Why Chrissy Metz’s Golden Globes nomination is a major win for body positivity on television
Before we get started, let’s get the elephant in the room out of our merry way — yes, Chrissy Metz’s storyline on This Is Us has seen its share of controversy. Though the show itself has been met with nearly universal critical acclaim, it’s also come under fire for making Met’z character, Kate Pearson, almost unilaterally focussed on her weight.
However, this does not make Metz’s Golden Globe nomination — for Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television — any less remarkable. Despite existing in a TV landscape that has made an impressive push for diversity and inclusion over the past few years, Metz’s groundbreaking character is still an extreme rarity.
This past year’s Emmys basically proved that TV audiences are ready and eager to see Black stories, Latinx stories, feminist stories, mental illness stories, and even trans stories brought to life week after week.
But fat stories? Let alone fat stories about real fat people with thoughts and feelings and flaws and sex lives and desires and so, so much more? Well, let’s just say we weren’t exactly seeing a whole lot of nuance or body positivity on all of those 30-minute comedies about Kevin James marrying skinny, nagging women.
But nuance and body positivity is exactly what we’ve seen from both Metz herself and from Kate Pearson, especially over the past few weeks as This Is Us has further explored Kate’s relationship with Toby. Sure, so much of her current focus is on her weight loss, but as Evette Dionne wrote in Revelist, she’s also focused on her sex life — and perhaps most importantly, she recently made the choice to prioritize her own health and wellness by breaking up with Toby instead of settling for any dude that will have her.
Basically, even when fat characters do get to play a lead on a non-Kevin James show, their loves lives tend to be a hot, unrequited mess -— and This Is Us broke the mold by giving Kate way more agency when it comes to romance. Dionne explains:
"Often, plus-size TV characters aren't multidimensional. They're sexless sidekicks who tend to be single. When plus-size characters do have love interests, they pursue their crushes with wild abandon -- and are rejected time and time again ... Unrequited love is a constant theme for fat protagonists, which encourages them to settle when they're fortunate enough to find a man who's interested in them. This Is Us brilliantly rejects this idea. Kate's decision to dump Toby marks a turn in how TV represents the relationships of plus-sized protagonists. Instead of showing a plus-size character settle, we see Kate put herself first."
And even though the weight loss-obsessed aspect of Kate’s storyline (which, to be fair, is most of her storyline at this point in the game) has come with some growing pains — the “don’t eat this” notes on grocery store cakes were pretty cringe-y, though nothing beats Kate literally injuring herself on the scale — the show has made noticeable strides with the character in recent weeks.
Her weight loss journey has noticeably become less of a depressing burden for her, and more of a potentially life-changing triumph. Sure, her weekly weigh-ins have remained stagnant, but this has become the story of a woman in her 30s unapologetically doing something healthy for her and for her alone, outside of any patriarchal beauty norms or pressures from the men in her life.
We’re sure Kate’s story will continue to exist under a microscope as the season goes on, because again, there are only a handful of plus-size female characters in leading roles on television. That the Hollywood Foreign Press Association recognized that Kate’s story is so special — and of course, recognized Metz’s wonderful, occasionally heartbreaking performance — proves that stories like Kate’s deserve telling, warts, growing pains, bad weigh-ins and all.
Maybe by this time next year, we’ll see actors of all colors and sizes picking up trophies at the Golden Globes — and if we do, we know we’ll have Chrissy Metz, This Is Us, and the ever-important body positivity movement to thank.