TV's New Sitcom 'Mike & Molly': Are Its Fat Jokes Funny or Offensive?

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Cheryl Foster, a Chuck Lorre fan in Waco, Texas, says she's overweight but was not offended by the show's jokes, saying she found them clever. "I'm interested in knowing more about the relationship between the characters, to learn what allows them to speak to each other about weight issues the way they do."

Jimmy Smith, a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Stamford, Conn., said he watched "Mike & Molly" because it focused on overweight people. "I was really interested in seeing where they'd take it, and what they'd do to show how the characters would try to take off their excess weight." Although Smith said he cringed at some of the jokes and dialogue, he empathized with the characters.

"People who are overweight are often sensitive, and they hide it by making jokes to mask how uncomfortable they feel in their own skin," he said, adding that some of his clients make the same types of self-deprecating quips. "Often the jokes are meant to show an overweight person's self-acceptance to others."

'Mike & Molly' Offers 'Welcome Reality'

Smith said he found the show "motivating," and that having the two main characters meet at Overeaters Anonymous was encouraging. "Often people don't want to admit, because of shame, that they've met people at this type of meeting."

While Taub-Dix, the dietitian, worries that the show will offend the overweight and contribute to the nation's burgeoning obesity problem, for Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University, "Mike & Molly" offers a stark tinge of welcome reality.

"These don't strike me as jokes," said Nestle, who also wrote the book "What to Eat." "These sound like a very accurate dead-on description of the ridicule, discrimination and rudeness that overweight people hear all the time, especially when the words undermine these people's ability to lose weight. I'm impressed."

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