In the past decade, mainstream teen television has gradually become more diverse, casting actors with various backgrounds – not just white and heterosexual. However, Hollywood still fails to be diverse in some respects, including body shapes. In a recent Teen Vogue article, Tiffany Onyejiaka explains why it is crucial that people with different body shapes and sizes see actors that look like them on TV. Fat people need to be able to see versions of themselves portrayed in the media in order to have a positive body image and strengthen feelings of self-worth.
Most characters are portrayed by buff or thin actors and actresses even though the average pant size for American women is 16, according to the International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education. It is also important that TV show characters with bigger bodies are not merely sidekicks and actually have storylines that are not focused on their weight. Hollywood needs to normalize all body types, so that the best actor is cast for a role, no matter if they are overweight.
These following current teen TV shows could benefit from having a more body-diverse cast (and no, that does not mean just one or two fat background characters).
Photo from the CW
Who doesn’t love Riverdale? But let’s face it, the show could use more body diversity. Fat people can solve mysteries too!
2. 13 Reasons Why
13 Reasons Why centers around high school bullying but neglect a major group of people subject to discrimination and judgment: fat people.
3. The Fosters
Photo by Vu Ong/Freeform
Even though The Fosters spans a variety of social topics, from sexuality to race to immigration, not one episode in their five seasons has focused on body positivity.
4. Stranger Things
Photo from Getty Images
Stranger Things has a huge fandom, giving it the power to influence many people. Unfortunately, any body diversity in the show lies in the peripheral characters.
Photo from NBC
Rise does feature slightly overweight actors in completely normal, weight-unrelated roles, but only a couple and they are not the main characters.
Photo by Sean Thomas
This show focuses on typical college students and gets an A+ for diversity in regards to race and sexuality but fails in body diversity.
There are countless other teen (and non-teen) TV shows that could connect with a much broader audience if they had more body diversity in their characters. The problem also extends to movies. Actors that star in film and TV are celebrities – people that society celebrates. In order to truly be body-positive, people of different body types need to be celebrated too.
Read more about how society needs to stop fat-shaming in my recent article, “Why We Need to Stop Equating ‘Fat’ with ‘Ugly.’”
Cover from Glamour