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Glee: Mercedes + the Bout of Negative Body Image

Now, I avoided Glee for a long time. For some reason I had it stuck in my mind that it was kind of a lame show (I KNOW), and really not worth watching. I cannot believe that I ever felt this way. I started watching it and then, slowly realized that every freaking episode ended with me completely beside myself, covered in goosebumps from head to toe, losing my mind with happiness.

From a personal perspective – I love this show because its cute, I like the kids, and the music/dancing is FUN. From a Medicinal Marzipan perspective – I think that this show has a unique ability to address important cultural hot topics in a very sanitized and safe way, thereby sneaking it under the radar while still getting its point across. The show quickly covers its bases by having a representative glee member for different cultural/racial/sexual orientations. This is smart, because there is naturally a character for most people to identify with. And then there was last week’s sex positive message, the fact that Quinn (♥♥♥) is pregnant because she broke her chastity vow, and the teenage characters are not always making the “right” decisions – which seems groundbreaking, especially for Fox network.

Now, I all over my twitterfeed, people were discussing this week’s episode and Mercedes’ sudden body image battle. [Note that I waiting until today to post this, giving all you gleeks time to tune in before I busted up your reader with Glee spoilers.] The 30 second summary is this: After expanding her performance base to include the cheerios in last week’s episode, the usually body positive and rocking fat acceptance role model Mercedes is told that she has to lose 10 pounds and squeeze her way in to a cheer leading uniform in one week. Mercedes succumbs to this pressure uncharacteristically fast, goes on a basic starvation diet, begins seeing her friends as food, passes out, gets a pep talk from Quinn about not subscribing to the cultural thin standard of femininity, gets re-awesome and performs a kick-ass rendition of Christina’s “Beautiful” to a standing ovation.

Got it? Now people are having problems with this: Mercedes’ fall from body positivity was fast and hard. She suddenly started starving herself and attempting to fit in. They think that this episode read like a public service announcement, and that it was cheesy. To this, I say: It is hard to be a fat girl. No matter how much you tell yourself how sexy, talented, amazing, worthy, fabulous, and genius you are, there is a pretty serious backlash that you are facing – on a minute by minute basis. And, I’ll tell you, I consider myself pretty tough and persistently body positive, but it is not easy to be kick-ass all the time. Especially when someone tells you point blank to your fact that you are fat and you need to lose weight or you will… (insert really scary reason here – usually culminating in the fact that you will be fat, alone, and unlovable until you lose some weight).

And I absolutely guarantee that inside every phenomenal kick-ass fat positive role model is the tiniest inkling of doubt and fear, and every once and a while, when you are feeling a little vulnerable, even the toughest, most awesome girl can be tripped up, even if they refuse to admit it. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that I believe this so wholeheartedly – anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. This is not to say that we should just succumb to the cultural standards and get all weak in our knees when someone calls us fat – we will keep fighting and loving ourselves no matter what and becoming role models for other women to follow in our example, BUT there has to be some room for honesty in the equation. And honestly? It is not always easy to be a Body Image Warrior.

But, they brought it all around in the end, tied a nice pink ribbon on it and left us with a body positive message, and that folks, is what I love about television.

What do you think? Was this cheesy? Do you agree/disagree? How do you keep up loving yourself no matter what even in the face of adversity?

13 Comments to Glee: Mercedes + the Bout of Negative Body Image

  1. May 3, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I absolutely love Glee! And I have no problem with the cheesy aspect of the body positive message. That’s kind of their thing – it’s like an after-school special with an irreverent twist. I think many people will get something good from it. And to see a normally body positive girl succumb to the pressure almost out of nowhere isn’t unrealistic at all. We all have had our moments and sometimes we have to go through these things to realize how ridiculous it is. My hope is that it will save some teen girls from having to go through this hell themselves and skip right to the “happy with myself” space. A girl can dream!
    .-= Healthy Amelia´s last blog ..Step by Step =-.

  2. May 3, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    I love Glee! It is the best show! I’ve also blogged about it. Check it out when you can! Gleeks for life!
    .-= Ashley´s last blog ..Can I have your Autograph? =-.

  3. May 3, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    I loved this episode, not only for that angle, but because it had some truly sad moments, and like the show it is- it handled them with grace and aplomb. I love Mercedes and hope they keep her character as is, but just Camryn Manheim shouted “This is for all the fat girls” only to triumph her weight loss a couple of years later, my concern is for the actress not the character. Will the actress be able to love her body in place like Hollywood and live up to the high standard that Mercedes set, or are we in for another 1-800-Jenny spokesperson in a few months?

    By the way- I am a total Gleek!
    .-= Amy Phillips´s last blog ..Who Googles That? =-.

  4. FLG's Gravatar FLG
    May 3, 2010 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Kinda cheesy, but that’s what Glee is :D But like you said, no less true. But yeah, Glee is awesome.

    I don’t keep up loving myself, which isn’t good, but it’s true. That’s why I haven’t signed on to be a Body Image Warrior. I don’t think I am one.
    .-= FLG´s last blog ..Things =-.

  5. May 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    i STILL have not seen Glee! Not to worry, though! The Mister promised we can start with season 1 and watch them all this summer ;)
    .-= shannon (the daily balance)´s last blog ..Daily Delish – Lemon Flounder =-.

  6. May 4, 2010 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    I love your honesty. And I love Glee. Wouldn’t it be great if people like Betty Suarez (Ugly Betty), Mercedes (Glee) and Niecy Nash helped us all learn how to love ourselves more?

    P.S. I’d like to declare war on the words “fat” and “cellulite.” I think they should be banned – especially from advertising.

  7. May 4, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    I think I’m still going to pass on Glee. The singing is just not for me. I watch about 5 minutes and must switch. So I don’t know how legit my comment is in response to Glee-specifics. But I feel like even the “bigger” celebrities are super self-conscious even though they may preach the love your body message. Jessica Simpson, Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson. As much as they love their bodies and try to display kick ass every day, I’m sure it gets to them, probably even more so that they’re always in the public eye. I think what matters is that they try to seek out their inner beauty. Beyonce’s also got tremendous support from Jay-Z (who is just awesome). They look at things aside from their weight to define who they are, and I think that’s what we all need to do.

    So I might not be at my goal weight now, or ever, but I’ll sure as hell work hard towards it. Not because I feel like I need to lose weight, but because there are things that I’m loving and discovering on this journey (running, cycling, swimming, oatmeal). I keep loving myself by realizing that I can’t be perfect, but I’ll be the best Jess that I can be. And the best Jess is not defined by weight but by what she does.
    .-= Jess´s last blog ..The Matrix Guide to Running =-.

  8. Confused's Gravatar Confused
    May 8, 2010 at 12:23 am | Permalink

    “And then there was last week’s sex positive message, the fact that Quinn (♥♥♥) is pregnant because she broke her chastity vow”

    What exactly is “sex positive” about becoming a Mom in high school?????

  9. Confused's Gravatar Confused
    May 13, 2010 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    “However, she displays unwaivering integrity and grace, and is making the best out of her situation. ”

    OK, I don’t have a TV… but… I found some youtube videos of the show as well as reviews and appearantly this character has lied and pinned the pregnancy on her boyfriend, (whom she did not have sex with?) but the baby is really HIS FRIEND’s, whom she cheated on him with.

    In loo of that…. where’s this “integrity and grace” you speak of?

  1. By on July 7, 2012 at 4:18 pm

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I’m Mara Glatzel. I’m an intuitive coach and writer. I guide women home to themselves and teach them to create lives brimming with supreme self-care. read more
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