Fluff TV Sunday – Fat politics on Desperate Housewives

[Spoilers for season 5 Desperate Housewives, through episode 18]

There has been some absolutely abysmal fat politics on Desperate Housewives this season, mostly centring around Juanita Solis (Gabby’s daughter) – see Random Babble for more – and on Gabby’s crash dieting when they suddenly found out that her husband Carlos may be suitable for surgery to cure his blindness.

I’m not sure if they had a new writer for episode 5.17, The Story of Lucy and Jessie, or if they just changed direction a little. Lucy Blackburn, played by Lesley Boone, is a new character who has quite a bit of ancient history with Carlos. Gabby is, as always, played as the insecure jealous shallow stereotype, but the writing around Carlos and Lucy is different from usual.

For once, a truly fat character (not HollywoodFat) was introduced with her main storyline having nothing to do with her fat, except in Gabby’s mind when they first meet. Lucy just is who she is. She ends up being kinda nasty and a bit racist, but in DH that doesn’t bother me – almost everyone is nasty one way or another. DH is always problematic in all sorts of ways – do we really have to have an almost completely apigmented and mentally ill Big Bad this season? – but that’s not going to stop me recognising a small improvement in their body politics, and a scene that’s rather unusual for Hollywood.

Check out her introductory scene. Transcript is after the cut.



Setting: large, middle to upper class, clean suburban home interior decorated in taupes and reds.]

Carlos [in striped shirt and trousers]: Thanks for doing this.

Gabby [setting the table in a red evening dress]: It’s all part of being the president’s wife. So, tell me about your new hire. She’s going to be your number two?

Carlos: Yeah, and I’m lucky to get her. Smart as a whip, Harvard MBA. I’ve probably mentioned her before. Lucy Blackburn? Maybe I’ll go put on some music.

Gabby [looking startled, grabs Carlos’s arm as he walks past and spins him to face her]: Lucy BLACKBURN? [angrily] Please tell me it’s a coincidence that your new VP has the same name as your ex-girlfriend!

Carlos: She wasn’t my girlfriend. We were roommates. We shared an apartment.

Gabby: You told me you slept with her!

Carlos: Weeelll, it was a small apartment. C’mon, it was a casual thing, and it was a million years ago!

Gabby: I don’t care! Why couldn’t you have told me this before she’s about to appear on my doorstep!

Carlos: I wanted to. But you were always next to something sharp. {pleadingly and a little exasperatedly] Gabby, I am in over my head with this new job, and I need Lucy’s help. Please don’t be jealous.

Gabby: [laughs] I’m not jealous. It’s just – you can’t hire her. I’m Mrs President, and I get a vote.

[doorbell rings]

Carlos: There she is. Now please. I’m begging you.

Gabby: Well, you can beg all you want, I am not on board with this!

[Carlos and Gabby open the door]

Carlos: [smiling] Hey hey, Lucy!

Lucy [in black top, leopard skin jacket, and black pants, shoulder length auburn hair]: Hi! I’m Lucy. You must be Gabrielle.

Gabby: [surprised, then smiling] You can call me Gabby. Come on in!

[Lucy walks past, Gabby looks her thoroughly up and down as she passes]

Gabby [whispering to Carlos]: I’m on board.

[Carlos looks at the ground, closes the door. Cut to scene around the candle-lit dinner table. ]

Lucy: I gotta bid on Charlie Fields for CFO.

Carlos: Charlie Fields. There’s no way you’re going to get him – he’s the number two guy at Brewster and Perry.

Lucy {confidently]: Relax. It’ll take some manoeuvring, but I’ll make it happen.

Carlos: How?

Lucy: Carlos. You’re the president. It’s best you don’t know where the bodies are buried.

[Gabby laughs knowingly. Lucy’s phone rings.]

Lucy [picks up phone] Well, speak of the devil! If you’ll excuse me, I need some professional ethics that need compromising. [walks out of the room]

[Carlos laughs quietly]

Gabby [red wine in hand]: Wow! Now I know why you wanted to hire her. She’s a force of nature!

Carlos: You should see her close a deal.

Gabby: I bet! So were you surprised when the door opened?

Carlos: What do you mean?

Gabby: Well she’s obviously stopped counting calories since the last time you saw her.

Carlos [nonplussed]: No, she looks about the same.

Gabby: What?! But – you two – used to have sex.

Carlos [smiling]: Yeah, so?

Gabby: So don’t get me wrong, she’s attractive, it’s just – she’s not really your type. Your type is ‘skinny model’.

Carlos: Oookay, so you’re not going to see her on a runway.

Gabby: Except maybe at an airport…

Carlos: [scoldingly] Gabby! You think I’m that shallow? That all I go by is looks?

Gabby: Yeah, I thought that was something we had in common.

Carlos: Look – Lucy is brilliant, and witty, and has more confidence than anybody I’ve ever met. That type of personality can be very seductive.

[Gabby looks like she doesn’t know what to say. Lucy returns to the room, looking satisfied.]

Lucy: [happy sigh, hand on hip, other hand on Carlos’ shoulder] Someone light me a cigar!

Carlos: You got ‘im!

Lucy: I find poaching is easier when you lead with ‘We’ll double your salary’.

[Carlos and Lucy laugh conspiratorially]

Lucy: Sizzle me! [turns around]

[Carlos licks his finger, puts it on Lucy’s hip, says “Sssss!”]

Lucy: Sss, ah, there it is. That thrill you get from taking something that’s not yours.

[Carlos and Lucy laugh together. Gabby looks on with increasing concern, and narrows her eyes. Lucy takes her seat.]

Gabby [to Carlos]: Hey, are you still looking for a marketing director? I have a friend that I would love to see working with you two. [Looks directly at Lucy. Smiles.]

Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism, social justice

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3 replies

  1. I haven’t seen enough of this season to be caught up w/ what is going on, but wow. I mostly see DH as so over the top that no one could possibly think that the behaviors the women demonstrate are acceptable, until they tackled fat. Fat Juanita, Fat Lucy, even Fat Gabby (by her own account only). I don’t feel like they handle it w/ any tact or acceptance at all (though I feel like Lucy is treated better than Juanita, just based on this clip, simply b/c we don’t see her shoving food into her face every scene). I just don’t feel that the fat hate is seen as over the top as the other traits, it happens so often (I remember a crack about how the character Edie keeps her figure nice by not eating pizza, or that being poor means you will pack on pounds).
    I love your transcripts. Do you do them yourself? I have done transcription before and it takes hours sometimes (admittedly in other languages). I think that I could try to put some effort into doing them for my blog, since I appreciate them so much.

  2. OuyangDan: Have you seen forward from this scene? This is the last time Lucy’s fat is mentioned by anyone at all. It doesn’t come back to bite her or become a punchline; it is acknowledged, then it evaporates. And, as you note, she isn’t shown stuffing her face at any point.
    Gaby immediately begins to see her as a serious romantic and sexual rival – feministically problematic, of course, but it subverts the usual discourse of fat women being asexual, gross, and unlovable. Lucy also isn’t cast in a motherly role, which is about the only other niche generally available to fat women – quite the opposite, she’s an ambitious corporate shark.
    I do the transcripts using Audio Hijack Pro to grab the audio, then Listen & Type so I can transcribe quickly (it has keypresses to pause and skip back without switching apps).

  3. No, I haven’t seen past here, so that is good to hear, b/c it was a major turn off for me w/ the show. I have seen that actress before (though I can’t remember where), and she usually does good roles that are engaging like that.
    I have Audio Hijack, or whatever the Mac equivalent is I believe. I may have to try it out for transcription. I haven’t done transcribing since my military days, ha ha, which is probably why I haven’t done it in a while.

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