I couldn’t make it as a television news reporter, though I’m sure there is plenty of demand for fat bald guys in front of the camera. Let’s face it. There are few, if any. There was Al Roker for a while—jolly, fat and bald—but he ended up stapling his stomach so he could escape chubdom and become one of them.If you think there is a dearth of fat guys on the tube, try finding a fat woman. Occasionally, I see someone who seems a little fleshy, with a discernable pair of cheeks, but if it is true that the camera adds 20 pounds, even that is apparently an illusion. It seems the network and cable brass fear viewers would lose their lunch if they had to watch a TV reporter or anchorperson with more than one chin.
Many people who really have these conditions are overweight, but you wouldn’t know it from the “real” people in the commercials. They are all slim, trim and very active with their hiking, biking and paddling canoes.As for bald guys, they have actually become more visible in recent years. Roker is still bald, and you see more and more guys with shaved heads. Even men with full heads of hair are trying the bald look, which doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. I have a full head of hair—except where it really counts, across the top—and so I prefer to shave it all off. Women with shaved heads are still a rarity, but it would be a cure for one of their common complaints, a bad hair day. You really don’t have bad bald days, unless you cut yourself while shaving or a strange rash invades your scalp.So bald has become socially acceptable, even stylish, for the male population at least. There is nothing stylish about being overweight, whether it is by 20 or 100 pounds, and that’s okay. What isn’t okay is pretending we aren’t out there.The one place you see us on the TV news is when they do one of those reports on how so many Americans are overweight and they show fat people walking around, hiding their faces like they’re in the witness protection program.There is really no place in entertainment and marketing for overweight people at all. They don’t even use them in commercials that purport to show real people with soaring blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart ailments and how they should be asking their doctor to get them to take their pill for a better life, assuming they survive the side effects. Many people who really have these conditions are overweight, but you wouldn’t know it from the “real” people in the commercials. They are all slim, trim and very active with their hiking, biking and paddling canoes. If they really enjoyed such an active lifestyle, they wouldn’t need to take all those pills.Even the one place you would expect to find fat people on TV, the depiction of people with health problems, doesn’t recognize us. Weight-loss products and programs are the exception, though it is far from a spirit of acceptance. Many of them show celebrities in their formerly fat states, but only so they can gloat on how much less they weigh today and how they could never go back to their former chunkiness. If they pushed the health aspects of shedding excess poundage, it wouldn’t be so bad, but the motivation is more often getting into a tight pair of jeans or a revealing bikini. When I see a middle-age woman who has lost 30 pounds boast about how she is “smoking hot,” I’m pretty sure she’ll be putting those 30 pounds back on, plus a few more.Another place where being overweight, make that obese, is given exposure on TV is those shows where they herd heavy people into a scenario where we all get to watch them go on diets and endure the rigors of exercise programs under the watchful eyes of trainers who are pushing them for their own good. I must say they seem to be helping these suffering souls for all the right reasons, lengthening their lives and redirecting them toward healthier lifestyles. “The Biggest Loser” wouldn’t be on the air if it were a big loser in ratings. It can be very motivational and emotional, with tears shed in both frustration and joy, but it’s another example of feel-good passive exploitation of the rotund.I’ve made a spectacle of losing weight myself when, years ago as the editor of another newspaper, I went on a public diet and exercise routine that was fairly successful. I still work at what sometimes seems to be a losing cause and still strive to stay on a healthful diet and exercise regularly. I confess to coming up short in both areas, and my preferred form of exercise, running, is not an option any more, because so many years and miles of pounding the pavement with that excess weight took its toll on my knees. That leaves me with non-impact aerobics and weight training. I’m up to the challenge and so far— knock on wood— I’m still a pretty healthy guy who is medication-free.I’m not saying people like me, in our varying states of plumpness, should be celebrated for being that way. It’s just that we do represent a significant segment of the population and pretending we’re not out there—except when you want to turn us into smaller versions of our former selves—is unfair and unreal.