TLC isn't exactly a network known for handling the subjects of their shows with, well, TLC. What used to be The Learning Channel now seems to be intent teaching us what not to do when it comes to exploiting people and perpetuating discrimination. When the new TLC show Hot and Heavy was announced, the network faced immediate and near-universal backlash.
The new docu-series will focus on couples in "mixed-weight" relationships. According to Deadline, the show follows three heterosexual couples in which the men are straight-size and the women are plus-size, exploring their relationships and the challenges and judgments they face. The trailer is truly a sight to behold.
The response on Twitter was immediate. TLC's tweet including the trailer garnered hundreds and hundreds of angry responses in less than a day. So many people pointed out that there is so much wrong with the way this show is handled and presented. And it starts with the title.
Hot and Heavy seems to suggest that in these couples, one partner (the man) is hot, and the other (the woman) is heavy — and thus, not hot. It suggests that fat women can't be "hot" or attractive, and not only is that not correct, that is a harmful notion to perpetuate.
But that's just the beginning. The term "mixed-weight" also rubbed people the wrong way and rightfully so. One of the problems with Hot and Heavy is that this isn't a show about "mixed-weight" couples. It's a show that makes a spectacle out of plus-sized women and straight-sized men.
You would think that out of three "mixed-weight" couples, they could have found one couple where the woman was straight-sized and the man was plus-sized. But the aim of the show, clearly, is not to document the reality of being in a couple where the partners are different weights. The show is about exploiting fat women. Period.
Shantel's point is completely correct. The combination of fat men and thin women has been an accepted image in pop culture at least since Fred and Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy. This TLC show exploits fat women and categorizes them as the "other," as a "challenge" to a normal life, and all that does is perpetuate the unrealistic beauty standards women have been combatting since the dawn of time.
Hot and Heavy is so transparently exploitative it's not even funny. Many people on Twitter brought up the fact that in all three of these couples, the woman is the plus-sized one. It's such an ugly commentary on our society that this show was even greenlighted in the first place.
Needless to say, it seems like many people will not be tuning in to Hot and Heavy on TLC. Writer and critic Samantha Puc offered a whole Twitter thread in reaction to the news of this new show. I recommend reading the whole thing, but one tweet particularly stood out as a perfect distillation of the problem with this show.
Samantha continues, "We're not anymore uniquely challenging as romantic partners than straight-size people. We're not fetish material. We're not freak shows. We're not PROBLEMS. Stop treating fatness as if it's a plague until it suits your needs to treat it as entertainment. It's neither." The framework of the show as well as the choice of cast, focus, and title make this a total miss for TLC. Hopefully they'll hear the criticism coming their way.