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The Heavy Hero (or Heroine)

hero I’m nattering on about Drop Dead Diva and romance again. That show is my drug.

In this past Sunday’s episode, Jane goes on her first date with a fellow lawyer, Tony. He is really cute, as you can see from the picture of him here. This is your Fat Hero.

He shows up at home to pick up Jane for their date but Jane’s mother has dropped by and he decides to stay for a home-cooked meal. I heart Tony. When he leaves, Jane’s mother tells her that he’s a keeper, and describes him as a guy who likes (I paraphrase) “women like us”. ‘Women like us’ being plus-size characters, or, Your Heavy Heroine.

Jane is upset about this possibility and towards the end of the episode, asks Tony why he’s attracted to her. I’m going to assume that if he said ‘Jane, you’re just so fat and I love that in a woman’ that they wouldn’t have shared the kiss they did to close out the hour.

Now, I’m of two minds on Jane’s negative response to the idea that Tony could have been attracted to her size. My first mind says this: “What’s the big deal here, Jane? Some men are attracted to big-breasted women, some women like the feel of a six-pack, and there are those who think green-eyed redheads are God’s Gift to Humanity. In short, we all have physical preferences. What’s wrong with liking a Fat Heroine?” My second mind says this: “God, Tony, if this is true you are such a let-down! Take your freakish, chubby-chasing ways elsewhere you unmitigated loser and blight on society!!”

Then I thought of something: why did the issue come up in the first place? Why did Jane’s mother come to the quick conclusion that Tony liked ‘women like them’? Jane felt insulted by this possibility but I think another person who had cause to feel insulted was Tony himself.  It is likely because he is not on the skinny side of the BMI chart that Jane’s mother assumed he liked ‘women like them’. Basically, she was saying, ‘he likes women like himself’. Poor Tony wouldn’t be allowed to consider Your Skinny Heroine would he? She would be out of his league.
If Grayson, Your Six-Pack Hero for whom the world is his oyster and every single body type his pearls, had asked Jane out, what could have been her mother’s response? “Oh, Jane, he must really like you!” (Read: despite your weight, and all the other pearls at his disposal, he has found something to love).

That sounds likely, but it could just have easily been: “Yep, there are guys like that who like women with a little meat on their bones!” (Read: how fortuitous that he’s a guy like that, because if he was any other type of guy, he wouldn’t be attracted to your weight. It takes a special type of Six-Pack Hero to find something to love in a Fat Heroine).

You just can’t win with Jane’s mother, can you!

And, you just can’t win with some romance readers.

In all the discussions Romanceland has had on the topic of plus-sized heroines to date, some readers introduce the idea of the romantic fantasy and the fact that a Fat Hero or a Fat Heroine get in the way of this. They might say:

Who wants to read about a woman whose legs rub (apart from women whose legs rub?)? Who wants to read about a man with a paunch (apart from women attracted to guys with paunches?)? And if we did read about these people, how are we to believe that someone ‘normal-sized’ actually found them attractive? How are we to believe that they really are happy the way they are (read: fat)? Reality will get in the way and spoil our fantasy.

If Jane was a contemporary romance heroine and Tony and Grayson formed the other points to her love triangle, a romance reader who brings her real-life conceptions on overweight people to the story might think Tony was just ‘settling’ or ‘without options’, or that Grayson was a ‘chubby chaser’ a.k.a. some sort of freak. These thoughts don’t lend themselves to delightful romance do they?

To be frank – and from my personal perspective as a plus-sized woman – I can’t get mad at those readers looking for that fantasy of physical perfection. And though I would like to think that if I had spent my entire life being on the “right” side of the BMI chart, I would still be open to reading about Fat Heroes and Heroines, I can’t say that for sure. We live in a weight-obsessive society and maybe I would have believed that fat love wasn’t as romantic as fit love; maybe I would have found it hard to believe in their Happily Ever After.

But in the here and now, I’m always happy to read about the romance of a plus-sized heroine and I am most definitely on the look-out for a plus-sized hero. Any reading suggestions?

-Abi Bishop

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