To achieve perfect summer camp neurosis, "just get a bunch of fat kids, stick them in bathing suits and add cameras."
That's the summation of Willamina Rader, at any rate. Will, as she's known by the other campers at Camp Victory—a fitness retreat catering to overweight teens—sees this neurosis firsthand. While slimmer teens at other summer camps may breeze through basketball, hiking or biking at their leisure, Camp Victory's kids must undergo mandatory, timed exercise—while fighting off the glare of a fitness instructor who obviously takes her cues from The Biggest Loser's Jillian Michaels. Meals are lean, meager affairs, completely lacking in chocolate.
Unless, of course, you're in good with Will, who pushes Ding Dongs like a crazed drug dealer.
Outspoken and militant, Will is a self-proclaimed feminist who says she's "down with" her flab and refuses to conform to society's body standards. Amber, her antithesis, wants to be thin—and she's farther down the path toward that goal than anyone else at camp. Amber plasters her wall with pictures of slender, bikini-clad models. Will displays art prints of nude, Rubenesque women.
Other characters have their own issues with weight—ones pulled from the pages of Cosmopolitan if not from its cover. There's Caitlin, who binges and purges; Becca, who's gained back the weight she lost at camp last year; and queen bee mean girl Chloe. Most of the campers are there because they want to be. But Will's not. She's there because her parents sent her—which, in her mind says she's not good enough for them.
So Huge sets out to split the difference between Will's press for acceptance and Amber's desire to be thin. It's not about how you look, the show stresses, but it is about your health. And Huge's message seems to be one its audience wants and perhaps needs to hear. A national tour has stressed positive body image in various cities, and cast members are full of praise. Hayley Hasselhoff, who plays Amber, told ABC Family, "I was so happy that there was a show out there that was coming out to say it's OK to feel good in your own skin … you don't have to be a size 2 to feel good about yourself or to be liked by others."
The New York Post's Linda Stasi writes, "I couldn't be happier if I'd just discovered calorie-free potato chips. … Fat teens on TV—who aren't just there to compete on The Biggest Loser? Overweight teens (sometimes badly overweight) who are treated like regular kids who love music, clothes, donuts and sometimes each other? When was the last time you saw huge kids kissing?"
But Huge also has big content issues. Sexuality—straight and homosexual—seems to be a given as girls talk about how campers "hook up" every summer. And a burgeoning relationship between a counselor and Amber is casually accepted. Campers and a counselor or two don really short skirts, shorts and other immodest clothing. Teens play mean pranks and lie on occasion, and they tend to harbor spiteful prejudices.
A camp counselor insults a group of kids who are exercising. Campers compare humiliating stories about being overweight and having to play sports. Will steals a magazine from one of her cabin-mates and cuts it up. Later the girls are part of an aggressive catfight. Will refuses to play basketball, in part because she fears failure. The camp cook gently teaches her how to shoot baskets once she's more receptive, and she begins to face her fear of sports. A new cabin-mate is welcomed, even though she and her family are a bit socially awkward.
The fitness instructor mocks the idea of girls skipping sports while menstruating. Somebody complains that her parents still have very loud sex. It's said that kids are supposed to hate their families and want to get away from them. Chloe treats her brother, Alistair, horribly.
Amber reads horoscopes. Language includes many misuses of God's name along with "dumb-a‑‑," "freaking," "boobs," "shiz" and "b‑‑ch."
"Hello, I Must Be Going"
It's the first week of weight-loss camp, and after lying about not having a swimsuit, newcomer Willamina does a pseudo-striptease to reveal it for a "before" picture. A camper who's found to be bulimic is sent home, in part because the girl frequently buys from Will's stash of "black-market" junk food. (Will is turned in and scolded.)
Amber sits on a boy's lap and has every male's attention at camp—including that of an off-limits counselor. Making out is mentioned. Will asks Becca if people think she's gay, on "a scale of one to Ellen." Someone purposely shrinks Amber's shorts, causing them to split during an obstacle course run. Will defiantly runs away from camp, but then just so happens to bump into the camp's Dr. Rand at a restaurant. The doctor threatens to let her parents send her to boot camp—then gives Will a second chance.
God's name is abused frequently. Vulgarities include "d‑‑n."