Sunday, June 08, 2008
I Heart Fern Britton
I've loved Fern Britton as a TV presenter since I was a kid. At a time when all TV presenters (and certainly news presenters) were boring and old, she made a splash on 80's BBC-training-ground 'Spotlight South West' (followed soon after by Jill Dando) and it didn't take long for BBC London to notice her. In those days she was glamorous and thin, and her popularity was full deserved. Her personality shone through in the age of Kenneth Kendall, a permanently frowny Jan Leeming and Richard Baker.
Her run as co-presenter on ITV's 'This Morning' with Phillip Schofield unexpectedly eclipsed that of her predecessor Judy Finnigan, except this time she was significantly overweight. The suspicion was that she had become a national treasure in part because of her weight, which became borne out when she recently went for her dramatic weight loss. She didn't initially reveal that she'd had gastric banding surgery and much of the tabloid press decided she'd been dishonest in some manner with her audience. Excuse me, how exactly is it her audience's business, even if she'd only told part of the story? I think Fern is as fabulous now as she was when I was then, and Lowri Turner is dead right - her appearance is her business. If she wasn't being truthful about being happy being fat, it indeed shows just how difficult her body image as a TV presenter has been for her. And how she went about her weight loss is also irrelevant - might I remind the tabloid scum that her Rivita commercials were supposed to be ironic in the first place?
What's alarming remains the suggestion that part of her popularity came from her size, that being fat and seemingly happy with it made her the safe repository for a huge proportion of her audience's insecurities, and that going thin was thus some sort of betrayal. Barbara Ellen is right here - her popularity really should only be down to her disproportionate skill as a TV presenter. I wonder if Dawn French would suddenly get it in the neck if she revealed she hated her weight and actually did something about it. What a damning indictment that would be on us. The lesson of this storm in a teacup is that yes, it is ok to be fat, yes it's ok to be slim, and that judging people for their bodies whatever their size couldn't be more out of order. And good for Fern for sticking up for herself (below).