Thursday, February 11, 2016

Very Fat Protagonists

**This is not a debate of what's healthy.**
**Also note:  Fat men have more leeway and variety in novels.**

I'm a very fat woman.  It's a fact.  I hate the clinical term for being overweight, nor do I like to sugarcoat things; cats and blankets are fluffy, I'm fat.
And, because I'm human, I like reading books about people like me... at times.

Most novels out there that even contain "bigger" characters, refuse to make them larger than a size eighteen.  There's an unwritten rule somewhere about that magical size.  Beyond it, the story might not appeal to more general audiences.  Or, heaven help us all, we may have to really address the "weight issue" of the character.

And, the books with very fat protagonists (beyond size twenty-plus... in women's sizes) do address it... a lot.  The hero gets bullied (true in many cases).  The heroine obsesses about food and weight (possibly true for many real fat people).  But the books often dissolve into pity trips, weight-loss journeys, medical scares, etc.  They are also almost always literary or romance in genre.

The outcome for our very fat characters is eerily similar to one another.  While a size sixteen woman may (though no guarantee) learn to love her curves, get the guy, solve the mystery... the 300-plus pound woman either ends up losing the weight or dying before age fifty.  She's never happy with herself unless she's thin.  She never gets the guy while she's heavy.
It's unrealistic!  Every fat woman is single?  Every single person beyond age fifty is that glorious, mystical size eighteen or below?

In a country where the fatter you are, the less effective dieting is long-term, where over 83% (or so) of all diets fail, where over four percent are morbidly obese (there's that lovely, clinical term meaning over 100 pounds over a person's ideal weight)... it's ludicrous to not have stories about fat people making it through as fat people instead of sick people or skinny people trapped in fat bodies.
Fat people can be healthy.  Fat people can be desirable.  Fat people can be happy (though many aren't because of society saying discrimination towards them is acceptable because being fat is a "choice").

I understand novels are fiction.  I understand people have different tastes.
But, if authors take on very fat protagonists, they should make them less a stereotype of unhappy sickness, and more diverse.  Just like every other character.

Have you read books where the main character was fat?  If so, how heavy was he/she and what happened?


  1. Unfortunately, I think you're right that when a book has a fat female main character, that's what the story is about: her weight. I'd love to see more characters where "fat" can just be a characteristic, just like "tall" or "redheaded" or "Jewish" or "mean-spirited" and not be the defining trait of the character. I like to think I've written one (Helen in Going Through the Change), but I don't run across them in my reading very often at all.

    1. It would be great to have more than just "fat stories" with fat people. I'm not implying there aren't challenges when someone is heavy (especially how they are treated by others) but it seems like authors believe fat people have no ambitions, dreams beyond weight loss, etc.
      Oh, and a woman losing weight to snag a man is still way more common in books than it should be.

  2. I haven't read this yet, but have read great things about it. I'm not sure if it's what you have in mind, but perhaps worth a look? It's already on my TBR list...

    1. Huh, I've never heard of this, but the summary sounds good. Thanks for the recommendation.

  3. I'm working up an idea related to body image and tweens...keeping it light while also sending a good message is a HUGE challenge. I've struggled with weight my whole life and I know most women/girls do.

    1. We need more authors who treat fat people as more than pariahs or people who are rushing towards an early grave.

  4. I don't think I've read any books where the main character was overweight though many with secondary characters are. I so agree with you that overweight people can be healthy, happy and they can find love the same as the rest of us. I didn't know about the 'magic' size eighteen but now I'm going to pay attention.