Jennn…. Joyyyy….. No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We just saw you in all of your glory last week at “The Curvy Con.”
“Dietland” has been canceled at AMC after one season. This is not news. It’s been all over social media and the wires. But, more importantly… why?
The series, which stars Joy Nash and Julianna Margulies was a hit with many critics! It was touted all over the web. We wrote reviews, recaps, met with some of the stars, and we’re not the only outlet that was following the show, so closely. One of the wonderful things that came out of that show was our introduction to Jen Ponton. But, more importantly, Dietland put Ponton in a larger limelight and gave her a larger platform to discuss body positivity, which she has been doing, like a slow burning flame, for years. For example, her speech from The Curvy Con:
“Ten years ago, I could never have conceived of being here–in a room like this, staring out at a sea of beautiful, soft, rounded bodies like my own.
Let alone on Fifth Avenue.
Let alone during Fashion Week.
No–instead, ten years ago, the fat acceptance community that raised me lived in the radical corners of the internet in a blog ring called The Fat-O-Sphere. As a young actress and writer in New York, I blogged about the sizism that ran rampant in the entertainment industry, highlighting the few projects that made headway in size inclusion–and the many more that were planted firmly in the dark ages of fat tropes. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, my internet friend @JoyNash blogged about her Fat Rant, and the work she consistently had to create herself in order to be counted in a ruthlessly sizist industry.
As fat actresses ten years ago, the role models for success that Joy and I could look up to were few and far between. We all got very excited about Camryn Manheim, and Hairspray-era Ricki Lake–but these were the days before Melissa McCarthy, Rebel Wilson, or even Gabby Sidibe were stars on the rise. When there was a place for us in Hollywood, it was as the lazy, sloppy butt of the joke…or the miserable, sad sack perpetually working to free her ‘thin woman within.’ I began to lose count of the auditions I’d avoid, the offers I’d turn down, the roles that would pass me by, as I realized just how completely out-of-integrity the industry was with my values. With the values of community that I belong to, and the community I most want to serve.” *continued in comments*
And instead of allowing myself to feel shunned, I leaned in. I began to write and create the roles I wanted to see. I pursued collaborators who were showing twinkles of size inclusivity. I told my agents, “No more sad fat girl characters”–and they agreed. I joined so many of you in running the marathon, not the sprint–and slowly but surely, the industry began to catch up.
A daunting way to call their bluff in a time when bodies like ours make up 67% of the population, yet are represented in a scant 2% of media. But you–all of you–have helped give me the courage to stand up and demand change. You’ve all been a critical part of this cultural movement. To everyone who helped get plus sizes back in Old Navy stores. To everyone who signed a petition stating that televising a fat suit in this day and age is irresponsible and harmful. To everyone who has amplified the work of fat creators and visionaries, be it poetry, deviantart, or live-tweeting Dietland. To every fat actress who refuses to perpetuate harmful tropes in the roles they play. To all of you on Instagram, who–whether you realize it or not–have changed the lives of others by insisting that you deserve to be seen. This changing tide is because of you.
I look out at you all, and I think of my beloved Fat-O-Sphere, and I feel such unimaginable joy for what must await us all ten years from now. We are here. We will be seen. We will be counted.”
Wow…. we were just WAITING for a time to use that one! Go Jen!
The show, however, drew a pretty small audience that declined over the show’s 10-episode run, which ended in August. It averaged about 693,000 total viewers in L3 ratings and 203,000 in adults 18-49 over its run. This is the normal fate of many Summer shows, which tend to be where plus positive shows run, not mainstream television “Season” time. Look at shows like “Big Sexy,” for example, which was about 5 amazing plus women in the modeling and entertainment worlds. Or, “More to Love,” a “Bachelor” style show starring plus men and women (let’s try to ignore the fact that these show title puns are getting old. It seems that unless you’re trying to justify your desire for the “fat chick” (a la everyone who dated Janice in “The Sopranos” or Miles from “Summer Catch”) or making them a funny sidekick (Beanie Feldstein in “Neighbors 2,” nobody wants to watch a show or movie about empowered big women. The closest we’ve seen recently is the Netflix original movie “Sierra Burgess is a Loser.” But, man oh man, do we have some beef with that movie (more on that later). We will recognize that the pretty awesomely funny “Drop Dead Diva” did break some of those stereotypes as the gorgeous Brooke Elliot played a ditzy diva with great style. But, she was pretty funny, too!
Marti Noxon (producer) shepherded the adaptation of Sarai Walker’s 2015 novel with Skydance Television. AMC had high hopes for the show that revolved around themes of beauty and female empowerment. The cabler also carried a companion after-show, “Unapologetic,” hosted by Aisha Ty
ler, which we loved!
AMC did offer an official statement:
“‘Dietland’ is bold, original and brave. We are beyond proud of our partnership with Marti Noxon, Joy Nash, Juliana Margulies, Skydance and everyone else involved in bringing Sarai Walker’s story to the screen,” AMC said in a statement. “Similarly, Aisha Tyler and our friends at Embassy Row delivered a unique companion show that led with fresh voices and important topics. ‘Dietland’ garnered critical acclaim and passionate fans but unfortunately we will not be able to continue with a second season.”
“Dietland” was an effort by AMC, who are known for traditional alpha-male protagonists in “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead,” to field a series led by female characters. We hope they don’t stop trying to bring these bad bold women to the screen, and we really hope they remain plus!
We really need to analyze why shows like this are not staying on cable, and one of the reasons is that plus women on covers, in shows, and in television don’t draw the masses. Either, they are shamed for being them. We are shamed for loving them. Or, nobody wants to admit the love they have for a character who is plus. But, there’s so much more at the root of this issue. Gender, ethnicity (in some cases), weight, size, intelligent women being seen as brash or harsh (and many plus women are intelligent in their roles…. well of course… why else would we see their value? They aren’t “beautiful”… we really hope you read “sarcasm”). The bottom line is while we continue to support plus media and gro, in size, as a country (yes, our overweight population has nearly doubled in the last thirty years), there tends to be something off about supporting plus women in media, publicly. Is it closeted hatred for plus? Perhaps a lack of resources that these shows have? Lack of education. We’re really excited to learn why this is happening other than the above reason. What are your thoughts?
Well, AMC- If you’re reading, we don’t fault you. And, we don’t fault your efforts, your intentions, or your artistic vision. There are only so many of us who are paying attention… but these words will circulate in the plus-o-sphere. And, as we recruit straight sizes, men and women or all ethnicities, sexual orientations, and walks of life, the plus “problem” will be everyone’s “problem.” And, it’ll be on everyone’s screen, forever. Bold Magazine just wants to join your after party to say “we told you so” to the jokesters who kept us all in Summer programming, metaphorically and literally.
PS – Yes, while we do LOVE our friend JP (Jen, can we make that a thing?), hers are the only photos we have access to. Joy Nash is not a well known enough star to have free rights images floating around the interwebs…. like say… EVERY WOMAN IN HOLLYWOOD WITH STARRING ROLES. Not Jen’s fault… not ours… just kind of a thing because plus shows aren’t staying in rotation… let’s just have a snack and breathe… it’ll be okay.