“Do I Have Bootydoo?”: Hilarious Web Series “Love Handles” Addresses Black Women, Fitness And Dating
Crystle C. Roberson, independent filmmaker and HBO award-winning short film director, said that is was celebrity gossip blogger Carlton Jordan who first approached her with the idea of co-producing, writing and directing a series around the themes of black women, fitness and dating.
Roberson, whose resume up until now focused on science and speculative fiction as well as abstract filmmaking, thought the concept was an amazingly brilliant detour from her normal artistic comfort zone. Not only that, but it is an idea that many women can relate to. As such, the long-time friends went straight to work drafting a script. What resulted was a comedy web series called “Love Handles,” which humorously chronicles the weighty tribulations of Leeza, a late 20-something curvy girl who was recently dumped by her fitness coach boyfriend for getting too fat in the relationship.
In the first 12-minute long episode entitled Bootydoo, which you can watch now on YouTube, Leeza’s best friends Charlie and Jade try to convince her that the answer to her broken heart was not more emotional eating, but a gym membership. “We just want our 135 pounds and happy Leeza back. And plus, honey, your thighs are spreading like peanut butter and jelly,” quipped one of the girlfriends. However, Leeza, who is both in denial and resistant to the idea, instead cites the same excuse uttered by millions of women when we have no intention of really working out, but want to save face in front of company: “I’ll just stay here and do my Insanity. I can do it right here in my living room.”
It is a light-hearted take on a rather sensitive issue in a community, which often defines beauty standards different from the mainstream, more Eurocentric-culture. In the black community, fuller shapes and sizes are appreciated. At the same time, the high levels of obesity rates among black folks, and black women in particular, have contributed to a mirage of health concerns including diabetes and hypertension, which both run rampant in the black community. Therefore, the conundrum over whether Leeza should lose weight or ultimately love herself in her current state was something that Roberson said that she and Jordan really battled over when developing the arc of the main character Leeza – much like real women do in real life.
“It is sort of like a thing where Leeza is beautiful the way she is, but she feels some kind of way because her man has dissed her and left her, but there are plenty of men out there who love her curves,” says Roberson. “She is actually going to meet a guy in the gym that thinks that. However, she is leading an unhealthy lifestyle. You know, she doesn’t have a balance. And so it is that balance between loving yourself the way you are but also being healthy. And not saying every woman needs to be thin, but saying that women should strive for health. That’s the conversation we’re trying to have with this series.”
Roberson said that weight issues aren’t really talked about in film and television unless it is someone poking fun or terrorizing the big girl – like Jill Scott’s character in Why Did I Get Married? But while “Love Handles” does plan to tickle the funny bone, she asserts that the series also will attempt to thoughtfully explore themes about how we define beauty, in particular, what it means to exercise because you want to look slender and “good,” versus working out for health and fitness reasons.
“Lots of shows feature bigger women, like The Parkers and Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns. But no shows have ever just said, ‘hey, let’s talk about this weight thing. Let’s talk about this health and fitness thing and how it relates to your self-esteem and your self-love and your relationships and your friendships.’ It’s just a matter of having a variety and tackling a subject that sort of gets swept under the rug or gets made fun of.”
While she has never personally dealt with the emotional pain around weight issues, Roberson said she knows all too well the pressure, which comes with wondering if you are good enough. It is this over-arching theme of self-acceptance and reflection, which she is certain other women, who too exist outside of the weighty debate, will also appreciate.
“You know it is all self-image and how you view beauty and how that impacts you as a woman. And for some reason, beauty equals self worth. We let it really define us…you really are striving for perfection and you are looking at the wrong things.”
So far the series has one full episode in the can and is currently in production with the second and third episodes. Roberson said they hope to have the six-episode season prepped for release by March – April at the latest.
With little funding, Roberson, who has also worked production on a number of big Hollywood films to make ends meet, said that the web series has mostly been a labor of love for both she and Jordan. However, thanks to the success of Issa Rae, creator of the wildly popular web series Awkward Black Girl, who Roberson says has paved the way for other narrative storytellers to get their work out there to audiences faster, she says that they are hoping to gain a serious online fan-base and propel the series to the next level – which might even include television.
“I really think the web is really putting the power into indie filmmakers and in the hands of content creators more so than what we had before” says Roberson. Like, we have a little bit more control over how many people or where our project can go versus before, it was sort of left up to the film festivals to see if it was good enough or distributors to see if they can make some money off of it. But now it is a matter of you can create and put it out if you want to.”