In a medium where the default approach when it comes to treating plus-sized Americans is to take the lead of the size-positive remake of Hairspray and have her preside over a Dance Your Ass Off competition, the idea behind FOX's new reality series More to Love is downright subversive. The average American woman, we're told, is a size 14; the average female reality show contestant is a size two. Yet despite the endless commercial pressure and media messages, plenty of Big Beautiful Women (a.k.a. BBWs) manage to sustain long and successful relationships — what about a show for them?
A commendable idea, at least on paper. More is a BBW variation on The Bachelor. In it, bear-like real estate investor Luke Conley invites 20 full-figured "girls" (he can't stop calling 'em "girls," even though series hostess Emme keeps utilizing the word "ladies") to your basic reality show mansion, where he starts culling 'em down to pick the Girl of His Dreams. The BBWs generally range within the upper 100s to the lower 200s — what those in the size acceptance movement refer to as mid-sized — and are physically quite stunning. You can clearly see Luke is enthralled at the sight of each and every one of these lovely fat women, and, watching 'em get introduced to him one at a time in the show's first 20 minutes, you can understand why. With a few What Not to Wear exceptions, these women have been packaged to look glamorous and self-confident — even if they're all quiveringly insecure inside.
But this wouldn't be FOX or reality television if More didn't have its share of creepy and vaguely dishonest moments. Foremost is the show's central idea, which repeatedly gets hammered at us throughout the opening episode: based on their experiences, these women are certain that this show is their "last ditch effort" at finding True Love. Again and again, we're told through contestant voiceover that they've "never been on a date before," and when we do hear that one of the women has apparently been in an actual relationship in the past, it's clear the relationship was a psychologically abusive one. "The guy was embarrassed because of my size," she tells Luke, to which the man thankfully notes that the guy didn't deserve to be with her.
As with so many of these reality shows, More does the teary talking into the camera bit so much that you half-wish someone would run in from off camera and throw a bucket of water on the interviewed. Watching Melissa, one of the show's zaftig California girls, weepily state that this contest is her "one chance" at finding a partner who'd accept her as she was, both my wife and I shouted at the set, "No, it isn't!" Even when the show advertises that it's about average American women, it repeatedly hammers that point that true love for the average-sized is as scarce as a diet that works.
Too, on more than one occasion, our man Luke comes across more than a little opportunistic on the show, nudging one contestant into kissing him so he won't have to think about the five women he has to eliminate that night from the competition, reveling in the sensation as he's sandwiched between two BBLovelies on a love seat. Having been to my share of fat acceptance social events, I can't deny that such doggish behavior occurs, but, still, this is our Prince Charming?
One point the opening episode never quite addresses is the disparity between life as a BBW and life as a fat man. Though Luke occasionally makes some noises about knowing what it's like to be rejected for his own 300-plus pound size, we never get the sense that his girth has been as corrosive to his self-esteem as it has for the "girls." "I'm a big man," he tells us from the outset, "I enjoy being a man of large stature." It's a primordial man thing, he adds. Yet while a few of the women on the show state that they've come to terms with the fact that they'll never be a size two, it's clear that none of 'em are as secure as the bachelor they're pursuing. If they were, they probably wouldn't be on this series.