An instant fan of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend when it aired in 2015, I espoused its glory to all of my friends – until one friend stopped me short: “That title offends me.”
I knew where she was going with this. It’s true, the phrase “crazy ex-girlfriend” has misogynistic underpinnings, BUT, as I told my friend, show creators Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosch-McKenna were aware of it, called it out, and undermined its unbecoming connotations. “She’s the crazy ex-girlfriend,” the cast sings at the lead. “That’s a sexist term!” the lead pointedly responds.
“Huh. Okay, I’ll check it out.” My friend was hooked for all 4 seasons.
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As the creator of a show called I’m Too Fat for This Show, I too have run into questions surrounding my title. Overall, the title has been very successful at communicating the subject matter (decades of body dysmorphia and eating disorders) and the tone (a dark and irreverent comedy) as well as the universal relatability (obsessive, invasive, overbearing thought patterns, anyone?).
I’ve approached strangers in cities around the country declaring the show’s title, and it’s usually met with a laugh. “Oh yeah. Every women can relate to that!” YES, I think, they get it. (Then I move in to close the deal. Gotta fill them houses!)
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Occasionally, however, someone will do a quick scan of my body and say – either overtly or with “skinny bitch” stares – “Please. You?”
Oooh, this is fun, because I get to explain how the title indicates that it doesn’t matter what size you are; we’ve all been fed the same lies since our youth about why we suck – fill in the blank: I’m too (ugly, stupid, hairy) for (success, love, a beat-boxing career). When people with these kind of preconceived notions see the show, they emerge moved, thankful, and shocked to have seen themselves in the story and to have related to – someone they may or may not have seen as – a skinny bitch.
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But there is another reason the title troubles some people. Anyone familiar with fat activism or the body positivity movement will be quick to point out that this title equates fat to “bad” and thus feeds into the fatphobia of our society.
This I regret, because the play is decidedly fat positive. It delves into the neuroscience of the adolescent brain when it is being inundated with the lies of diet culture. It unpacks what a messed up notion it is that we are taught to equate our value to our body shapes way more than to say, oh I dunno, being a good person? Much like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend calling out the problematic nature of its own title, the show is as anti-fat-shaming as it gets.
For this reason, I’m deeply grateful to body positive activists for giving me the language to speak to these issues more articulately. Since opening the show three years ago, I’m Too Fat for This Show has evolved to further emphasize the importance of de-stigmatizing the word “fat.”
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Given all this, I wondered, Should I change the title for these upcoming LA performance? Besides the fact that it would be a marketing mishap to confuse the word-of-mouth momentum around the current title, the name still deeply resonates with many women.
And when the moment arrives in the play where the title is finally spoken, the full weight of the journey contained within these words lands hard. It gets not only a huge laugh, but often an applause break. (#humblebrag. Wait, maybe that’s a straight up #brag.)
So I had to ask myself, who are we trying to reach? Those enlightened within the body positive movement, or those still stuck in the lies of our fatphobic society?
Naturally, I’d prefer both. I want the show to be what it was once described to me as – “A lesson in empathy.” This means no matter what a person thinks coming in, they’ll leave with the remembered knowledge that we all have stories. And there’s universality in the specifics.
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In the end, I don’t regret my title. There are still days when the title feels too true. Cancel the show! You can’t *spoiler alert* take all your clothes off onstage with all the weight you’ve gained!
But this is all part of body kindness journey – forgiving yourself for a step backwards rather than spiraling into a weeping ball of guilt about not living up to the message of your OWN SHOW! What is WRONG WITH YOU! … Oh, sorry, too specific to me?
I’m proud of my title, and my show. It expresses who I was at the time of the writing, and I can look to it to see how far I’ve come in my relationship with my body. And I’m grateful for what both the show and the title has come to mean for so many audience members.
That said, I’m changing it for the TV show. Fleabag has a good ring to it. Thoughts?
I’M TOO FAT FOR THIS SHOW is a world-toured award-winning solo show on body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and the struggles of being a human. It will next play in Los Angeles at The Lyric Hyperion Theatre on October 16th and 23rd at 8pm. Tickets here.
“Must be seen by everyone, no matter sex, age or career.”
”A masterpiece of courage, self-assessment, and truth.”
“I don’t think I’m the same person after seeing it!”
“A moving experience and very, very, very funny.”
“One of the best pieces of theatre I have ever seen.”
“THIS IS HOW IDEAS SHOULD BE SHARED.”