Fat bodies don’t get true stories.
When our stories are told, we don’t get full expression, we don’t get full experience; we’re side characters. We’re simple: we’re good or bad, we’re undesired or sexually deviant. We’re an object to be ignored or rejected or mocked, or — if we’re lucky — we’re a funny sidekick. We don’t get to be relatable, because that would be humanizing.
So being a fat girl consuming (no pun intended. OK, maybe a lil’ bit intended) media can be a pretty shitty experience. When My Mad Fat Diary started, I honestly wasn’t expecting much — why would I? But the show surprised me, and keeps on surprising me, with the characterization of Rae (the person Rae — it’s not surprising the show gets it right so often, hits so close to home so often, when you remember that Rae is real), so here we are today, so far down the rabbit hole, the youtube spiral, the yelling-at-everyone-via-every-social-network-known-to-humankind about HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS!!!!! and now, trying to put into words all my godawful emotions about this, as a Fat Girl™ in 2k14. So bear with me, would you?
The Rae we see now, with all of Season 1’s experiences, is ashamed of her body, but always tries to be open to romantic experiences: she puts herself out there until the struggle to reconcile her reality with Finn and her own self perception, her own reality of self, gets to be too much and she tips back into the safety and relative ease of self-hatred. She’s tried (and trying) to be her full self — to be girl!Rae and fat!Rae and funny!Rae and smart!Rae and copingwithamentalillness!Rae. And, as it has been for many of us, it gets to be too much. But I’d like to talk mostly about Rae’s sexuality, her quest for romance, and how that’s been something so truthful and SO fucking ridiculous/heartwrenching/hilarious/leaves-you-clutching-at-the-wine-bottle-at-2am.
When she meets #thegang (don’t tell me they wouldn’t crush Instagram, you will lose) she’s anxious about being accepted. So far, so true; same old, same old. But she’s got more to worry about. She’s carrying about this secret, made visible in the scars on her thighs. When they’re revealed in truly the kind of fashion that haunts my nightmares to this day (SHE GOT STUCK IN A SLIDE ARE YOU [censored] KIDDING ME?!!) and Chop, darling, dearest, sweetpea honeybunch Chop, helps her out amid cheers and friendly laughter, we feel like a hurdle’s been passed. She’s one of them. Except, she realises, she’s so one of them, she’s one of the lads. And she’s pissed off about it. But she’s funny, she’s smart, and she’s fat. She’s not a viable sexual option (according to Myths about Modern Sexuality 101, otherwise known as Cosmo magazine).
She wants to be, though. And she does what she can to change herself, but gets rejected after the first series’ makeover montage. Yes, Archie’s gay, so no, he doesn’t reject her because of how she looks, but in the linear narrative of that moment, all we have is her failure. Her failure to be beautiful enough to deserve attention. From that point on, see a building relationship between Rae and her self-acceptance, mirrored through her relationship with Finn.
Rae and Finn’s defining moment of Series 1 has to be when he punches her bullies — and I’d argue that the setup of that adds incredible power to the scene. She’s growing frustrated with being seen as masculine. She’s growing frustrated with no one recognizing her womanhood. And what happens? Her period, that icon of cis womanhood, stains through her clothes, becoming an easy target of attack by the absolute wankers who seem to follow her around at her lowest points. That’s when Finn steps in, in a sense not only defending her, but defending her femininity. She’s not gross for having her period, she’s not gross for being fat and being a woman with a vagina, she’s not gross for being a woman with a vagina and experiencing all the shit that comes along with it. I’m not going to get into depth about their growth together, only to say that if you’ve watched it you know, and if you haven’t, what in the fuck are you doing here?? GO WATCH IT.
So we move through Season 1 with Rae — boy troubles, girl troubles, friends-being-assholes troubles, working-through-major-trauma troubles, experimenting-with-hallucinogenic-drugs and waking-up-face-down-on-a-lawn troubles — all building up to this moment of painful, duvet-clenching, mouth-covering honesty. Rae comes clean. At a truly weird moment, yes (did anyone else think it was kinda shitty of her to do this at her mum’s wedding? I don’t know if that’s just me being an asshole. Get back to me), but it was obviously the right thing to do. Her relationship with Chloe is as repaired as it’s going to be, her relationship with Kester is stronger than ever, and her scene with her mum in the kitchen? I’m not entirely sure I’ve moved past it enough to even discuss it. And then. And. Then.
Talk about a fucking cockblock of an ending scene. He writes I like you OR I love you on her back (WHAT WAS IT) and they smile at each other and it’s all very cute and — I don’t know how I’m sounding remotely detached from this here, I think I actually screamed when Finn said that he was “no good wi’ words,” but would it have KILLED somebody to put in a kiss? This isn’t High School Musical 1, folks. I would’ve been into a cheeky boob graze if I’m honest. But it HAPPENED, Y’ALL. IT HAPPENED. Which brings us to…
SEASON 2. RAE GETTING OFF.
Not giving a blowjob, not having p in v sex. Just Rae receiving pleasure and not giving it. A wholly “selfish” sexual experience. Y’know what I heard when I was growing up? Fuck a fat girl because they’re so desperate for it, they’ll do anything. Fuck a fat girl and she’ll go down on you for hours.
is what we’re hearing here.
Yes, she’s worried about getting nervous (Medusa Vagina is a common concern amongst youths), but even worse, even worse, what if Finn’s crap?? I have yet to confirm or deny to the authorities that I was responsible for the fireworks, the parade, or the skywriting that woke the neighborhood up at 2am when I was hunched over my laptop, but between you and me, the court date’s set for next month and it’s not looking good. The fact that here we have a fat girl on television not worrying about her fat, not worrying about turning the lights off, but freaking the fuck out about her sexual partner being completely shit both rings SO TRUE and SO UTTERLY HOPEFUL I’m beside myself just thinking about it. Look, there’s nothing wrong with being worried about your body, but I’m sick to frick of that being a fat person’s defining feature. Turning it on its head, and making the boy the one who should be worried (due to Rae’s EXTENSIVE EXPLORATION AND KNOWLEDGE OF HER LADY PARTS — MASTURBATION MENTION HIGH FIVES ALL ROUND LADIES) fills me with the kind of elation previously reserved for thoughts of going to that island filled with rabbits in Japan, or finding a spare $2 in my bag to use in the vending machine at work. It’s just a bonus that Finn turns out to be awesome.
To rant on about that scene, and to get a little tender — how gorgeous was Finn checking in on her, stroking her hair, looking at her doe eyed and a lil’ mischievous-like, her pleasure being all that’s on his mind. 12 points to Gryffindor and also the long thought-to-be-extinct species of media representing loving, consensual sex with pleasure focused on a woman!!! AND that scene-ender of
And then he said it. Three little words. No, not ‘I love you’. Even better. ‘To. Be. Continued’. And there go my ovaries.
Strike 3, I’m out.
The relationship between sex and love is something that doesn’t get discussed enough with relation to fat bodies. There’s something so wonderful about Rae having these romantically skewed, non-traditional priorities. There’s something wonderful about a fat girl saying that she doesn’t need to be loved, she just wants to fuck. But there’s also something so much more telling: Rae doesn’t think she deserves love, so she can’t ask for it. Sex is better, because love isn’t even an option. She’s constantly questioning Finn’s feelings for her — she’s a 4, he’s an 11, why does he like me? And it’s something that many young (and not so young aka turning-25-in-2-weeks-to-be-specific) fat people struggle with.
There can be a strange counterpoint with fat bodies: we can love them ourselves, we can learn about self-love and acceptance and, yes, we can have moments of weakness when the weight, both literal and figurative, drags us down, we can be in a safe(r) place — but we still can’t get past the idea that someone else would love us. We learn to love ourselves, but it’s sheltered within this idea of self-acceptance that doesn’t always extend past us. Rae’s battle with this hasn’t ended, and we don’t know if it will.
But that’s what the rest of the season’s for, so join me next week, same time, same place, for another fucking lecture. I’m sorry in advance.
Molly likes cats, food, bed, and TV. Yell at her about stuff at mollywaddle.tumblr.com and @mollyezmerellda on Twitter.