As a fat actress, I’m invested in the film community and changing the perspective of how fat actresses are treated. Strap in, because it’s time to talk about how using fat actresses as a token character is not actually helping the stigmatization of being fat. If we want the next generation to have less self-hatred, we need to start by changing the media they consume.
Let’s look at fat actresses in Romcoms. There are multiple Romantic Comedies with fat actresses where the entire film surrounds the idea that she finally ‘accepts herself’ as she is. Thank goodness that this fat woman can finally accept herself. It’s almost like nobody thought of the fact that this fat person could actually be confident from the start. So to get her there? We’re going to knock her out.
Look at ‘Isn’t it Romantic,’ where Rebel Wilson hits her head after getting mugged and ends up in a fantasy world where PEOPLE FIND HER ATTRACTIVE. Excuse me? She is, and always was, absolutely gorgeous. Throughout the film, she finally learns to love herself. Which, you know, message is great, I get that. However, she can and deserves to love herself from the beginning. People who are plus sized don’t need to doubt themselves because of their weight. It’s more than okay for a fat person to be confident, and to dress how they want to without being knocked unconscious.
Rebel isn’t the only example. Amy Schumer has that lovely film, ‘I Feel Pretty,’ where she hits her head and is tricked into thinking she’s really beautiful, and therefore gains confidence. Eventually, of course, (let me know if you see a trend) she ends up loving herself anyway. Thank goodness, because fat girls do deserve to love themselves. However, when we portray it through this lens that women need to be knocked unconscious and tricked into loving themselves because they’re fat, we’re not really showing self-love. (If you’re looking for a good Rom-Com with a plus sized person, I would recommend looking up Queen Latifah on IMDB. She has a myriad of amazing films that don’t center around her weight.)
It’s not just Romcoms, though. Whenever we have a fat lead in a movie, her main insecurity centers around her weight. I mean, there’s a character out there named, ‘Fat Amy,’ for god’s sake. Can we bring up ‘Insatiable’, a show about a girl who’s peers bully her for being overweight, and then she loses it all, and is now hot and deciding to get revenge on her classmates? Or in ‘This Is Us,’ when Kate’s entire character is centered around her being overweight?
How about the fact that being fat is often the joke? Monica in ‘Friends’: an ongoing joke about how she used to be so fat and unlovable. Nathalie in ‘Love Actually’: multiple comments about how fat she is (which are not funny) throughout the film, including from her partner! ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ often discusses “No Fatties.” ‘That 70s Show,’ has “Big Rhonda.”
Fat isn’t the punchline. My body is not a joke. Two thirds of Americans are considered overweight. Yet, we use film as a medium to only show one body type. Why are we so scared of fat people, especially fat feminine people? The power I must hold as a fat person, if you are so scared to see me on your screen.
One of the common misconceptions that I see is that showcasing these body types is “promoting obesity and unhealthy lifestyles.” Yet, on How I Met your Mother, they all smoke cigarettes. In That 70s show, they’re constantly high. On ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,’ they drink constantly. In Friends, they’re constantly eating take-out food. Why am I not hearing an outcry about this? Why is there no outcry for all of these behaviors, but there is an outcry against my body for simply existing? Fat and Unhealthy are not interchangeable. In fact, I’m incredibly healthy (according to my doctor) and on the road to great health.
I challenge you to truly think about what’s bothering you if this is your response to wanting more representation in media. Showcasing average body types isn’t promoting anything, it’s simply allowing the next generation to have a wider range of people to look up to. As you’re watching film and TV moving forward, try to think of it from a different lens. We deserve to have more representation in media. I’m sick of seeing the same person every time I turn on my television.
For some positivity, here are a few films and shows I recommend with great plus sized characters:
1. Steven Universe
2. Joan Holloway in Mad Men
3. Every Queen Latifah movie ever made
4. Orange is the New Black
5. Gabourey Sidibe in Empire
6. The Mindy Project
Noura Boustany Jost is an actress, writer and videographer currently residing in New York City. Noura is passionate about social activism, and is often creating work that has political and social impact on today's society. She jumps into the hard topics, and helps tell stories for those who can't tell them themselves. Noura is currently working on publishing her poetry book, "Be My Ocean," and writing her novel. When Noura isn't working, you can find her gaming, hanging out with her two cats, or trying very hard to learn how to rollerskate. For more information on Noura please visit www.nourajost.com.