Roxane Gay had a great article in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about the increased representation of plus-sized women in movies and TV shows. I wish I could just print it here for you in its entirety (you should really just go read the whole thing), but here are my favorite bits:
1. Our Priorities and Expectations About Women's Bodies Are Fucked
We are part of a culture where "Mad Men" actress Christina Hendricks recently took offense during an interview when she was referred to as full-figured simply because she is curvy. We are part of a culture where full-figured singer and actress Jennifer Hudson received more acclaim in some quarters for slimming down and becoming a Weight Watchers spokesperson than for winning an Oscar for her performance in "Dreamgirls." In one of her Weight Watchers commercials, Hudson goes so far as to say losing weight has been her biggest accomplishment.
2. You're Never Just a Woman—You're Always a Fat Woman
In "Pitch Perfect," Rebel Wilson's character Amy goes by "Fat Amy." She does this, she says, so "twig bitches" don't call her fat behind her back. Wilson has a significant role in the movie and wields her deadpan comedic style with great aplomb but her size is still a plot point. Her size cannot go unacknowledged the way body size is unacknowledged for her slimmer costars.
It's a basic idea of thin privilege: When I watch television and movies, I am essentially guaranteed to never see a person with a body that looks like mine without their body being played for laughs or pity.
3. A Ray of Hope!!!...Wrapped in an Insult
Wilson also recently starred in "Bachelorette," where during the first half of the movie, her character, Becky's size was a major plot point and a source of much of the movie's humor. In the movie, Becky is getting married to an attractive, successful man and her three best friends Regan, Gena, and Katie simply can't believe Becky, as the overweight friend, is the one to get married first..."Bachelorette" does, however, complicate the traditional fat girl narrative in that as the plot unfolds, Becky's weight becomes less of a source of fascination and we see that it's Becky's thin friends who cannot control their appetites for drugs, love, or attention while Becky, for the most part has her life together and gets the guy.
Cool, thanks for that. Let me know when a fat woman gets to play the romantic lead in a movie without the movie being about how scientifically impossible it is for her to experience romance.
4. This Again:
Overweight actresses are routinely constrained to roles and plots that make their body a focal point and, more often than not, a source of ridicule or humiliation. They are always considered overweight long before they are considered women. The constancy of this erasure is telling.
Erasure is what Kenneth Krause was attempting to inflict on Jennifer Livingston when he told her, "Surely you don't consider yourself a suitable example for this community's young people." It's saying, "You should not exist, and if you do exist you should not be seen, and if you are seen you should pay a penance." I'm grateful to have Melissa McCarthy and Rebel Wilson on my screen, if only as an affirmation that women of all sizes can be funny and powerful and smart and successful. But I look forward to the day when they just get to be women.