Is It Okay to Find Glee's Plus-Sized Character, Lauren Zizes, Gross?

Last night was Glee’s “Sexy” episode, marking the return of substitute teacher Holly Holliday (Gwyneth Paltrow), who, like a kinky Mary Poppins, floated into McKinley High to verse the cast on the ABCs of the birds and the bees. Along the way, we were given more sex-themed plot lines than there are diagrams in the Kama Sutra: Penis-phobic guidance counselor Emma was afraid of her husband’s “Hose Monster,” icy Santana wished she knew how to quit tonsil-hockey partner Brittany; Blaine enlisted Kurt’s dad to talk to him about the fundamentals of gay sex; Quinn and Finn had makeup sex; Rachel yammered on about something probably sex-related, I think; and Puck and Lauren Zizes attempted to make a sex tape.


Yes, the hormonal Puck and his large-and-in-charge obsession spent the episode plotting to film their own sex tape, which Zizes thinks will rocket her to a Kardashian level of fame (a reality show and fragrance). Puck, who was hoping to finally “motorboat those twins,” reluctantly signed on. There was something really gross about this plot to me. And so I had to ask myself: Why? Was it any grosser than any of the other romantic entanglements between the more conventionally attractive couples of Glee? Or was some kind of deep-seated prejudice I harbor against fat people bubbling up? I mean, as far as I know, I have no issue with fat people, and there are plenty of skinny people out there who I would prefer not to see naked. So why does Puck and Lauren’s relationship always make me want to hurl?

Let’s examine the evidence.

Zizes has been hailed by feminists groups (well, by Bust Magazine) as a new kind of plus-sized heroine—an obese female role model who for once doesn’t hate herself. On the contrary, she thinks she’s the bee’s knees. When Puck serenaded her with Queen’s “Fat-Bottomed Girls,” she rebuffed him, saying, “I look like America looks, and just like America, I need more than just a song to get my juices flowing.”

Right, well. I guess it would be hard to argue with that. But Zizes isn’t just a heavy, supremely confident girl. She’s also extremely violent. She’s on the wrestling team, speaks regularly of injuring Puck, and, in one hallway smackdown against the jealous Santana, proved she was a lot more than just bark. And you did catch that part about Zizes wanting to be famous for famous’ sake, right? That she was willing to give herself up to Puck purely in pursuit of a reality show and fragrance line? There’s a word for people who do things like that in the real world: It’s “assh*le.”

I think what’s going on here is that the writers of Glee see, in the hypersexualized and pugnacious dialogue between Lauren and Puck, a way of earning some of the shock-laughs that have become Glee’s calling card. But at the same time, they want their Zizes cake, too, with the preachy series turning the character into a role model for the overweight and downtrodden. Couldn’t they then be accused of both using, and hiding behind, Zizes’s size (or, more specifically, that of Ashley Fink, the capable actress who portrays her) to serve their own conflicting goals? I think they could.

So there you have it. I don’t think Zizes is gross because she’s fat. I think she’s gross because she’s an assh*le.

Do you like the character of Lauren Zizes? What did you think of Tuesday's safe-sex episode?

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