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BLOG | Creating a better obesity landscape: Small or big screen, perception matters

NewsBLOG | Creating a better obesity landscape: Small or big screen, perception matters

Creating a better obesity landscape: Small or Big screen, perception matters

Author: Kevin Scott, World Obesity Federation

Last month we looked at how language can affect not only other people’s perception, but also an individual’s perception of self.

We are all culpable when it comes to language and can do our part to influence change. Something that is out of our hands and has a major impact on the way people view weight and size, is the Medias portrayal through film and television.

In the majority of cases, whenever individuals affected by excess weight or obesity are depicted, they are the source of humour or ridicule.

If we think about it, I’m sure everyone can list more than a handful of films or television shows that do this.

Rebel Wilson in the ‘Pitch Perfect’ series instantly comes to mind and a running joke throughout ‘Spy’, was the weight and appearance of Melissa McCarthy’s character. ‘Little Britain’ had numerous characters affected by excess weight, that they maligned. Peter Griffin from ‘Family Guy’ and Homer from ‘The Simpsons’ are the focus of a lot of the jokes for both shows.

There are many more examples that could be used, but I think the point is clear. We need to get away from what I call the ‘Friends Syndrome’. This is playing to the lowest IQ and giving people a non-diverse, stereotypical depiction of society.

The film and television industries can change this perpetual downward spiral. As with diversity as a whole, to avoid weight-based stereotyping, actors & actresses need to be given roles that give them more breadth to show themselves as dimensional characters.

If you take ‘Samantha Who?’ as an example, when Christina Applegate plays Dena and Melissa McCarthy plays Samantha, that is when we know things are taking a turn for the better.

It does go beyond this though, as we need the advertising world to make the change along with film and television. Otherwise negative perception will remain.

Adverts for fragrances, jewellery and luxury items are all the same. We only really see individuals affected by excess weight, in plus size clothing ads. Or the jovial Dad in a family holiday ad.

We see advertisements all the time and they feed into the subconscious. So if they adopted a non- stereotypical depiction of society as well, then our moving media could be three dimensional in the sense of diverse representation.

Helpful documents 

Guidelines for Media Portrayals of Individuals Affected by Obesity

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