“I Wanna Be Fat”: Healthism and Fat Politics in TLC’s My Big Fat Fabulous Life


  • Evangelia Kindinger Ruhr-Universität Bochum




reality TV, neoliberalism, fatness, My Big Fat Fabulous Life


American reality TV has for a long time staged fat bodies in exaggerated and voyeuristic ways. The aim of such programs is to tell cautionary tales about the supposedly disastrous effects of fatness for the individual and society. The fat body needs to change, or be controlled in order to function fully in a capitalist society. One series that interrupts this narrative is TLC’s My Big Fat Fabulous Life (2015-); the title suggests that this narrative is not one of misery and regret, but of joy – certainly an unusual take on fatness in reality TV. It stars Whitney Thore, a woman who claims to be body positive, and who advertises fat politics; politics inspired by fat studies and activism. These clash with the healthist, neoliberal ideology circulated in reality TV. While she announces that she is proud to be fat, her friends and family are constantly shown challenging her. The series thus sends contradicting messages: unable to fully commit to fat and body positivity, it stages Thore’s health problems in a spectacular way and thus undermines the successes and triumphs she experiences as fat role model.