We promised to honor positive examples from time to time, so here’s one now…
Honoring: Drop Dead Diva
Media Outlet: Lifetime, currently airing Sundays at 9:00 pm
Honor-ability: The new TV program Drop Dead Diva is about Deb, a skinny model who dies and comes back in the body of “plus-size” attorney Jane.
NOW Analysis: First of all, a TV show centered around a woman who isn’t a size zero or even a size 10 is extremely rare, so Lifetime gets kudos right off the bat for scooping up this show and promoting it big time (rumor has it Fox turned down the show after seeing the pilot). The get-ready-to-suspend-your-disbelief premise of a thin woman living in a heavy woman’s body isn’t just a clever gimmick — it provides the writers with the opportunity to address women’s body image issues and society’s attitudes toward fat people in different and new ways.
As Jane, Deb suddenly experiences what it’s like to be ignored or “body-checked” by the beautiful people. And she gains even more insight when she takes on cases like a woman who was fired from her job as a cocktail waitress for gaining weight.
The cast includes Margaret Cho, who, in addition to being a fabulous feminist, has experienced firsthand the prejudices of the entertainment industry. The lead actress, Brooke Elliott, is wonderful, and she proves that you don’t have to fit the proverbial mold in order to light up the small screen and draw an audience.
Is the show perfect? Of course not. The cast could use a bit more diversity. The stereotyped bubble-headedness of Deb and her friend Stacy can be way overdone; however, signs do point to the ongoing evolution of these characters. Each episode seems to have at least one scene of Jane gravitating toward some sort of calorie-laden pastry, much to Deb’s internal chagrin — advancing yet another stereotype that doesn’t really need endorsing. But, one could argue that Deb is finally enjoying the foods she denied herself when she was trying to maintain her modelesque figure.
As a show that acknowledges the often-controversial truth that there’s more to women than their looks and the alarming theory that women should learn to love themselves as they are, Drop Dead Diva embodies the message of NOW Foundation’s Love Your Body campaign. So, both the Media Hall of Shame and Love Your Body thank Lifetime for bringing us this enjoyable and thought-provoking show.
Take Action: Networks need to hear from us when they’re doing something right. Right now, Lifetime wants to receive messages only by postcard. Send your comments to: Lifetime Television, 309 W. 49th Street, New York, NY 10019. Tell them what you like about the show, and even what you think could stand improving.
Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director