|« Oprah Ending Her Show: Bad for Chicago||The Mystery of Irma Vep, the Funniest Horror on Stage »|
Performance Sat Nov 21 2009
Overweight people face many challenges; however, for overweight women, especially African-American women, the challenges tend to not only be greater, but also come with historical baggage.
Chicago native Erica Watson knows this all too well; a self-proclaimed "big, bold and beautiful" woman, this funny and fearless comedian and actress boldly tackles this issue in her hilarious one-woman show, Fat Bitch!
Acknowledging that "life is hard for fat girls with pretty faces," Watson doesn't deny her awareness about what people think or how they react when they see women who are overweight. She even shares various "insults disguised as compliments" that have been thrown her way; e.g., "You have such a pretty face" or "Can you cook?", which typically implies that people somehow feel obligated to say something nice to fat women. Watson is simply too confident to let this affect her and doesn't allow any limits to be placed on her because of her size.
She goes on to address her frustration with Hollywood's tendency to still relegate overweight, black women in the stereotypical "mammy" roles. According to Watson, the "Mabel King and Nell Carter Era" is over, and that it is time to do away with "heavy" black women being looked at as only nurturing, asexual and undesirable beings.
For Watson though, the mammy era isn't entirely over; in her opinion, actress Chandra Wilson, who plays Dr. Miranda Bailey in ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," is a mammy, too; as far as she is concerned, the fact that the apron has been traded in for a lab coat doesn't really mean much.
To save all the weighty black women from the falling prey to the mammy syndrome, Watson created "Super Mammy" -- a superhero whose mission is to "find other super-strong black women like herself" from the world.
In "The Adventures of Super Mammy," Watson encourages overweight women to be confident, and reminds us all that "overweight" doesn't mean "unattractive." While the Super Mammy concept was creative, it was a bit long and at times, deviated from its original intent.
The rest of show consisted of Watson's riotous tales about her size and its effect on dating and relationships (an old boyfriend told her she was "completely out of control"), self-esteem (fat women should simply be happy to have a man), and men who are "closet big girl lovers" who are attracted to heavy women, but are afraid of being ridiculed about it. She also pulled no punches when it came to describing her sex life, especially her eternal quest to achieve the big "o," all in an effort to tell the world that she is sexual, attractive, and wants the same things that all women want out of relationships.
Despite her über-confidence, Watson admits to being tired of all the "big girl jokes" and isn't remiss to recognize in both Hollywood and the "real world," what it ultimately means to be a large [black] woman. She notes, "I'm this size, yet, I'm still invisible."
While the bravery and boldness of Fat Bitch! is undeniable, I was somewhat disappointed in its unevenness. The show was billed as a discussion of "weight, race and class" -- but it's too heavy on weight and too light on race and class. Since Watson's Hollywood career is burgeoning, it would have been good to see her go into more depth about some of the struggles black overweight actresses and entertainers face as opposed to their non-black counterparts.
I cannot commend Watson enough on her bravery and how she refuses to let her size determine her destiny. It is plain to see that she is a "woman of size," but she's so darn witty and engaging, that by the end of the show, her size really is the absolute last thing you notice about her.
Watson asks for society to stop "putting her in a box" and "placing limits on her beauty;" with the direction she's headed in, the sky will most definitely be her limit.
Fat Bitch! (strongly recommended for adults only), is now playing at The Chicago Center for the Performing Arts, 777 N. Green St., Saturday, Nov. 21, and Friday and Saturday, Nov. 27-28. Tickets are $10 advance, $15 at the door; advanced tickets can be purchased online or call 312-733-6000.