I've been catching up with Lost
on DVD, and one reason I wanted to watch was to see how the show treated Jorge Garcia's heavy-set main character Hugo "Hurley" Reyes. (Earlier I wrote about Garcia here
as a perfect actor for Ignatius J. Reilly in "A Confederacy of Dunces.")
Halfway through the first season, at least, Hurley's shown compassionately. His windjammers and surfer-boy slang ("Duuuude!") place him from Los Angeles. He's kind and considerate. Immediately after everyone wakes up from the crash, he's the first person to notice and help the nine-month pregnant Claire. Physical work is initially hard for him, but he does it.
He's always alert to the "tone" of a situation. Often he acts on his own as an intermediary between two characters at odds with each other. In short, he has a high level of "emotional intelligence."
One would think that would make him a leader, and sought out. But no - because Hurley is also fat, with the pillowy, mattressy body of someone who's been big since childhood. As he remarks at one point, "I survived grade school and high school; I can survive this." Anyone who was a fat chilod knows exactly what he means.
Everyone in this story, though, has a gruesomely tormented past, and Hurley's no exception. At this point in the show we don't know of his multi-million dollar lottery win, his his burdensome guilt, the eating disorder that leads him to squirrel away food, his so-called "bad luck" and the extensive associated numerology sub-plot.
Nor have we yet seen his brief relationship with fellow mental patient Libby (who gets killed off.) I haven't seen the 'shipping scenes yet, but they sound sweet despite their brevity. Actor Jorge Garcia told the men's magazine Maxim
, "I liked the relationship a lot, the romantic side of it. That's not usually a thing they let the fat guy on the show do."
Fan reactions to Hurley as a fat leading character vary. Some embrace him enthusiastically - and literally. As Garcia says, "A lot of women I don't know want to hug me. I haven't totally gotten used to that." Others are either tasteless or misguided in their actions, as Garcia remarks in an earlier article
, "One lady sent me a coupon for Slim Fast along with a bunch of religious pamphlets. On another occasion, the same lady sent me dieters’ tea—but she didn’t send me the box, just a couple of bags in an envelope."Maxim
went on to ask: Have you found that chicks dig the belly?
I have this thing with my girlfriend, who lives next door to me, where we’re lying in the bed, and I just kind of collapse on her. And I’m like, “Go ahead, see if you can get yourself free. You know, just in case something happens. You’ve got to go to safety. Three, two, one.” She’s like, “Get off me!” I have to make her struggle out. That’s our little drill.
Whew. Now *that* is an interesting image.
I guess I should reserve opinion about the other plot points of Hurley's character, in particular his "secret stash," until I see them. On the surface, though, it looks like the writers wrote in Hurley squirreling away food as a response to the incessant fan question, "Why doesn't Hurley lose weight?" while stranded on the island.
Just the asking itself is telling. In the first season, Garcia apparently lost about 30 lbs. - which on his sizeable frame probably wasn't that noticeable. But it also shows a common misconception, that Hurley (and others) fat since childhood are fat because they eat a lot.
Fans ask why Hurley doesn't lose weight - but apparently don't think to ask why the other, thinner characters don't begin to look gaunt and hollow because of their initial lean rations (at least until Locke and Boone begin hunting, and the others begin foraging and fishing.) Is it only the fat man who's supposed to lose weight under privation? Actually, physiologically it's probably the other way around. It perhaps didn't occur to the writers that Hurley is most likely very well suited to the kind of extreme situation in which the survivors find themselves. He has the shape and size of a Polynesian islander - and that physique developed for a good reason. On an island with scarce and intermittent food, the "thrifty" genotype
which uses relatively fewer calories proportionate to body mass, and stores any newfound calories with high efficiency would probably be far better suited to survival.
I can see why the character has appeal, and not simply to those of us who like fat men. Overlooked, the butt of jokes, simple, not perfect, Hurley is an archetypal "Hans," from the common German name for the Jedermann
in the Grimms' fairy tales who goes out into the world and finds his fortune. He's the boy who would share his last crust of bread with the strange old woman in the forest, and thus win the fortune and the princess. Whether the writers of Lost
recognize his archetypal attributes, use them in further stories, (or give him another girlfriend!) remains to be seen.