There Are No Fat People on Star Trek

Actually, that's not entirely true. It just seems that way. You see, the only fat people on Star Trek are villains and aliens.

I'm sure the creators have a ready explanation for that: Star Fleet is a military institution and must maintain certain standards of fitness, etc, etc, etc. But still, what kind of message does that send?

Next week is Weight Stigma Awareness Week and I've been thinking a lot about the messages, both intentional and unintentional, that popular media sends about weight, the stigmas it creates and reinforces. For some reason, I fixated on Star Trek.

So when a widely popular show such as Star Trek features obese people only as villains and aliens, what messages does that send? Not tolerant ones, that's for sure. It says that fat people aren't part of the human race. Overweight people are "Them"; the human race is "Us." It says fat people are bad, evil, can't be trusted. Heck, even outside of Star Trek, movie villains are described as "heavies."

In a 2010 study, researchers asked students to choose which child in a series of pictures was "good" and which child was "bad." The only difference among the children in the pictures was their shade of skin color. The study found that most students chose lighter skinned children as "good" and darker skinned children as "bad."

I wonder what would happen if that study were repeated not with skin color as the differentiating factor, but body size. My instinct says that the larger children would be chosen as "bad" and the smaller children as "good."

We live in a society that proclaims we were all created equal, but it's clear we don't see or treat each other that way. Wouldn't it be nice if we did?