November 25, 2004
Last Night’s Television: More Than Just a Schoolboy Crush ; Chubby Chasers ITV1 Full On Food BBC2
ANNA HAD lost eight stone for her impending marriage, the kind of achievement that would usually be the occasion for joyous celebration. But Anna was worried. Now that she was a mere 33 stone, would her future husband Tony still find her sexually attractive? The problem was that Tony was an FA, or a "Fat Admirer", and though he swore that it was Anna's personality that had finally persuaded him to settle down to the married life, she couldn't entirely shake the suspicion that his devotion might be blubber deep. You could understand her anxiety. In the circles Anna moved in (very slowly and with her kneecaps further apart than seemed humanly possible) nobody was exactly lissom. In fact they all looked as if they'd got contraband Space Hoppers concealed about their persons. But Anna was earthshaking, so humungously obese that she'd had to have a tracheotomy so that she could breathe. And Fat Admirers seemed to take a "more is more" approach when it came to erotic satisfaction. They begin, as Tony had, with mere "Plumpers" and then steadily work themselves up to SSBBWs (Super Size Big Beautiful Women). So what happens when the portions get smaller?
Chubby Chasers, which described the internet-enabled connection between big women and their fans, never quite explained the appeal of enormity. "There's just more of everything," said one man. It sounded logical, but aren't they fussy about where the "more" goes? The biggest of these women looked like badly stuffed beanbags. As for bilateral symmetry... well, you could forget that altogether. Another chubby chaser tentatively offered a less starkly physical explanation. "Larger women seem to be a lot more easy-going than other girls," he said, which sounded like a diplomatic version of that coarse but ancient proposition that "fat girls are always grateful". Watching one of the men making a futile attempt to put his arms around his partner, I did wonder whether there might be something about infancy going on here - and the consoling expanse of the maternal body - but this wasn't going to go much beyond cosmetic superficialities, so no one put the impertinent question.These women were grateful, however politically incorrect that sounds. But in several cases, years of self-loathing had been replaced by a sense of sexual value, and they seemed happy to settle for that. One interviewee, whose previous partner had paid an ex- girlfriend to attend a Christmas party with him rather than publicly acknowledge his relationship with an overweight woman, had discovered that she was the centre of attention at BBW meetings, and she visibly glowed in the knowledge. "I assumed it was a fetish," said another, in a tone of voice that suggested she'd been silly to think any such thing. And since this was what most of us will have been thinking at the time, the line forced you to think about definitions. Sexual attraction which centres at first on specific details of physical appearance? A sense that one's desires are independent of social convention? Perhaps it is a fetish, but then what isn't?
Full On Food, BBC2's new food magazine programme, isn't quite done yet. The ingredients are all fine and the method is tried and tested. Assemble an audience in a large shed, chop the script up finely and divide it between two presenters, sprinkle with specialist news items, jaunty filmed packages and plenty of rhetorical questions ("Now, do you have a problem with peas?"). It works like a treat on Top Gear, whatever you might think of Jeremy Clarkson. Top Gear, though, has a marksman's eye for its demographic: lads of all sexes who like to talk about torque. Here the community isn't as easy to identify. Anyone who eats, or seriously dedicated foodies? I'm sure it will be fine in the end, but at the moment it's like a jelly that won't quite set.