Tales of a Plus-Size Smokeshow

Michelle Buteau assumes the spotlight in Netflix’s ‘Survival of the Thickest’

I adore Michelle Buteau. She’s played best friends, principals, operators, bosses, and admissions counselors in so many rom coms, and in my opinion she’s the best part of all of them.  Her comedy special is hilarious. Multiple people including my editor also told me that I must make it known in my review that she was absolutely wonderful hosting the second season of Barbecue Showdown. I haven’t seen it, but when several people are this adamant, I have to accept it as fact. I am only too happy to tout all her accomplishments, even those I haven’t personally witnessed.

 I’ve been hoping she’d lead a rom com for ages, so obviously I was excited to learn she was playing the lead role in an 8-episode series. Even better, that series is Survival of the Thickest, and Buteau plays Mavis Beaumont, a fat stylist who must rebuild her life and her client list after discovering her boyfriend cheating. Plus, she’s into clothes and the incredible plus-sized looks are abundant throughout the show. The show is based in part on Buteau’s essay collection of the same title.

What I appreciated most is the fact that she’s a fat woman who not only loves herself, she thinks she deserves love from others. Unfortunately, this premise is still somewhat rare, especially on Netflix, which brought us the fatphobic monstrosity Insatiable.

Survival of the Thickest starts off a little rough, but falls into a solid groove. It’s a comedy-drama, which can be a tough space to inhabit. In this instance, it led to corny, sitcom-level plots juxtaposed with extremely horny sex scenes, making for a weird tone at times. By weird tone, I mean a supermodel dropping a strap-on into a casket as she angrily lambasts her dead ex, followed suddenly by a scene with two other characters having aggressive and naked sex. It was like if the Nanny cut from Mr. Sheffield ruining a Broadway musical to a scene of Niles and CC doing it doggy-style.

This became less jarring over time, and the plots became less corny and more relatable. Buteau sparkles, invigorating every scene she appears in with energy and charisma. She has great chemistry with every scene partner on the show.

The best friendship with Mavis and Khalil (Tone Bell) is warm and believable. I can sense the love and history between the two, with no unnecessary will they/won’t they undertones. The show allows two opposite gender friends to simply be close and love each other without confusion. Marley (Tasha Smith) provides fierce loyalty and amusing quips as she supports Mavis and explores her own sexuality.

While Mavis is going through a tough breakup, her two best friends Khalil and Marley are also growing and learning about what they want out of life and relationships, and these storylines are both relatable and well-done, full of heart and humor. Mavis also learns to expect more out of her career, and refuses to be treated poorly by her clients as well as her romantic partners.

It’s refreshing to see a fat lead character allowed to be this hot. Buteau is a total smokeshow, and the show’s plots reflect that. She’s not hurting for attention from potential romantic partners, and it’s clear that all the men chasing her find her sexy, charming, and worthy of their time and attention. Again, sadly rare to see on most television shows. More hot fat people being fat and hot on screen, please.

By the final episode of Survival of the Thickest, I really cared about these characters and wanted them to thrive. While everyone has learned something by the end of season, I would still absolutely love to see what these characters are up to in a second season. As long as the writers, actors, and crew members are paid fairly, of course.


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Kristin Clifford

Kristin Clifford is a comedy writer in Los Angeles. She started in Chicago, studying improv and performing stand-up, but has traded the stage for the page. Recent projects include writing for season 2 of Cathy in Real Life.

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