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Old 29th July 2009   #1
HSG
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Default There is ''More to Love'' than that


Kailee had the right idea.

In our interview with Miss O'Sullivan, when we asked for her appraisal of America's Next Top Model, she simply said:

"I don't watch reality shows."

Wise girl.

Think about it: Let's say that a reality show lasts for 13 episodes. If you watch the entire series, you have just lost 13 hours of your life; 13 hours that you will never get back.

Thirteen hours is the majority of waking day. In 13 hours you could read several chapters from a great novel, listen to an opera, wander through a forest, enjoy a decadent meal, spend time with friends. Surely any of those activities would be better than wasting the same amount of time viewing a "reality" program.

Nevertheless, because the Fox network's More to Love series was promoted as having a Lane Bryant tie-in, we felt obligated to watch the first episode.

So what's good about it?

Several things, actually:

1. Two or three of the contestants are not unattractive. This will come as a revelation to the general public, many of whom have been led to believe that "plus-size" and "beautiful" are mutually exclusive concepts. The show could help many male viewers acknowledge their preference for full-figured women, both privately and publicly.

2. At least the series doesn't present curvy girls being starved and tortured, as is the case in those vile body-diminishment shows that are the blight of modern television. (Those are, truly, the most disgusting and offensive programs ever created, and any woman who appears on one should be forever ashamed of herself.)

3. The contestants on More to Love are dressed in attractive fashions--sleeveless, decolletage-baring dresses--and are mercifully not straightjacketed into body-disfiguring "shapewear." Unlike past plus-size television characters, they are not outfitted in slovenly apparel (Roseanne), in cartoonish muumuus (the character on the Drew Carey show), or, worst of all, in utilitarian career wear (Camryn Manheim).

4. Most of the women on this program are younger than the aforementioned full-figured TV personalities. This is a definite advance, and helps to dismantle the contemptible "plus = matronly" myth that Hollywood has perpetuated for so long. For decades, the media has refused to acknowledge that any woman under 30 could be full-figured.

5. The show provides a waif-free environment, and therefore won't subject viewers to any "thin vs. curvy" comparisons that could skew towards underweight girls, and turn the series into a de facto diet ad.

6. Each contestant's weight is prominently displayed--and yes, this is a good thing. It finally gives the public, men and women alike, some perspective on women's sizes, showing them that 200 lbs is actually a relatively low weight, and that 270 lbs is a perfectly normal, comfortable size. Hopefully, seeing the weights of these contestants will help put other curvy girls at ease with their own stats.

7. Having a heterosexual male openly stating his preference for curvaceous women, and showing such women in romantic rather than body-diminishment contexts, may lead to better television in the future. This program may finally persuade at least a few of Hollywood "guiding lights" that full-figured women can be genuinely attractive to the opposite sex, and can be taken seriously as objects of desire.

Now, what's bad about the series?

Everything else.

Ultimately, the show is wrong about women, wrong about men, and even wrong about love.

* * *

1. Women

Despite what More to Love would have you believe, today's voluptuous vixens are poised, stylish, secure in themselves, and suffer no lack of male attention. (If anything, they have an embarrassment of riches in the romance department, and leave behind them a trail of broken hearts.)

But of course, it stands to reason that few self-respecting, confident goddesses would appear on a program such as this. Being led like a hamster through a maze? Vying for the attention of a complete stranger in front of a national audience? Becoming the subject of water-cooler talk across America, with one's every foible dissected, every trace of privacy stripped away? Not likely.

So what is the show left with? By and large, those unfortunate individuals who have indeed had a rough time of dating, and seem to be perpetually on the verge of a nervous breakdown. (Real tears are cried privately, not weeped out for public entertainment every time a camera is turned on.)

All this does is confirm Hollywood's worst stereotypes about full-figured women--that they are dateless, loveless, indiscriminate, and grateful for any crumb of attention that is thrown their way.

To see how a true goddess handles herself in reality-show circumstances, consider Whitney Thompson's standout performance on America's Next Top Model. She maintained her composure throughout the series, never once looked silly, regardless of the pressure upon her, but carried herself with class and dignity. As a result, she deservedly won the competition. And when she finally teared up--just once, during the last episode--it really meant something, because she had been so controlled and self-possessed until that time.

As one might have expected, the More to Love contestant who best presented herself--one humorous quip notwithstanding--was the show's lone professional plus-size model, Anna Kleinsorge (currently signed with Hughes Models), whose image we actually posted on the forum a few seasons ago.

One can always count on a plus-size model to acquit herself well. She never ended up looking too foolish, and rightfully received the first call-out in the (interminable) ring ceremony.

A contestant named Malissa [sic] also had a good look, and came off as more intelligent and composed than anyone else. She even seemed reluctant to kiss on cue, and frankly, one wishes that she had turned the fellow down flat.

For her part, a girl named Heather took a good pre-show photo, and possibly has the best figure of any of the participants:

It's no surprise that Anna and Malissa received first and second call-outs, respectively. For a show with no defined criteria, it was nonetheless the correct order. Hopefully, one or the other will win--if they actually think that the dubious prize is worth having.

* * *

2. Men

There is something off-putting about having the male character in this program be a budding Falstaff. The most regrettable consequence of casting such an individual is that it reinforces the demeaning stereotype that full-figured women don't deserve to be with a GQ, but must be with someone large.

This is unaesthetic, and even unnatural.

While the Classical ideal of female beauty is soft and voluptuous, the Classical male ideal is lean and muscular. Whereas Greek statues of Aphrodite display untoned, fleshy figures, Antique statuary depicts men as sinewy warriors.

Consider the definitive Hellenistic presentation of true masculinity, the Borghese Gladiator, on display in the Louvre:

Originally, the figure also wielded a sword and shield--appurtenances that are included in the Berlin copy at Schloß Charlottenburg:

The masculine norm is hard, while the feminine norm is soft; lean, while the feminine norm is full; wiry, while the feminine norm is plump.

It is simply unnatural for men to be epicureans. Real men are inherently ascetic. Women are meant to be self-indulgent, but men are the physical opposite. Men prefer war to peace, pain to pleasure, suffering to contentment. Whereas women dance, men march. Whereas women love ease, men thrive in harsh conditions. Whereas women enjoy relaxation, men are compelled to be constantly active.

Every true man is a Spartan at heart.

Women embody the aesthetic of the Beautiful. Men personify the aesthetic of the Sublime.

The natural male consort of a Classical goddess--soft and curvy, well-fed and self-indulgent--is a hardened warrior (intellectual or physical), a being of the strictest self-discipline, toughened in mind and body, preferring to live on meagre rations; a gentleman to the fairer sex, but otherwise, a being of iron.

That's why, traditionally, it is men who work. A man finds daily toil deeply fulfilling if he knows that by his labour he enables his beloved to live in pampered luxury.

A "more to love" male is as unnatural as is an androgynously anorexic female model. Both defy the Classical ideal, and go against Nature's will, and contradict essential human inclinations.

* * *

3. Love

Despite its title, More to Love is surprisingly unromantic.

It's hard to know what is more appalling--the spectacle of women draping themselves over a complete stranger, or the fact that he, like a dissolute sultan in a harem, carries on with them in public, randomly "making out" with one girl or another.

It's like placing panda bears in a zoo enclosure, and expecting them to mate. One would expect human beings to be more evolved than that.

Ultimately, the show has nothing to do with how men love women.

In the natural order of things, men are the proposers, while women are the disposers. Men surrender their hearts and wills to the goddess whom they love, while she, fêted and courted by many admirers, toys with their hearts, deriving pleasure from their suffering, basking in their adoration, breezily accepting their tributes. And if they are very, very fortunate, she allows her male admirers a few brief moments of joy amid their heartstick anguish.

True love? True love is found in in Svidrigailov's hopeless adoration of Dounia (in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment):

"What do you want with Razumihin? I love you too. . . . I love you beyond everything. . . . Let me kiss the hem of your dress, let me, let me. . . . The very rustle of it is too much for me. Tell me, 'do that,' and I'll do it. I'll do everything. I will do the impossible. What you believe, I will believe. I'll do anything --anything!"

No one possessed of any romantic sensibility could randomly kiss multiple women for public entertainment. Like Svidrigailov, a real man can barely summon up the courage to touch the hem of his adored's dress.

Only in his dreams can a noble soul kiss his beloved, as we witness in Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther, as the eponymous poet records his longing for the enchanting Lotte:

I stretch out my arms for her in vain when, troubled by my dreams, I awaken in the morning; at night I vainly seek her in my bed when a happy, innocent dream has deceived me into imagining I am sitting beside her in a field and holding her hand and kissing her. Oh, when I feel for her, still half dazed with sleep, and wake myself with it--a flood of tears flows from my oppressed heart and I weep inconsolably into a dark, dreary future.

Goddesses do not weep for love--they make men weep. In Dickens's Great Expectations, Pip cries many a tear for the cruel yet beautiful Estella, whom he loves in equal proportion to the suffering that she doles out:

You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read, since I first came here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then. You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since - on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more real, or more impossible to be displaced by your hands, than your presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and will be. Estella, to the last hour of my life . . .

That is love--not the crude exhibitionism of a "reality" show.

* * *

One final shortcoming of More to Love is worth mentioning, and that is that beyond all of its manipulations and distortions, beyond all of its negative stereotyping, it is, thus far, rather poor television.

At least the Top Model shows have a competitive purpose. Their determinations are based on precise criteria, not--as in this case--on some fellow's whim. And at least in Tyra's series, the contestants are enthusiastic, and the episodes--bizarre as they may be--are creative, whereas here, the competitors so far seem surprisingly downbeat, and the activities are either dull (insubstantial conversations) or indiscreet (physical interaction on public display). Perhaps this will improve in future episodes.

But if there had to be a program such as this, then at the very least the bachelor should have been a GQ of the Classical type with a preference for full-figured women. That would have gone far in overturning Hollywood stereotypes.

Or perhaps the show could have presented a group of reasonably masculine individuals pursing an equivalent group of self-assured, voluptuous vixens.

Better yet, the series could have featured just one truly extraordinary full-figured goddess (one who would shown all of America how exciting and desirable a plus-size woman can be) pursued by a group of conventionally handsome men, all courting her, all vying for her attention. That would have come closest to depicting genuine reality--the reality of the world in which we live, in which curvaceous beauties are thronged by male admirers.

Anything would have been better than More to Love's setup, which guarantees that one woman after another will be rejected and humiliated, week after week.

Goddesses are never rejected--it is they who do the rejecting.

* * *

Having said all that, it is true that this show could have been far, far worse. As noted above, it did get a few things right. But we are still far away from bringing a Mode mentality of size-celebration to Hollywood. And to concede that More to Love is better than what has come before it is faint praise, because what has come before has been utterly grotesque.

But on balance, perhaps this show is a step towards a more size-positive future, and a more curve-friendly media environment.

(Above is a sneak preview of what Anna's dress will look like in More to Love's forthcoming prom episode.)


Last edited by HSG : 1st August 2009 at 03:56.
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Old 31st July 2009   #2
Emily
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Default Re: There is ''More to Love'' than that

I tuned in almost despite myself, and it turned out pretty much how I expected it to. Rather badly.

However, I definitely appreciated the fact that it was all full-figured women. That was the best and most important decision that the series made. Shows that mix plus-size with straight-size contestants are always, always skewed against the curvy competitors, and the results are predictably prejudiced.

Even though a plus-size model won one cycle of America's Next Top Model, that doesn't change the fact that having just one (or at most two) plus-size contestants amid a host of waifs creates the impression that the skeletal girls are the norm, and the full-figured girls are marginal exceptions. And that, of course, is the opposite of actual reality. In the real world, it is plus sizes that are the norm. Full-figured women are the natural standard, and waifs are at the unnatural margins. But reality shows that throw in a token curvy girl amid a group of skeletons distort that reality and make it seem as if an anorexic look is universal, damaging the body image of the majority of women.

So to have a show exclusively feature plus-size women is definitely a positive development. Hopefully it will lead to other, possibly better plus-specific shows, like an all-plus season of America's Next Top Model. In such a case, the plus-size contestants won't be measured by straight-size standards (an obviously discriminatory practice), but evaluated on their own terms.

But apart from that important point, I agree wholeheartedly with every criticism of the show. I particularly wish that the contestants had had more self-esteem -- and therefore reflected the body-confidence that today's curvy women do possess. And yes, a Classically lean/muscular bachelor would have been a much better compliment to plus-size female beauty. Implying that only a "more to love" man could be attractive to curvy girls is offensive, not to mention utterly false.
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Old 1st August 2009   #3
MelanieW
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Default Re: There is ''More to Love'' than that

Although I too was disappointed, one other good thing that I dont think has been mentioned, and is very important, is the fact that at least the show featured girls who are truly full-figured. If it had gone the America's Next Top Model route and showed faux-plus 10s and 12, that would have been disappointing, and frankly insulting. At least the contestants on More to Love are genuinely plussize. I just wish that a few more of them were prettier (same size, only prettier facially). That would have helped show the general public how beautiful curvaceous women can be.

Also, it was nice seeing the women enjoying themselves, and even eating, rather than calorie-counting. And thank God the show didnt put gym-torture equipment in the house and show the girls punishing themselves for the supposed "crime" of being womanly. (Think about it - this program could have been a lot worse.) Hopefully the series will have more of a joy-of-living mentality as it goes on.

As for confidence, I will bet that the series is going for a story arc whereby the underconfident girls gain more self-esteem as the show progresses. If so, I can appreciate the logic of that. But the initial picture of curvy girls who are down on themselves will be hard to erase from public memory, even if they do blossom as the series goes on.

So all in all...mixed reaction.
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Old 1st August 2009   #4
Hannah
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Default Re: There is ''More to Love'' than that

Quote:
Originally Posted by HSG
6. Each contestant's weight is prominently displayed--and yes, this is a good thing. It finally gives the public, men and women alike, some perspective on women's sizes, showing them that 200 lbs is actually a relatively low weight, and that 270 lbs is a perfectly normal, comfortable size. Hopefully, seeing the weights of these contestants will help put other curvy girls at ease with their own stats.

Yes, I strongly agree with this. It's terrible how many women feel ashamed for their weight and/or size. It's as if the numbers have some kind of weird power over them. It's time for that to end. Why shouldn't women feel proud of their own stats? Instead of looking at the scale with dread, why shouldn't they feel proud of those numbers?

Remember that saying, "100 pounds sexier than you"? That's exactly right! That's the attitude that women should have about their weight. A 270 lb woman should feel confident in the knowledge that every single pound that she has more than a 140 lb woman makes her that much more voluptuous, and curvy, and desirable than her underweight rival. Every pound makes her softer, shapelier, more luscious. Better, to put it plainly.

So to have the women on the show pictured alongside their weight is a bold and barrier-breaking move. Hopefully it will help end the stigma about women's sizes. After all, the only reason why women are ashamed of this number is because it's kept hidden, like a guilty secret. It's time for that to end! Women should take pride in their size, feel good about their weight.

If only the contestants on the show were more self-confident, and the same numbers were given, the effect would be even more positive and subversive.
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