Cosy crimes and gritty sagas by Corrie Blog editor Glenda, published by Headline. Click pic below!

Tuesday 30 July 2013

Heavy Stuff

Weight is a hot button issue right now.  You can't open a magazine without discovering some celebrity is "celebrating her curves", which is Daily Mail-speak for "get off the eclairs, lard arse."  We're besieged with stories about our portly schoolchildren stuffing their face with Turkey Twizzlers in front of their Nintendo Playbox, never seeing the daylight and having to be airlifted into their Maths lessons.

It's a National Obesity Crisis, the kind of horrific story that gets Bill Turnbull pulling his serious face on BBC Breakfast while stock footage of straining belts and saggy bellies plays.

That's in the real world.  In Weatherfield, fat is good.  Fat is fabulous.  Fat characters are almost immediately clutched to the bosom of the viewers, because they're warmer, they're nicer, they're lived in.  Fred Eliot.  Alf Roberts.  Jack Duckworth.  HRH Betty Turpin.  We like characters to be a bit porky.  This might be because we're people who spend at least two and a half hours a week plonked on a sofa.

Take Molly Compton.  When she arrived on the Street she was chunky.  That heaviness told a story.  She was the daughter of Diggory Compton, a man for whom the answer was always pastry.  She'd been bullied at school.  She was a bit shy.  We instinctively knew that Molly had spend her teens wolfing up the stale iced buns while sobbing into her Smash Hits.  We loved her for it.  We loved it when she hooked up with Tyrone, Coronation Street's version of the Marshmallow Man.  They were bound to have a happy, joyous life together.

And then she lost weight.

Suddenly Molly became annoying.  Thin Molly started wearing tight spandex and crop tops.  Thin Molly turned down a fish supper on a Friday night so she could have rice cakes.  Thin Molly started talking about her GIs and running round the block and she was boring.  Thin Molly looked at chubby, loveable Tyrone inhaling a fried slice and thought, "I can do better than that."  Next thing you know she's bunked up with Kevin in the Bolton Premier Inn, and the audience is cheering when she's crushed under a wayward tram.  All that exercise but you still couldn't outrun that, could you?

Peter Barlow has changed too.  He came back from Los Angeles bronzed and slimmer, his belly gone, a healthy glow about him.  But he's not the same.  When Peter was fat his character was tied up in those extra pounds.  Coal black eyes stared out of a face that carried years of disappointment, years of abuse, years of loss.  His body spoke to us about the fags, and the gambling, and the drinking, definitely the drinking.

Healthy Peter is all angles now.  He's sharper.  The sad eyes are still there but they don't fit the package any more.

 It feels like he was quietly taken apart in LA and then put back together by a team of crack surgeons, only they forgot some of the parts, like an Ikea coffee table with three extra screws you can't place.  I can imagine some oily American staring at a beer gut incomprehensibly and simply slicing it off.  He's not whole now.

If you're thin, you can seem hard.  It's the way our minds are structured.  Beth and Tracy are both balls of cruelty and spite, but Beth seems adorable when she bellows a coarse insult across the Rovers.  Tracy just seems like a stick of hatred when she spits another offensive remark over the hotpots.

That's another thing: Coronation Street isn't built for thin people.  Where are its principle commercial spaces?  A pub.  A cafe.  A sweetshop. A corner shop that seems to sell nothing except frozen pizzas and tins of beans.  A kebab shop.  A chippy.  No wonder they turned the Graffiti Club into a Medical Centre; they probably have a defibrilator on permanent stand by.  Corrie is the only place in Britain where a group of working women unashamedly knock back pints of lager at lunch and have a daily cake run; in reality all these women would be embarrassed to enjoy their food and drink, and would be having a cheese and onion Snack-a-Jack as a "treat" with their cup of green tea.

It leaves us with a slight suspicion in the back of our minds when a character gets thin without a Molly-style Damascene revelation.  Anna Windass has dropped a hell of a lot of weight since she arrived on the street.  She came into the show squeezed into trackie bottoms, her face and body bearing the brunt of running around after feckless Eddie and out of control Gary.

Her little round body told us about her character - we got it; she bought cheap, carby foods from budget freezer centres, she didn't have time to exercise, she worried over her family and guzzled down half a pack of Party Rings to make herself feel better.

Now she's lost all that weight but she doesn't seem to have changed her lifestyle at all.  She's still serving up enormous meals drowning in gravy and sneaking herself the odd iced bun at the cafe, yet she weighs eight stone three.  It doesn't add up.  And that angularity comes into it again; a rotund Anna clutching Faye to her generous bosom would have been an image of family we'd all ascribe to. Whippet thin-Anna shouting at Tim in the street doesn't seem maternal - she's just kind of a bitch.

No.  If you want to truly succeed on Corrie you need to pile on the pounds.  Think of Steve McDonald.  When he was a twiglet, skag-trained limbs reaching across the prison table, he was horrible.  He was an annoying twerp who really needed to fall under a Weatherfield Wayfarer. Steve McDonald in 2013 carries round an eight month pregnancy belly, and he's adorable.  His jeans strain, he lets out a sigh of satisfaction as he collapses into a chair, and he launches into soliliquys about Penguin biscuits.  In short, he's a joy.  He's actually enjoying himself, and life, and he's making it fun for us to watch.  Stay unhealthy, Steve; keep eating those choccie biccies.  All the best people do.  Just ask Fat Brenda.

You can follow us on Twitter @CoroStreetBlog and Facebook: CoronationStreetBlog

Creative Commons Licence
All original work on the Coronation Street Blog is covered by a Creative Commons License


Dolly Tubb said...

"get off the eclairs, lard arse." - I'm still sniggering at that one - all the way to the packet of Penguins. Great blog!

ritaduck said...

,every day cake run were do they find the money pints in the rovers larges vodkers kirk and beth (who as lost a lot of wieght )went out every theme night mary done !!! the trails,the hospitals it s not real life and hopefully no does think it is its CORRIE and we love it

Tvor said...

Because as much as we are bombarded with warnings and images of stick thin people as "good" and "healthy", most people are not rail thin and most of the viewers can identify with curves over angles.

Clare said...

I for one prefer this Peter ;)

Rachel said...

Great article!

Rachel (10.5 stone)

Anonymous said...

Fat Tyrone was loveable but boring. Thin Tyrone wins awards. Same for Fiz. Your theory is funny but not accurate. Shelly also were fantastic when she lost her weighs, she gain strength.

Bear in mind, almost everyone walk everywhere, so that's where they lose calories. And we can't have everyone fat because that's ridiculous like having everyone thin.

Humpty Dumpty said...

I love the fact that not everyone in Corrie is stick thin but there's a clear divide. All the females under 25 are skinny, and if you take into account that the screen adds extra pounds, these actors must be tiny. Young Fizz was the only one who bucked the trend, and then she lost weight. Corrie weighties are comedic, loveable, and getting on a bit. If Corrie wants a really topical storyline, it should look at eating disorders in young people. We have one chunky child at the moment - Craig - but he's portrayed as odd. I'd like to see a family move into the street where the children are slightly over-weight and struggling with their image.

Anonymous said... mention of Mandy or Sylvia who are not just 'overweight'? Lets be's ok to be a 'bit' overweight and it's 'ok' to target a fat guy (Brian) about his weight whenever he's on camera but why not mention the obese females who are hidden under large tent like garments... or use a pillow to hide their bellies whenever they're sitting down. They usually have a gob that can't stay shut-making them very unlikeable. Also, Peter's eyes are different because he had some work done - probably some liposuction while he was at it.

Anonymous said...

Haha. Great blog.

Anonymous said...

Not to be nasty but in my humble opinion Anna has gained a lot of the weight she had lost. I'm not liking her character at the moment at all.

Stephen said...

I'm sorry but there is nothing adorable about Beth. Nothing. The only good thing about her is her boyfriend, the transcendent, scissors-savvy Kirkeh.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Leanne's sister Toyah , who also lost weight (the actress is now on Law & Order UK). I think is is pressure from the producers to get thin. Period.

Barrie.T said...

I don't agree with this blog at all. If I were producer I would have everyone on a diet & exercise programme and give some of them makeovers in the hair & wardrobe department. I would start with Simon Gregson. I don't want to watch Steve McDonald turn into Stan Ogden. How realistic is it that he always gets all the beautiful women. Fiz looks great now that she has slimmed. Peter also looks a lot healthier now. Rita lost some weight when she was sick for several months, but she seems to have put it all back on. she hides behind oversized handbags and large coats. I want eye candy when i'm watching, which there is not enough of on corrie.

Dolly Tubb said...

Barrie T - and while they're at it, all the women should be under 30, all the men have six-packs (regardless of age) and everyone (regardless of gender) coiffured to within an inch of their roots. Cos that's how it is down my street. Thanks heaven Hilda Ogden, with her rollers and pinny, has long since gone - what kind of message would that be giving out?

Chatty Kathy said...

Stephen, I think you and I are the only two people here who do NOT like Beth. I never did. I don't find her even slightly 'loveable'.

Janice said...

I am guessing the author of this post is chubby. Graeme was skinny and adorable. Ernest Bishop well liked. Eddie Windass may have baked great cakes but he was on the slim side and much better liked than Anna. Curly watts was another. People complained about not seeing enough of Dr Carter and it wasn't because of his pot belly and butt flab. Gail and Sally are slight but much loved Corrie legends. Get my point?

Anonymous said...

Lots of lovely fattism here....

People like Janice and Barrie T expressing some extremely unpleasant opinions. It is their right, of course. Not everyone can be thin and "hot". Neither can they all be intelligent and polite.

There are all sizes of human beings in the north of England. Reflecting and respecting that is the human thing to do.

I'm not surprised that some of the younger actors go on weight-loss programmes; they are so endlessly photographed and criticised it's bound to have an influence.

Shan said...

Part of the reason why a lot of us in Canada watch Corrie is because of the realness of the characters. I don't like the American soaps where everyone is skinny with hair that doesn't move an inch from it's place and a full face of makeup (and that includes the men as well.) I think Corrie has a good mix of characters of all sizes and is real.

I personally don't want to see story lines where they lose the weight. I don't care if the actor has lost the weight in real life, they don't need to write it into the show. People go up and down in their weight in life and don't make a deal out of it.

Anonymous said...

As a Candadian high school teacher for 34 years, I can say that I encountered more students who had problems with anorexia and bulemia than with obesity. Now there's an issue Corrie could deal with!

Lily said...

I don't quite understand the point of this blog. It seems like you are actively endorsing the stereotype that 'thin' people are mean, boring, and full of themselves, while 'heavy' people are lovable, kind, and 'real'. Did I read that correctly?

I don't believe a character's ummm, character, changes because he/she has lost weight. The character changed because the scriptwriters decided to make the change. I don't think the scriptwriters said "oh that Molly was just so fabulous and lovable but now that the actress has lost the weight we should make her a bitch...because you know...that's how thin people are."

I don't agree with you about Peter Barlow at all. Peter's character change has nothing to do with the weight loss, it has to do with the time he spent away from the street, battling his demons and becoming a better, healthier person because of it.

Seems you are condemning the actors for losing weight and getting healthy by then saying their characters have lost their "love-ability", and I just don't see the proof in your post.

The characters of Coronation Street depict 'real' people, not because of their weight, but because of their looks. They are not all airbrushed, wearing designer clothes (even Carla's 'designer gear' is mostly high street buys like Topshop and Zara), all driving high end luxury cars and have their hair miraculously primped every day. It is a refreshing change from the American soaps where they all look botoxed, airbrushed, and liposuctioned. I like that some characters have lisps, or gaps between their teeth, or wrinkles or lines, and yes even those who are deemed 'overweight'. But in a society where these celebrities are either too thin or too big, there is no happy medium. And viewers seem to think that because they are actors they should expect the bashing they receive in the tabloids when it comes to their looks and body shapes. No one deserves it.
Imagine if you were in their shoes and someone was criticizing every outfit you wore (beige, anyone?), every wrinkle that was magnified on HD TV, every bump that showed through your clothes... not nice is it? Now times that by 100, and you'll know how they feel every day. They are not robots, they are not immune from taking criticism about their bodies to heart.

So how about focusing on the storylines and not the characters/actors looks?

And one more thing, I don't see how you can even compare Beth to Tracy. Beth is outspoken, callous etc, and it certainly doesn't make her adorable because she's 'heavy'. Nor does it mean that Tracy should be slammed for being 'hard' and a bitch just because she is thin. If Beth and Tracy said the exact same ignorant thing, to the exact same person, one does not get the brunt of the hate simply because she is thin and it is expected of them. This further fuels the stereotype that thin people are cruel and bullies. Well, it goes both ways I'm afraid: Racism is not only committed by white people, ageism is not only committed by young people, sexism is not only committed by men. The same thing goes for weight issues: it is not only discriminatory if it is just committed by thin people.

So sorry, but I think this blog only further fuels the weight issue plaguing our society, only now directing it in reverse by arguing that thin characters will be more loved on this show if they were heavier.

The characters are loved because viewers identify with their CHARACTER, not their body shape.

Anonymous said...

How someone looks on the outside affects how they feel and who their character evolves. You can't convince me that viewers only like certain characters because of their character alone; that is not how human beings perceive other human beings. Period. On the other hand, I've noticed a lot in this lifetime how miserable and judgemental skinny people are and I for one avoid that type of character entirely.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line - Soap stars get rich, get money, want to look hot in real life.

Peter is soooo hot right now. Best looking man on the show.

I agree that Anna is over. Get the whole Windass - Armstrong family moving on. Except Katie. She's a cute little character that can grow up and be great :)

Scott Willison said...

It was, in fact, a joke. All of it. That's my job round here, to write little pieces that might make you laugh. I saw Steve McDonald going into raptures over Penguin biscuits and thought back to when he was skinny and "cool" and I thought, "he's so much more loveable now." And then I remembered that Molly was lovely when she first came into the show, and she was horrible by the time she left, and what changed in that time? She lost a lot of weight. So I crafted a flippant comedy piece about it.

Nope, I didn't mention skinny people, because that wouldn't have been funny. I didn't mention Fizz because I couldn't think of a decent joke (the best I could come up with was "her husband only started murdering people after she lost weight" but that's not technically true). I also didn't mention Mandy, who is distinctly heavy and yet is a pestilent whinging cow, because again, not funny. It was not a serious treatise on society's grapples with obesity. It was a little fun piece for a blog about a soap opera.

For the record, I want the show to have all body types, fat, thin, tall, short, black, white, male, female, and any combination thereof. I don't want it to end up like Hollyoaks with a series of identically shaped humanoids. Also I really like Beth.

And on a final, personal note, I have during the coarse of my adult life been so thin that I wore XS t-shirts that ballooned on me and so fat I have broken a chair, and all points in between. It doesn't matter. I've been happy. I had better things to worry about.

Just take it as a joke and move on.

Glenda Young said...

Best blog post in a long time, really made me chuckle. I love Eileen's curves, me, she's a proper and real size.

JAM said...

Don't worry Scott. I suspect you'll never be able to make some of the commentators above laugh. They'd need a sense of humour for that.

For the record, I thought your post was hilarious.

Anonymous said...

I second you, Lily. And it's not about having a sense of humour or not having one. There is too much of an obsession with weight nowadays that posts like this, tongue in cheek or not, are just adding fuel to the fire.


You might also like...

Coronation Street Books for Fans