Plenty has been written about the fat husband/hot wife dichotomy on TV sitcoms. The critique usually consists of disbelief that a fat man would be able to land a “hot” wife. Now, in these shows, like According To Jim, King of Queens and Still Standing, the behavior of the husbands is also often undesirable. But the main thing people seem to be outraged about is that the husbands and wives are not of commensurate attractiveness. These men are also often referred to as “ugly,” and their “ugliness” appears to be directly tied in to their fatness. While the men on these shows are fat, I would argue that their looks are at the least average if not slightly above average. But, as has been demonstrated in the comments on this blog, people are often perceived to be less attractive if they are viewed as fat.
I mainly deal with fat women in this blog, but in this case I feel that fat men and fat women are being discriminated against with this dichotomy and I wanted to offer a different framework in which to discuss it. In the case of fat women, there are virtually no examples of shows that feature a fat wife and a “hot,” thin husband, so the problem there is lack of representation. On the other side, the disgust expressed by so many writers at the idea that an attractive woman would marry a fat man speaks to the disgust so many have for fat in general. I agree that casting an attractive woman opposite an ill-behaved fat guy can be unrealistic in many ways and in most cases probably expresses the fantasy of the male sitcom writers that fat “average Joes” have a chance at a model-pretty woman. In reality, these pairings are probably few and far between. My point is that although fat men are being represented in these shows, they are still often typecast as slobby, unintelligent and undesirable to most women except their wives. Fat men face discrimination as well, but as so many fat male celebrities are also comedians and comedic writers, they are gifted with their own TV shows and are able to write characters for themselves. However, they are still expected to play off the stereotype of the fat male slob.
Of course, the few times fat female comedians have been gifted with a show, they’ve usually derided as being unappealing and abrasive, as in the case of Roseanne Barr. Although her show was extremely popular she as a person was less so. And shows featuring fat female comedians certainly do not allow the comedian to express any serious sexual desire, whereas fat men are at least shown lusting after women other than their wives. The similarities between how fat women’s sexuality is treated and how fat men’s sexuality is treated lies in how their bodies are portrayed—as comic relief. There are plenty of jokes about weight on these fat male comedians’ shows.
As we well know, men have access to a hell of a lot more privilege than women do. But fatphobia still affects them as well, they just have an easier time with it. So although there are many more positive representations of fat men in pop culture, there is still a fatphobic framework in which they have to work—which is why fighting fat hatred should not only be a feminist issue but an issue of social justice across the board.