Do Shows Like The Naked Truth Do More Good Than Bad For Fat People?

This BBC Three film, The Naked Truth, does exactly what it says on the tin: Five fat people discuss their issues while naked. Set up to try and be overwhelmingly impartial, the mix of men and women are presented individually on a plain white set with nobody speaking but them.
The interviews range from serious to funny, overlaid throughout with positivity about being plus-size. As one woman puts it: "If someone calls me fat then why would I let it bother me? I am!" We learn about the trials, tribulations and triumphs of being fat in 2018’s Britain. Jed, a London-based comedian, says he had to learn to laugh at and with those trying to offend him, something that led to his career choice.
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If someone calls me fat then why would I let it bother me? I am!

All the time I'm watching The Naked Truth I feel like I’m watching a documentary designed for controversy – there's no ill intent, but I’m still filled with a sense of dread. It’s uncomfortable viewing for me, as both a fat woman and a person with an understanding of how society views fat bodies. It’s the knowledge that there are those who won’t be watching this for any other reason than to attack the body positive community that unsettles me. I know from experience that people seek out body positive content in order to revel in their disgust for plus-size flesh, to laugh at and hate those that look similar to me.
But the show does make me consider my own nudity. I exist in a fat body. I know what a fat body looks like. I’m often nude on my own, but I don’t actually look at my fat body. I’m naked for sex, but my appearance is far from the forefront of my mind when I'm having it. I see fat nudity in art, in selfies, in porn on my explore page and in my search history. But the bodies presented in The Naked Truth aren’t trying to fulfil any body positive quota, sexual act or edgy art piece – here they are existing naturally, harmlessly and without pretension. That’s what shocked me the most.
It’s not that I’m unaware of what a fat body looks like unclothed, it’s that I pretend to myself that mine doesn’t look like that. Before watching the show, I saw myself as full of self-love and adoration. Now I consider how much of that is forced and how far I have to go to be as brave as the five people we see on screen.
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The interviews themselves are relatable and affirming. Quotes stick with me for days: "There’s nothing morbid about me." Cue laughter. "We all have an ideal body and this is mine." Cue tears. We track through the struggles of obesity together, the struggle with being labelled "obese" and even the social perception of the word obesity.
Every single one of our fat five relates how miserably they’ve been treated by the public and how awfully they’ve treated themselves. "I’ve been on Weight Watchers, I’ve been on Slimming World, I’ve had diet pills, I’ve starved myself, I’ve binged, I’ve tried to throw up food," recounts Ms British Beauty Curve pageant winner, Kat Henry. From overeating to undereating, from shame-filled agoraphobia to shame-spitting public forums, the hatred of fat people permeates all corners of fat life. Tutting in lifts, on buses, at the club are micro-aggressions designed to make us hate ourselves.
Yet these five people don’t. Their fat defines them socially, politically, medically and personally but as each and every interviewee acknowledges, without their fat they wouldn’t actually be themselves. They couldn’t be a plus-size clothing designer, they would never have found the humour to be a comedian, and you can’t enter a plus-size pageant – and win it – if you are not plus-size.
Weighing up the voyeuristic nature of the film against the visibility it gives plus-size people is hard, and not just for me to decide, but I hope that this film does more good than bad for fat people. The Naked Truth exposed my weaknesses and equally gave me strength. It’s hopefully going to have a positive impact on a community that needs an unairbrushed, desexualised representation desperately.
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The Naked Truth is available on the BBC Three website and on BBC iPlayer from Sunday 29th April.
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