There’s a lot going on in Physical, from aerobics and the birth of home video to sexism, misogyny, and all around dickishness. There’s also Orange County politics, the stigma of motherhood, and—perhaps most poignantly—main character Sheila’s struggle with a crippling eating disorder. The latter was inspired by Physical creator Annie Weisman’s own struggle with a decades-long eating disorder, which she told The L.A. Times was added to the show in part “to reflect more of the darkness that I experienced in my life as a Southern California native.”
As Weisman tells us in the interview above, Physical was born out of, as she says, “really wanting to kind of start to talk about something that I’ve been really struggling with privately for so many years, which was this really pernicious eating disorder that has been a very secret part of my life.” She continues:
I wanted to express it and get it out there. And I came up with the idea to set it in this world because I was just fascinated by this time period that I lived my childhood through, from the 70s turning into the 80s. It’s the changing of the culture in this time from this period of idealism from the 60s into this very different set of values that were coming to the fore in the 80s. In my own family, it was represented by my parents going from being these Berkeley educated radicals to Reagan voters and it also corresponded to the fitness boom and the self-help movement.
Weisman says much of Sheila’s on-screen struggle also comes from the breakdown of those ideals. As she explains:
The movement that she was part of really let her down. The liberation that was promised didn’t really come to her in the domestic space. She didn’t feel liberated. She felt even worse than before. So she looks for a new way to feel empowered.
I think a lot of people, when there’s a disillusionment with one movement, they seize on another, even though it’s seemingly very different. For her, having been disillusioned by the progressive liberalism of her husband, she starts to embrace this new set of values, which are about physical strength and economic power. That’s where the liberation is going to come, and that’s the shift we’re seeing in her in all its complexity.
Image credit: Apple TV+