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Fat Actress Chewed Out

The Seattle-based National Eating Disorders Association is taking Showtime's new reality show, Fat Actress, to task for making jokes about anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, saying it is dangerous to do so.

"My guess is that Kirstie Alley's concept for the show was born from her frustrations with the unreasonable standards found in the entertainment industry, frustrations that NEDA understands because it is that unrealistic standard that often triggers an eating disorder," NEDA CEO Lynn Grefe said in a statement.

"However, there is nothing funny about eating disorders, and to make comedic references to anorexia, bulimia or binge-eating disorder is dangerous."

A spokeswoman for the NEDA said she was not privy to program scheduling at the cable net, but thought it was probably just a coincidence that Fat Actress debuted the day after NEDA's eating disorder awareness week ended March 6.

The group issued its complaint in a release to the press and has not approached Showtime with its concerns. Why not? "We had thought that despite the title, the topic would be treated with taste," Grefe told B&C." It wasn't."

Grefe said she is preparing to send a letter to Showtime and wants it to pull the show, though she concedes she probably lacks the clout to do so.
A study released by the group in 2003 concluded that the media needed to show more plus-size figures to counter the stereotype that rail-thin was the only acceptable body image for young girls.

Alley certainly qualifies in the size department, but scenes including a laxative overdose and a pussy willow used as a bulimia aid do not sit well with the group.

"To make jokes about this potentially lethal illness is as appalling as it would be to make jokes about other life threatening illnesses, such as cancer or coronary artery disease," said Grefe.

Showtime responded in a statement:

"Fat Actress is a fictitious program loosely based on Kirstie Alley's experiences in an unforgiving industry where her weight has been viewed as an insurmountable obstacle to her career. 
"The fact that Kirstie Alley has decided to speak out about the absurdity of Hollywood's standards and demands is in itself inspirational.  
"The show's emphasis is on battling societal pressures in a humorous and candid way and is in no way intended to encourage dangerous behavior or to ridicule those who suffer from eating disorders."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.