Another day, another fresh-faced comedienne being cast as the star of a new sitcom pilot. Stacey McGunnigle has been given a lead role in a pilot for NBC. She's in Second City (in Canada) and you might recognize her from the "Stacey Helps" video series on Hellogiggles. It's good news, right? Not exactly, because the show is Ellen More or Less. It's a single camera comedy that (obviously) focuses on Ellen (played by McGunnigle). Here is, word for word, how Ellen is described: "an average-size woman who, after losing 100 pounds, begins reinventing herself in life and love."
Sometimes, you really can't make this stuff up. Let's dive in, shall we? First of all, the very fact that the main character on the show loses weight is potentially problematic. Not that there's something inherently wrong with losing weight, but television has a pretty shoddy history with characters that are more than a size 2. Having an "average-sized" (which, what does that even mean?) character lose 100 pounds sends the message that there was something wrong with being an "average" size, that those 100 pounds were a flaw that she needed to get rid of.
But creating a correlation between weight loss and ultimate happiness? That can be pretty dangerous. It's buying into the same lie that advertising tells women: if you just lose a few pounds, if you just put on some makeup, if you just get a new wardrobe, you'll finally be happy. You'll finally be complete. The ugly truth, however, is that it's not that easy. Losing 100 pounds probably won't make you happier, it won't improve your career, it won't make you loved. It's in the vein of a sappy movie cliche, but it holds an obvious truth: that kind of happiness and that kind of change come from within, not without.
Which means that yes, this story may hold some truth for some people. Sometimes, people do realize that they need to become healthier to be happy and confident with themselves. It's even something that McGunnigle herself can identify with as a self-proclaimed "former fat girl."
But it sends a confusing message to have a character's change in physical appearance result in positive life changes. If you haven't heard, women are still constantly barraged with media messages about how they should be thinner, taller, prettier, how their physical appearance is what's really important, how their physical flaws are standing in the way of their success. Not only are these messages harmful to women, they're simply just not true, and having a show like Ellen More or Less purport weight loss as the key to living a better life just makes the tragic American tradition of women hating their own bodies that much stronger.