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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this reality series centers on a charismatic woman who's simultaneously battling obesity and trying to break into the fashion industry. It's an emotional journey for her, and the issues it raises -- including society's expectations of body size and how obesity facilitates stereotypes -- can take an emotional toll on sympathetic viewers as well. There are lots of tears as Chelsea comes to terms with how her weight has kept her from being the person she wants to be and how difficult the journey back to physical and psychological well-being will be. Unlike other weight-related reality shows, this series focuses on Chelsea's life journey rather than strictly on her weight loss, and her goals are more well-rounded than just losing a predetermined amount of weight. This translates to a more uplifting feel for the show, as well as to positive messages that relate to a wider range of tween and teen viewers. Expect some mild language ("hell," for example, with stronger words edited) and a few scenes that show Chelsea in her underwear, but none of this is inappropriate for mature tweens.
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What's the story?
CHELSEA SETTLES follows the 23-year-old titular character's life-changing journey from her small Pennsylvania hometown to Los Angeles, where she hopes to make a name for herself in the fashion world. What would be a daunting task for any hopeful on a good day takes even more effort from Chelsea, since the move is also part of her effort to adopt a healthier lifestyle and shed some of her 324 pounds. Leaving behind an ill mother and an unfaithful boyfriend, Chelsea finds inspiration in the hope that, with hard work and a determined spirit, she can have the life she's always dreamt of.
Is it any good?
MTV tries a softer approach to reality TV with this emotional story that centers on a very likable college grad who takes more than her share of emotional baggage with her to L.A. Not only is she overweight and susceptible to all of the insecurities related to that, but she's also struggling with being away from home for the first time, not being there to care for her diabetic mom, and feeling uncertain about her relationship with her boyfriend. Not to mention that she's attempting to break into the notoriously image-conscious world of fashion, and no amount of self-confidence can prepare her for the knocks she'll take on her job hunt.
As much as this story is about Chelsea's battle to overcome her food addiction and improve her lifestyle, it's even more centered on a coming-of-age journey that's reflective of most young adults'. Her issues with self-esteem may be more exaggerated than others', but they still exist to some degree for everyone, as do her struggles with mixed emotions about leaving home and uncertainty about the future. In other words, her story will appeal to a range of viewers, and its positive messages about respect, tolerance, and perseverance are worthwhile take-aways. This show raises issues about body image and stereotypes that, with a little prompting, can jump-start discussions with your teens about how society influences our impression of both.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about body image. Is there such a thing as a "perfect" body type? Does the media perpetuate a certain impression of how you should look? What messages about weight and body size do you get from this show?
Teens: How much does a person's appearance influence your impression of him or her? Have you ever prejudged someone because of their weight, clothes, hair, etc.? Do you take people's tendency to do the same into account when you plan your wardrobe? In what cases, if any, is it appropriate for someone to judge you on your appearance?
What can be gained by taking on new challenges? How does pushing yourself teach you about your character? What can be learned from failure? From success? What challenges have you overcome?
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