I grew up in an era of body idealization en mass like never before. Popular early 2000s icons like Britney Spears, Shakira, and Christina Aguilera brought forth an obsessive frenzy over flat stomachs while the modeling industry solidified its requirements below the specified BMI for the average size American woman. The past few decades have only served to further this divide by featuring roughly 2% of representative size (0-4 as "straight size") in print media, and categorizing the average size woman as plus-size.
The reinforcement of the "fat best friend" stereotype further instilled a stratification of body types in our self-imposed hierarchy. At times, it seems that as a society we will never advance past caricatures of the pretty, thin leading character and the plump, approachable, clumsy fat friend. The latter are often flattered and grateful to any love interest they receive, no matter how ridiculous, because they're simply so relieved that someone wanted them. Even if the larger character is given some degree of depth or character development, their weight is still a significant part of their identity and their plot. Everyone around them notices them in relation to their weight, and their size is often their motivation to make unnecessary changes or transformations in an effort to be accepted.
Think about it.
Can you think of any mainstream character, with significant depth and development, where their weight is never mentioned?
There are a few here and there to be sure, but there's a noticeable gap in the entertainment industry. Hairspray, The Nutty Professor, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Dumplin', Fat Albert, The Duff, Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarves, and so many more cannot resist leaning into a trope of the fat, insecure friend. They may eventually come to love themselves, but their size is always a source of insecurity. In fact, "the duff" itself stands for "designated ugly fat friend." How do these representations offer any dignity or promise of respect when their presence is constantly the punchline of a joke?
How can we ever progress past the fatphobic rhetoric that permeates the entertainment industry today if we continue to perpetuate oversaturated, obnoxious stereotypes and rigid character profiles?
I look forward to the day when literature, film, and television is colored with varied examples of larger bodies celebrated as human beings with capabilities and depth beyond weight. I look forward with great interest to the feature of body diversity representation in media.
Do you know of some positive examples of larger characters in print or television where their weight is never mentioned? Please leave a comment and share with the community.