Here we are at the end of 2018 and my fat body still isn’t properly represented in the media. Although we’ve made some progress, we still aren’t there yet. Why is that?
One of the reasons is that the term “body positivity” has lost meaning, and so much of that has to do with corporations claiming everything from soap to bras as “body positive.” What started out as a fringe movement in the 1960s has now become palatable for the masses because it’s less about bodies, and more about how one feels: fat or thin.
Film, television and media can have a huge influence on body image and how we feel about ourselves, so why is it that writers, directors and producers continue to punch down, rather than punch up?
It’s time that viewers get to see fat bodies as more than just a punchline in a joke. I want to see my fat body written into film and television scripts that show that we are worthy of love, success and attention. For once, I want screenwriters to consider the systemic discrimination every fat person faces every single day. So many of us crave a deeper cultural discourse on fatness.
On that note, here were the highs and lows in fat bodies on screen in 2018.
These were good
When I first heard Jennifer Aniston was in a body-positive story on Netflix, I was skeptical. But this film, based on the 2015 young adult novel of the same name, brought me to tears because I saw myself for the first time on screen. Dumplin’ is the feel-good story of a teenage girl learning to be at home in her own body while obsessed with Dolly Parton. This film is wholesome, light-hearted and has the perfect amount of self-affirmation. If I’m being honest: I needed this film growing up, and maybe you did too. Bonus points for the cameo by Ginger Minj from Drag Race.
When it was announced that Sarai Walker’s 2015 novel, Dietland, was being adapted into a TV show, I was excited. Airing on AMC, the series is an accurate deception of the fat feminist experience through the eyes of its lead Plum Kettle (Joy Nash). While the show got mixed reviews, it’s I feel like the show was one of the only ones highlighting the daily microaggressions and challenges (internal and external) that fat women face without diminishing them. Unfortunately, Dietland’s days airing on AMC were numbered. It’s rare to have a show that channeled true fat, feminist rage in an uncomfortable yet very real way. Thankfully, Hulu has picked it up for streaming.
These 15-minute episodes on Cartoon Network document the coming-of-age story of a young boy named Steven. Each episode tackles pretty heavy things like self-care, family, friendships and bodies, all with comedy and wit. So much of this has to do with the show’s creator Rebecca Sugar, who has created a world that includes all sizes, shapes, personalities and genders. Sugar (the first non-binary show creator at Cartoon Network) has said in many interviews that they felt “immense pressure to provide viewers of all ages” with characters they can look up to.
When Ryan Murphy’s new FX’s drama Pose was announced, I was a bit skeptical. But the series, which documents the New York City ballroom scene in the 1980s, not only does a great job of capturing the LGBTQ+ community during the AIDS crisis, it is truly body positive. Many times during the first eight episodes, I cried. I felt a story and voice was given to many complex characters within the trans community, who are dealing with beauty standards, body shaming, trans discrimination and more. Plus, the series features five transgender actors as series regulars.
Thanks, I hate it
The Victoria Secret Fashion Show
Ed Razek, the chief marketing officer for L Brands and “architect” of the VS Fashion Show told Vogue in an interview, “If you’re asking if we’ve considered putting a transgender model in the show or looked at putting a plus-size model in the show, we have.” But then later said they wouldn’t include models from either category “because the show is a fantasy.” In the words of Ariana Grande, “Thank u, next.”
Before the show even aired on Netflix, over 100,000 people signed a petition calling for the show’s cancellation. This was in response to the super fatphobic trailer, which depicted a high-school girl getting bullied for being overweight, losing a bunch of weight by having her jaw wired shut all summer and then deciding to get revenge on her schoolmates. If you thought that was the worst of it, there’s biphobia, ableism and some sexual harassment. Gross, right? Makes you wonder why Netflix signed it for a second season.
I Feel Pretty
Why does Amy Schumer keep trying to pass off whatever content she is shilling as body positivity? Her character in I Feel Pretty is plus size, suffers a head injury and then believes that she is now stunningly beautiful. This starts to positively impact her life. I mean, can we all identify what the issues are here or do I need to spell it out? This “endearing comedy” ain’t so cute when half the jokes made in it are fat jokes. I’m just so sad that the funny and adorable Aidy Bryant had to star in this mess and defend Amy Schumer. Yikes!
Sierra Burgess Is A Loser
I was so looking forward to this film because of Shannon Purser (aka Barb on Stranger Things). But once I dug in, I realized the film was just a problematic mess. There were several uncool gay jokes, a person pretending to have a disability and a bunch of consent issue things. I felt so uncomfortable watching it and after Netflix’s Insatiable fiasco it left a bad taste in my mouth.