Glee: Mercedes + the Bout of Negative Body Image

May 03, 2010

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?