On yesterday’s episode of This Is Us, the moment I’ve been waiting for finally happened. The show finally addressed one of the least talked-about realities of living in a large body. The reality that sometimes:
The world simply doesn’t fit.
The scene in question involved Kate (Chrissy Metz) arriving to meet her husband at a business dinner. As the couple and the other members of their party were taken to a booth by their hostess, Kate and her husband stopped short. Kate wasn’t going to fit in the booth and the couple had to explain this reality to their clueless dinner companions and their dense but empathetic hostess.
When the scene started, I felt a pit form in my stomach. Sure, the pit was familiar because I’ve had countless experiences just like that myself, including once when I too was trying to impress my new boss. But what really got my anticipation engine running was that Chrissy (yes Chrissy-as-Kate, yes the show’s writers, but really I was thinking about Chrissy-the-person) was going to go there. She was going to go there on one of the most-popular shows on television. She was going to show everyone this side of what it’s like to live in a very big body.
I’ve been a This Is Us watcher since the series’ premiere.* I’ve held my breath waiting for this moment many times before… anytime Kate has went somewhere new. Or anytime she was going to ride in one of her brothers’ fancy cars. I’ve been ready for the show to illustrate how inaccessible the world can be for people living in large bodies for a while now.
And to be honest, I’m really grateful that they finally did.
I didn’t love the scene. I wish Kate didn’t make the self-deprecating joke that she should come with a label that reads “Warning: May Cause Awkwardness”. I wish that Toby hadn’t felt the need to point to air vents and lobster bisque instead of the poor design of the booth (can we just #freethetables please!)—implicitly advancing the myth that acknowledging differences in body size is impolite and should be avoided.
Pro-tip from this very fat person who’s talked to a lot of other very fat people about this: It’s OK to ask your fat friends if they’re comfortable with the seating options at your house or at the restaurant you choose. Just be respectful. And be prepared to get creative if your friends tell you that the options don’t work for them. Don’t make us always be the ones to bring it up.
But despite my misgivings about the scene, I do think the net impact was a positive one. It is incredibly validating to see this painful experience represented on primetime TV. And I’m not alone. In response to an Instagram post Metz made promoting the scene, fans responded:
One said it “broke her heart”:
Another praised Metz for her advocacy:
And another chimed in to express disbelief that the issue of inaccessibility for plus-size people was getting such significant attention:
As someone who’s spent two years trying to raise awareness about plus-size accessibility issues, I do feel like this is progress. And I want to thank Chrissy Metz for personally using her body to shine a light on this issue. I know that isn’t easy. Thank you, Chrissy.
❤️ 💛 💙
*Very smart critics like Evette Dionne have written about how This Is Us has handled other issues that are very important to me, most notably how the show repeats familiar and damaging tropes about fat women. I agree with them. I also agree with the points raised by Your Fat Friend’s piece on the use of fat suits. While this piece didn’t address the use of fat suits on This is Us (Chris Sullivan, who plays Toby on the show, has worn a fat suit off and on since the first season of the show), her conclusions apply to This Is Us.