I was reading the blog Two Whole Cakes today, the blog formerly known as Fatshionista.com. As you might guess from the name, it's written by Lesley Kinzel, a gal who is confirmedly overweight. (She's also gorgeous, smart and hilarious, and has recently decided to wear only dresses and skirts from now on, which is how I found her blog in the first place.)
So, I stumbled on one of her archived posts: "Who Wants To See Happy Fat People In Love? Not Marie Claire!" Basically it was an outraged reply to a Marie Claire blog article saying that fat people were gross, and they shouldn't be kissing one another in TV or - heaven forfend - real life. Go ahead and read it now, if you like - I'll wait.
Right, so you see what I mean. The Marie Claire lady was talking specifically about Mike & Molly, a sitcom about two overweight people who fall in love, etc. Apparently the blog article author found the whole thing a bit icky, because it was fat folks getting the action, and not thin people, like (one presumes) her.
It got me thinking about fair portrayals of fat people in the media, and then - of course - of fat people in novels, and finally - double of course - of fat people in my novels. How often are they there without being the token overweight perons? Going on dates, helping to solve crimes, volunteering at the Animal Shelter?
How do I, personally, treat overweight people in my novels? Could I look my overweight friends in the eye and say "In my novels I have never created characters that would annoy or offend you with cliches?"
Now, I know what you might say: "For dog's sake, Charlotte; we're novelists - we're here to offend people! If they don't make people uncomfortable, our novels are no better than a bowl of unsalted potato soup."
And I agree with that. We can't expect to write something edgy if we don't offend someone. But to offend them with a cliche? That, to me, shows the cardinal sins of authors: laziness and lack of imagination.
I tend to have a variety of characters, but I think I could do better. And I think my novels would be richer for it. So, my resolution for my next novel is to write in what you might call "non-Hollywood" characters (overweight, transgender, or an unusual minority, for example) who are there Just Because: Just because there are Somalians living on my street. Just because the man who works at the mall always wears girls clothes (and looks pretty stylish, I might say). Just because fat people are happy, and in love, and snog one another like everyone else.
PS Here's the link to the Marie Claire artcicle, too. You'll notice that the author took a hammering on her post, and has written an apology that I would say took some grace and guts.