"Huge" - positive new show on ABC Family - I hope it lasts! **SPOILERS**

"When i see propoganda that I know is destroying girl's brains, it's my duty as an angry feminist to destroy it."  Willamina
Last week, ABC Family aired the pilot episode of its new summer show "Huge", and has gotten some pretty positive reviews as well as some lackluster ones.  Fatshionista has been doing some pretty thorough coverage of the show from a size-positive perspective, as well.  The show is on Monday nights at 9pm on ABC Family.

Most characters who've gotten air time on the show thus far have been women: Blonsky's cabin of girls seems to be the focus of the show; the camp leader is a woman, the counselor is a woman (an overly chipper one a la Dr. Sydney Heron from Grey's Anatomy) and one of the trainers is a woman (a seeming parody, and subtle criticism, of Jillian Michaels of "The Biggest Loser").  The kids at "fat camp" are by no means all girls, but the emphasis is simply on the female characters.  Additionally, something I appreciate is that the show hasn't given everything away in the first two episodes (like the failed ABC Show "The Deep End"), but it has definitely begun weaving threads of the plot we can expect to see in the later episodes of this season.

The "clique" lines are drawn early on in the first episode, and the prettiest (read: thinnest, blondest, fairest) girl, Amber, is at the top of the food chain, with other girls fawning over her. Will and Amber are bunkmates, and Will takes objection to Amber from the get go. Will isn't happy about being at camp, and is making a mockery of it at every opportunity.  She gets in trouble for selling junk food to fellow camp members, and immediately assumes Amber told the camp director.  While Amber seems to embrace her position at the top to some extent, the second episode elaborates upon a strained home life that humanizes Amber beyond the looks everyone seems to evaluate her for.

There's also the usual teenage romance and "obsession" with members of the opposite sex - Amber is instantly the alluring object for the male trainer.  While this is predictable, and poses a potential issue down the line since these characters are all under 18 (something I'm assuming by the parental updates from the director, the letters kids wrote home, and the parents "checking" their kids in to the camp), and presumably this trainer is over 18. Almost guaranteed to cross the line of appropriate in future episodes based on their interactions in the second episode.

A nice aspect of the character is that he's attractive, and also says he is deaf in one ear - but it didn't seem to be something he struggled with, and I haven't noticed any sort of hearing devices in these first two episodes.  Nice that he's not "perfect" and airtime is given to a disability as acceptable/normal, but it may have been nicer had ABC chosen a bolder imperfection.

The first episode also touches on issues of female camaraderie and what it means to be a "friend". Will's best customer of contraband junk food, Caitlin [also Amber's friend] getting kicked out of camp for throwing up her meals.  Instead of focusing on disordered eating, the conversation in the girls' cabin revolved around what it means to be and support a friend.  Will runs away from camp, and her best friend, Becca, tells Amber about her regrets of not being supportive enough of her friend. Amber admits she was the one who told the director about Caitlin throwing up, not thinking it would be serious enough to get kicked out, but recognizing it was serious enough to notify the director.  They bond over their transgressions in friendship.

Family, as well as "fat camp alumni", issues are developed through the director of the camp, Dorothy Rand.  She is humanized as a former member of the camp, with difficult relationships with her parents, and an allusion to a residual struggle with food. The second episode shows more of the director's strained relationship with her father.  We learn that she hasn't known her father, and that they anticipate her mother is not happy about the renewed relationship. Rand is played by a Cuban actress, and her father is played by a white actor - so their might be some race issues discussed in the development of this story line.

Another touch at family issues is the sibling relationship between Chloe and Alistair, during an awkward meeting in the woods at night where Chloe is exceedingly harsh toward her brother as he attempts to hold a conversation about her day.  She throws at him the mail their mother had sent and leaves him in tears.  This one was quite sad - she seems to completely ignore him in social interactions, and now won't even talk to him at a clandestine meeting in the woods?  It's definitely touching on the degree of power her insecurities has that it can overcome any urge for basic kindness toward her own brother.

I'm not sure the show deals with issues perfectly, but it definitely makes good faith attempts.  The only character, Will, who doesn't buy into the whole "fat camp" establishment also seems to, overall, be a kid who has problems with authority and discipline.  So her rebellion against normative weight assumptions is painted as teenage rebellion, and potentially loses some of its power.  Additionally, many of these characters are  'normal' Americans, and instead of depicting them as normal, they're being shown at fat camp. While the writer claims to have read "fat blogs" to frame the characters more realistically, and the cast is more diverse than most (beyond its predominantly "plus sized" cast), these "steps in the right direction" may not be enough for some who still feel unrepresented by the show's cast.

Some have mentioned that the characters aren't fat enough to be at fat camp, and reinforce the idea that average sized Americans are "fat", and there are still mostly white characters. Also, in response to rumors Will might be gay, Becca has an outburst "Will's not gay!" near the end of episode two - highlighting that it's a big deal to be gay, and she should "defend her friend's honor" by correcting assumptions.  At least, earlier, Will asks if she looks gay, but insists "it's not a big deal". I'm still ambivalent on that one.
"I'm down with my fat.  Me and my fat are like BFF." - Will

Imperfect as it may be - this show definitely has its gems!  Amber uses pictures of extremely thin models for her "thinspiration", and Will counters those images with images of curvier women and calls it her "fatspiration".  What did you all think?  Was it too full of cliches? Did the writers not do enough to counteract stereotypes?

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