Welcome to Dietland

A new, feminist television series is barreling in full force to AMC this month with a scandalous proposition—that women should be unapologetically proud of who they are, regardless of their size.

Joy Nash as Plum Kettle in the first episode of Dietland. (Patrick Harbron for AMC)

Based on a novel of the same name by Sarai Walker, Dietland is the story of Alicia ‘Plum’ Kettle, a journalist earning a living responding to letters to the editor for a prominent fashion magazine. Plum spends her days answering despondent emails from teenage girls about topics ranging from body shaming to sexual abuse; reporting to her demeaningly superficial boss, Kitty Montgomery; and attending Waist Watcher meetings and subscribing to fad diets in a desperate attempt to become the “ideal” version of herself—the thin version. Her life drastically changes, however, when she meets a mysterious young woman who brings her into the folds of a covert feminist operation with the sole objective of toppling an oppressive patriarchy from the inside out.

“I want people to see Plum, have empathy for her, and turn that back on themselves,” Executive Producer and show creator, Marti Noxon, whose esteemed credits include such feminist powerhouses as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, said at a recent screening of the show in Los Angeles. “Narrative is powerful. Being seen is important. I want women to feel seen when they watch this show.”

Throughout the show, Plum’s self-degrading mindset undergoes a palpable shift. She meets formidable women who defy socially-imposed standards of beauty, which sets her on a course towards self-acceptance. For the first time in her life, she is exposed to the notion that weight is not a defining figure in one’s own happiness or self worth—and, armed with a newfound sense of purpose, she morphs into a vigilante intent on empowering the impressionable young girls to whom she writes. According to Noxon, “her cape is her belief system.”

Joy Nash as Plum Kettle in the first episode of Dietland. (Patrick Harbron for AMC)

While the show does depict several graphic acts of violence against male sexual predators—carried out by a league of feminist rebels known collectively as “Jennifer”—Noxon assures viewers that such depictions are merely metaphors. Unveiling sharply on the heels of a grand jury’s indictment of Harvey Weinstein on charges of rape and criminal sexual acts, such violence towards male perpetrators is symbolic of the rousing acts of political and social defiance against toxic masculinity and misogyny taking place every day in homes, workplaces, schools and entire communities and countries as the #MeToo movement continues to rise.

Plum’s story of awakening seems ripe in parallel to the current awakening en masse of women across the country—and the world—to their own oppression. With Dietland, Noxon further stirs this collective realization. “We are systematically taught that we are objects, not people,” she told the crowd at last week’s screening, likening this objectification with the rampant exhibitions of violence against women. “We are used to being prey. We’re too polite. We find our safe space.”

Noxon asserts that Plum is, to a degree, a vessel communicating the undercurrent of anger currently bristling through the ranks of women in society as a result of this violence and oppression, and that the end of misogyny can be achieved through education and vocal opposition even if “Jennifer” resorts to violence.  “We have a responsibility to teach women to use their voice,” she said. “To say ‘no.'”

Thus, the series itself begs the question—how do we turn anger into mindful activism? Noxon seems to have a solution, having funneled her own rage into the message behind her new show—though there still is a caveat. “My feminism is every decent human being in the boat,” Noxon said. “But you have to be decent.”

Dietland premieres TODAY at 9/8 CST on AMC.

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