07.05.10

Why I Love Huge

Meghan McCain watches the controversial new series Huge, about a fat camp for teenagers, and finds it to be provocative, funny, and important.

There has been a lot of buzz recently about the new ABC Family show Huge, garnering it some mixed reviews and feedback. For those of you unfamiliar with Huge, the second episode of which aired Monday night, it is about characters at weight-loss camp, and stars Hairspray’s Nikki Blonsky and Hayley Hasselhoff (daughter of David). The show was created by Savannah Dooley and her mother, Winnie Holzman, of My So-Called Life fame.

I should start by saying the only show I watch on a weekly basis is HBO’s racy vampire drama True Blood and can’t remember ever watching a show on ABC Family. But my interest in Huge was piqued after a few people wrote to me about it on Twitter, asking my impressions of the show, since it centered on body issues, specifically for young women.

Huge is a show that is exploring and discussing what it means to be overweight, and the psychological and emotional issues that go along with that in our culture.

After watching the first two episodes, I am hooked. I absolutely love Huge and will be watching every week.

I know in theory this doesn’t sound like the most provocative plotline. I mean, the last time I watched a show about camp was the Nickelodeon kids’ show Salute Your Shorts while I was growing up. And an episode of True Life on MTV revolved around teenagers going to weight-loss camp, which I didn’t find particularly interesting. But Huge is entering a place that television really hasn’t gone before, and today, as both women’s body image and childhood obesity are topics at the forefront of our culture, it addresses both issues with candor and humor. The characters are relatable—Blonsky does a particularly good job at playing the cynical outsider, but with added layers making her relatable to anyone that has ever felt uncomfortable at camp, or really during any other adolescent social experience.

There are those that find Huge exploitative of the actors’ weight, or simply weight issues in general. But whenever the subject is weight—particularly women being overweight, and the subjectiveness of what it means to be an “overweight” woman in this country—controversy inevitably follows. We are so unbelievably uncomfortable with this topic that it doesn’t surprise me that there would be cynics about Huge. But I ask these critics: What exactly have the women of The Hills done to decrease the exploitation of women in this country? I would wager there isn’t a woman on that show over a size zero, and all they seem to do is shop, gossip, go clubbing, and carry around handbags that cost more than what the average American makes in a month. It is almost comical to think that there are critics that would have a problem with Huge simply because it is a show actually using actors that aren’t tiny.

Huge is a show that is exploring and discussing what it means to be overweight, and the psychological and emotional issues that go along with that in our culture. It is both provocative and, dare I say, important. After I watched the first episode, I made my little sister watch the second one with me because I wanted the feedback of an 18-year-old. She enjoyed it and was laughing along with me. (The show isn’t just a laugh riot, though: There is a camper that is forced to leave after it is discovered she is suffering from bulimia.)

Yes, Huge has some family-television clichés. Many of the characters fit into stereotypes—the pretty blond girl, the hipster, the cute camp counselor, etc. But Huge is attempting to open the dialogue about weight and obesity in this country in a creative way.

As a woman who even now still faces the body critics, I found Huge refreshing and just plain entertaining. Perhaps people have prejudged Huge before watching it, simply based on the title or its subject matter, but I would tell those people to give it a shot before coming to a conclusion. I find more and more shows on television to be depressing retreads that send dangerous messages to the young women of America.

I believe Huge has the potential to be, yes, huge—and I know that I have finally found the summer show I will be watching every Monday with my sister.

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Meghan McCain is a columnist for The Daily Beast. Originally from Phoenix, she graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She is a New York Times bestselling children's author, previously wrote for Newsweek magazine, and created the website mccainblogette.com. Her new book, Dirty, Sexy, Politics, will be published in August.