image issues growing up – many that manifest in My Mad Fat Diary in horrifying detail – but the last ten years have been the worst. Despite that I haven’t been in better shape since I was in high school, I still struggle with painful and self-deprecating hatred. That’s one of the things that struck me about “Big Wide World” initially. This show does a stellar job of conveying just how mystifying body image issues are. For me, I often feel like Rae does here. I simply don’t understand people. I don’t understand how other people can seemingly eat whatever they want without gaining weight. I can’t do that. My metabolism disappeared around the time I was 20, and if I don’t work out six or seven days a week, I gain weight quickly. I hate it, especially because I know I treat my body well. Despite this, I still have (what my last doctor called) an “unsightly and unnecessary amount of fat” in my torso. I can’t make it go away.
- That’s why there aren’t many photos of me from the last ten years. I’ve only recently discovered ways to make myself okay with having my photo taken. God, CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE POWER OF CLOTHES? I mean, I hate them. I have never fit in clothes in any “normal” sense. My body is not shaped the same way that clothes are made. Shirts, pants especially, underwear, shorts, anything really – none of it fits me the way it is apparently supposed to. Which obviously doesn’t help me feel better about my body! I feel like an alien in department stores. I see so many things that look cute or fit my own personal style I’d like to have, and then I try them on, and they’re either so tight I can’t wear them, or they are so oversized and baggy that I look silly. It wasn’t until just a couple years ago that I found jeans that fit me. I’m serious. Ask any of my friends from Los Angeles. I don’t think many of them ever saw me in anything but shorts! But when I finally got better at learning how to fit things for myself and wear “nice” things, it actually made me feel better. Not perfect, obviously, and I know it’s going to take a lot for me to accept myself, but it helped, you know?
- It’s hard being in a place like San Francisco and being gay and not thin or bulky and muscular. It’s not that Los Angeles was any better. I would rarely go out to clubs or to dance because I felt like I could never belong. I didn’t look like any of these people, and I felt like everyone was staring at me, making fun of my appearance, making snide comments to one another about how hideous I was. Oh god, I have been in so many situations like the one Rae was in after Chloe set off the smoke alarm in that shop. Yeah, I also used to swim with a shirt on. I swear. It’s only been something I changed within the last two years. So while I’m not as big as Rae, I understand the shame and terror of what it’s like to feel as if swimming is a death sentence.
- Ultimately, this is why I liked the pilot episode of My Mad Fat Diary the most, but don’t think it’s the only thing this show has going for it. It is uniquely realistic about what it’s like to be someone like Rae in this world. That realism permeates every scene of “Big Wide World.” But this show is stylistically stunning, too! I love the way that the words from Rae’s diary appear on the screen as an animation over the live action. I love that it’s all framed as a diary. The acting is perfect.
- It’s also very hard to watch. I admit that it’s difficult to see your fears and your terrors spelled out so explicitly like this. It’s all there, and I realized that suddenly, other folks would know what this experience was like, how humiliating and painful it is, and… well, that might prove to be a good thing. I hope.
- All said, this was a great first episode. The next two episodes have been commissioned, and they’re both on the Master Schedule! I’m interested to see if Rae can make a breakthrough with Dr. Gill, if she can further repair her relationship with her mother, or if she can truly become friends with the gang. Also, Rae has fabulous taste in music. Seriously!
Thanks for getting me to watch this, Maya. I think I needed it.
Mark Links Stuff
- I am now on tour!!! I have 26 events spread out across the eastern HALF of the U.S. and Canada. They are all free and all-ages. Come see speak about the Mark Does Stuff Universe and read terrible fanfiction live!
- Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now published and available for purchase! It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
- Commissions are still open while I am on tour! There may be a day or two delay to get them done, but I am accepting them graciously to help fund my tour!
- Nominate me for a Hugo award in fan writer or Dramatic Presentation – Short Form!