If one is to believe that Hollywood truly pays attention to the desires of its audience and explores those authentic nuances on film, then one has to believe that no one is ever in love with — or attracted to — an overweight, black woman.

Never.

White filmmakers have ignored her, while their black counterparts, such as Tyler Perry, Eddie Murphy, and Martin Lawrence, have ridiculed her to make millions. Ironically, in the real world these same men are romantically entangled with women who are the direct opposite in many respects. Regardless of how much producers and directors attempt to disguise the “Mammy-Jezebel-Sapphire” trifecta, loud, over-sexed, emasculating and sassy still dwell at the core of how black women are perceived. And as long as we live within those images, or as caricatures of what white America believes us to be, then we are deemed safe for consumption by the masses and the lack of physical diversity in films continues to go unaddressed.

One could argue that there are no overweight, black women cast as desirable, love interests in film because many of us find that unbelievable, and if we find it unbelievable, then Hollywood finds it unmarketable — and the very real love stories of overweight, black women continue to go untold. More to the point, many of us have the audacity to be offended at the sight of an overweight, black woman on screen because deep-down there is a tug of shame, a fear that seeing her on screen will reinforce untrue stereotypes that all black women are overweight — and obesity, for many people, is synonymous with undesirable. Unlovable.

Oh, we scream sisterhood and solidarity, but how many of us paid money — repeatedly — to see black men mock overweight, black women? For many, it’s a way to laugh at them without appearing cruel, and that’s what we have Hollywood believing we want to see. To a very real degree, it comes down to what we have been trained to believe is acceptable in a society where, in many quarters, black is still an insult and “big and black” are fighting words. We’ve seen it recently with the election of Courtney Pearson as the first black homecoming queen at Ole Miss. Not only did many black people rip the girl’s appearance to shreds, many questioned the motivation behind her win, because white people couldn’t possibly select an overweight, black woman to represent them, right? Right?

And, if viewing habits are any indication, and silence is consent, we’re perfectly happy with our overweight sisters in the role of sidekicks, asexual nurturers, or desperately trying to find a man because that’s what we’ve been sold as “real.” We sit in darkened movie theaters and forget that 82 percent of black women are overweight or obese. We forget that they are our sisters, mothers, friends … they are us. We forget that we see their love stories play out every day in our homes, neighborhoods and cities.

We forget because Hollywood takes notes of our insecurities, while simultaneously cultivating them in the form of what we should look like and who it’s acceptable to love — and overweight, black women never quite make the final cut.

It is up to us to demand that the physical diversity we live amongst everyday be examined on film. This isn’t a conversation framed around health and exercise, it’s about the very real fact that overweight, black women don’t have images of themselves on the big screen that are reflections of their romantic lives. They don’t see themselves being kissed or made love to, or proposed to with all the pomp and circumstance that accompanies the occasion. They don’t see the handsome boy wooing the overweight girl, doing all that he can to make her fall in love with him.

And with 82 percent of us being overweight, the fact that there is not one big, black heroine in Hollywood is nothing less than insulting…not just to overweight women, but to all of us. Why? Because our reality is being manipulated and we’re paying full ticket price to watch it.

In the 2006 essay, Nobody Loves a Fat Woman: Portrayals of Female Obesity in Early American Cinema, Joseph Kerr makes a razor-sharp observation about the difficult transition from stage to film for overweight women in a weight conscious society:

“Visibility is permitted on stage,” opines Kerr, “but a permanent visibility on celluloid is more problematic.”

That visibility is obviously still problematic, both in Hollywood and in the Black community. And the fact that, collectively, we have not fought harder for love, in all shapes and sizes, to be depicted on screen, says a lot more about our cultural esteem, than Hollywood’s entrenched biases.

Big girls need love, too; we all do.

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29 Comments

  1. I’ve never paid money to watch those jackasses on screen making fun of big black women.

  2. Don’t hold your breath waiting for Hollyweird to acquiesce. Aside from Jack Black, Kevin James and a few other fat, funny white fellows, the industry doesn’t care to shine the limelight on a fat anything–black, white, whatever.

    • @Lola Zabeth: I disagree. the fat, white male works just as much as the white male in both comedies and drama. John Goodman has been in both comedies and drama. Nathan Lane keeps a job and is currently playing a non comedic role on The Good Wife. The UK’s Robbie Coltrane works steadily, Jeff Perry on ABC’s Scandal is no slim goody. I could go on and on.

  3. People attracted to black women on screen is anomalous, So big black women being an object of desire is damn near a myth.

  4. Black women are considered fat/full-figured if they have hips and bigger than a b cup in Hollywood.. I don’t see any representations of the full figured black women being love interests instead of homosexual Queen Latifah, who always looks uncomfortable in on-screen love situations with men. You’ll never see a fat person the object of desire in main lead. It’s feel good accompaniment to many scripts but plain and simple Hollywood execs don’t fell they’d ever be able to sell a fat black woman to the masses

    • @Bebe: I agree. Casting Quenn Latifah next to Common was not good. Her best role in my opinion was her character in Set it Off, which put her on the map as a serious actor. I could identify with that role.

  5. Another bullshit feminist angle. I hate to break it down but I must.

    First and foremost, black women don’t make marketable love interest in general because of shows on Vh1 that unveil how “real” black women act. You’ll are diluting the believability by continuing to appear on those shows for the quick buck. Albeit, those a small slice of the black women in the world but it still large part of the entertainment segment. There are more black women employed by Viacom than in the rest Hollywood put together.

    Secondly, black women are emasculating for the most part. They have fully embraced taking a leadership role in our community by stepping all over black men to get in the good grace of white men who could careless if our community suffers because of this fact. As black continue to try to find happiness outside of the house in favor of taking care of house responsibilities first before making money than the roles in Hollywood will have to reflect this shift in consciousness. Tyler Perry makes the money he does because he shows the absurdity of the black woman’s pursuits of corporate grandeur. It is what it is-a satire of reality.

    Thirdly, As black women continued to pursue cushy desk jobs in the corporate world, they’re natural work diminished and now we see a prevalence of fatness everywhere. Black women sit on their butts all day at a desk to make money as there households suffer. Who in their right mind wants a woman who is fat and working all day for someone else’s benefit. Don’t get me wrong, there has been fat women since the beginning of time but the dysfunctional glorification and acceptance of fat people is a sign of the weakness of American culture.

    Lastly, this self-esteem writing that comes Frugivore and many other sites trying to appease women for their backwards decisions is creating and disseminating a sickness that will eventually collapse our society. I’m a fan of this site but you’ll need to do better when discussing women’s issues.

    • @Anonymous:

      I’m sure that your post is going to be deleted soon, so why I’m bothering to respond, I can’t say. But I will say this: If you truly, truly believe the things that you’re saying here, anyone who bothered to pass the first paragraph has already figured out how miserable you are.

      Not only are “reality TV shows” not a legitimate means by which to assess the behaviors and values of individuals, let alone a large segment of the population – they’re ENTERTAINMENT. Piss poor entertainment, but marketed as such nonetheless.

      As for your pitiful ideas concerning black women and emasculation, I could explain black feminist realities with you, but if you’re content to invest in the sad lie that the Moynihan report sold people, that one’s on you. I doubt that many black women have ever actively considered gender as a reason to diminish anyone else’s place in the working world, and if they have, I can assure you they’ve had to catch hell in other ways in order to simply keep a job.

      Black women have never had the option of not working, for one. I definitely doubt that any man has ever been called out on a message board for wanting to better his family via corporate means – and the secretarial creep that you want to attribute weight gain to has to do with a poor workplace culture pervasive throughout society at large. Lastly, when a woman is running a household damn near by herself, single, married or otherwise, you do what you can.

      • @clericalerror: I DON’T AGREE MUCH WITH THE ANON COMMENT BUT DON’T YOU AGREE LIFE FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS WOULD BE BRIGHTER WITH TWO PARENT HOMES?

        • PiscesStar7 (@PiscesStar7)

          @TYE: I would agree that emotionally healthy, educated couples, who are also open to cultural and social differences, who love and value each other and are willing to share all inside and outside responsibilities. If it can’t be that…then, I’m open to any parent that is willing to do the heavy lifting of parenting.

    • @Anonymous:

      I’m not surprised that you had to keep anonymous to make such an assessment.

      While the big ol’ good woman is a screen minority, it’s less a factor of us getting off our bums and more a factor that Mainstream Entertainment just doesn’t have a lot of them in an accepted state. Face it, men are in charge of a lot of it and cast who they want to see. I for one like seeing bigger roles for bigger people (and I do enjoy me a bigger girl) but until people get comfortable in their skins we won’t see much of it. Why do you think diet aids are such a huge industry?

      Speaking as an 160 lb five-nothing woman I say bring it. Reflect the truth already, Hollyweird.

  6. It depends on the demo in Hollywood and funding, funding, funding. If more black people go see movies that don’t have men dressed as fat women and go demand thru their pocketbooks to see bigger, full-figured beauties then we’ll see them on-screen

  7. honestly, i’m tired of the fat black woman trope. i get tired of seeing fat black women. all we see are out of shape black women on tv. i don’t want to look at it anymore.

    i want to see black women be portrayed as trim. as women who actually care about their bodies. as beautiful women. as modern women.

    it bothers me that one of the first things people think of when a black woman comes to mind is someone who absolutely adores being obese.

  8. We can sit back and forever and discuss what we don’t see on the big screen and what we ain’t got. But money talks and bullshit…well. What should be discussed is how many African Americans, or Black folks in general, support or have stock or investments in companies that portrays the images we want to see. It takes real money to make these types of films and if we’re not creating them and supporting them with real money, then oh well. I guess all that can be done is complain and wish and hope someone else picks up the ball. There are several good sites on the web that discuss up and coming projects. IndieWire is one http://blogs.indiewire.com. As individuals, we can expose ourselves and take advantage of opportunities as investors to “greenlight” projects that speak our voice. Also, webseries are another way to promote diversity.

  9. The camera makes everything a bit bigger, so if you’re
    obese, you look even bigger than you actually are.

    The image is lasting and more permanent. Even if an actor loses
    all of the weight, the image screams,”This is when he was really fat..”

    Hollywood is catering to the image of obese black women, but you
    and I know that even obese men and women prefer thin, sexy images,
    just as their thinner counterparts do.

    Think about it, ladies: Shemar Moore vs. Cedric the Entertainer?
    A tall muscular wide receiver vs. a big fat offensive lineman?

    For guys, it’s the same-old Jennifer Hudson vs. new Jennifer Hudson,
    Gabby Sidibe vs. Gabby Union….

    (Speaking of J-Hud, watch ‘Dreamgirls” again. Are you thinking like above?
    Be honest! :))

  10. My friends all think I’m crazy because I prefer bigger women, I have no problem with the looks I get from people. And deep down inside I know those guys with their toothpick girlfriends are undressing my girlfriend with their eyes, knowing that because of their own image issues they’ll never know the joys of bigger beautiful women!

  11. Let me tell the world stop thinking the white
    way is the right way I am a very curvy woman
    everyone is obese unless you look like Marcia Brady
    stay who I have died and came back when you
    have seen the other side this electrical matter is
    nothing treat people nice why is it so hard to love
    God gave us a gift to love and we keep slapping
    him in the face oh we are so in to being right
    just try not to insult each other for one whole day

  12. This is my comment to all that on this page. Yes Hollywood is not holla out for the big curve women . But that okay cause long as I got king Jesus he will alway keep me on his cover and he love me just for been me. It don’t take Hollywood to like big sister cause these big women have paid the way for there family and for there kids. There no great love to know that your mother is fat and you still love her. Cause weight isn’t what you look at you look at the heart. Maybe a couple of you need to go back and read what jesus has to say he say there no great love then to love your neighbor and your family and even your enemy. So this is to you. I rather have jesus any day then to worried about Hollywood. You see when God want to use you no one can stop what God has plan for your life. So go ahead keep but the big woman down and see what might happen to you. You might get fat and then no one want to wait on you . You see you don’t know what life hold for us. But if we allow God to alway lead us it will be okay cause he have the last say in what we do and what going on in our life. Hollywood could be in my home and it can be at my church any where God decide to make it happen for you

  13. Hollywood and the so called entertainment industry have always hated black people. This is not a new, just becoming more acceptable among our people. A new type of slavery that captivates and enslaves black people by dangling the illusion of money, fame and power in front of a people who have been oppressed and tortured for so long they simply are out to get whatever they can by any means necessary.

    Society has so many different ways of pitting Black people against each other that it’s like trying to subdue an octopus and the more you attack it, the more tentacles it sends out. Until black people in Hollywood, entertainment, the Academics, business, etc start saying no– and mean it no matter what the cost to their status, it won’t change.

    Overweight black women is just one issue out of hundreds. Underlying all this is the continual effort of white society to destroy us. How willingly we walk the plank. Worldly success and education has done nothing but make us more desperate to be white and deepening denial to admit it.

    We throw each other under the bus as if we can’t remember this is the culture they created for us since slavery to do just that. Entangled in fighting and debate over aspects of a created culture that is foreign to us anyway.

    It’s the 21st Century and Blacks still don’t know who we are. Where we come from and are resigned to accept whatever they dish out to us concerning our past and history. The diet that creates obesity in black women and men is a result of embracing diets that our slave ancestors passed down that are now killing us in record numbers. We are so proud of this slave food. So proud as well to be FREE to eat ourselves to death on junk food. Foods that are foreign to our DNA. We need to stop celebrating this crap they engineer as success (Oh look at how far we’ve come). We need to get real or be quiet and allow the slave masters to keep writing our obituaries.

  14. Why would Hollywood possibly find fat, black women unmarketable…?

    Lee me see… maybe because they’re FAT and BLACK.

    Generally, to be a viable romantic character in the movies, you should at least be somebody others would ACTUALLY WANT TO FUCK!!

    Hello dumbasses!

  15. Very interesting discussion and prooves the point that the Hollywood and the Media in American Culture has done it’s job of using mind control to manipulate the masses into a belief system that says stereotypes, bigotry and hatred are the turth. When I read the afore post I’m was amazed at the level of ignorance that was posted. I was shocked to see how so many of you missed the point… Not only am I a Full Figured Black Woman with personality, swag and confidence I’m beautiful and strong but yet I’m also a lady. I’m a wife, I’m a mother, I’m a daughter, I’m a sister and a sistah, I’m a Professional, I’m an entreprenure, I’m an entertainer singer, songwriter, producer and actress with range to play both comedic roles as well as dramatic roles. I say that to say that as an entertainer I’ve never had any one ever come to any of my shows and say I’d be good if I was a size 2. Instead I receive standing O’s I receive excellent reviews. While I may not be a big star I am a working entertainer who is comfortable in my own skin.

    Television and Film dipict the images they want you to see and you formulate your opinion about people based upon how their portrayed which in most cases is far from the truth and reality of who people really are. At the end of the day Television & Film should be about the stories and lives of people… Reality TV doesn’t represent the majority specially the more recent ones we’ve seen. Not to mention those people in those shows aren’t actors. Most of us Actors are struggling to find work in an already oversaturated and over consumed industry. Acting is suppose to be the ability to bring to life the text of a written story that’s been told via the medium of television, film or stage. The stories range in characters from all walks of life and experience because all people matter. Their stories bind us together in what’s called the human experience. We are not all the same nor should we be so why should everybody on TV look the same?

    Culturally African American People are genetically large people. We were build that way in order to handle the weight that America placed on our backs when we build this country from slavery to be where we are today as a society. Black Women big and small are beautiful and they matter and so do their stories that should be told on screen. There are many of us out here who have the talent and the skill and th to beauty to be cast in such projects. I matter and I can say it loud I’m Black and I proud and I’m full figured and proud of that too. So “Right On FAT Black Girls because we ROCK TOO!

  16. handsomerandyblackladbrad1953

    OF COURSE,nobody’s dream babe is some five-four,300+lb. porker if she’s black,white,Latina,Asian (tbough save Margret Cho,I’ve NEVER SEEN a fat Asian broad.)
    It’s actually we life-size Brads-from 1968-’-72,Brad was Barbie’s then-boyfriend Ken’s handsome black buddy;I’m a good ol’ black Canadian lad,61-July 6-with boyish good looks,a muscular,beefy build-I’m 5’9″,205 lb.,boasting 181/2″ biceps-who’s trying to be-
    come a Country music song-writer and said to resemble a handsome black cowboy stud IN AND OUT of my Wranglers jeans and other casual and/or Western duds-who’s TODAY’S INVISIBLE LOVE INTEREST-especially for white babes,even though in real life,LOTS of us handsome black lads have buxom white and Latina girlfriends!!!

  17. handsomerandyblackladbrad1953

    Promise Marks,I don’t give TWO CRAPS about your and/or ANY broad’s “swag”
    (to me,whose boyish good looks are augmented by a 160 or thereabouts IQ-GENIUS LEVEL,BABY!!!!-”swag” is desired by only the borderline developmentally delayed)-just your bra size,hair length and bottom!!!!!!!

  18. handsomerandyblackladbrad1953

    Large,like former Minnesota Twins pitcher Tom Hall (six-feet,150 lb.,95-mph fastball?)

  19. handsomerandyblackladbrad1953

    Anonymous,I couldn’t agree more ABOUT 90% OF BLACK WOMEN!!!

  20. handsomerandyblackladbrad1953

    paul,two initials:P.W.!!!!!!!!!

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