There’s been a lot of online discussion as of late about the representation of fat people in the media, in particular television shows and movies. Most shows and movies that feature a fat person do a terrible job of accurate and compassionate representation, often sticking us into very narrow stereotypical tropes like “the funny friend” or the “sad single girl.” Even movies that claim to have a message of body positivity tend to fuck it up (Fuck you Shallow Hal and that goddamn panty scene).
As such, I decided to put together a list of my own role models that I grew up seeing on both the big and the small screens.
Ursula in The Little Mermaid
I was 8 years old when The Little Mermaid came out and this movie has had more impact on me than any other Disney movie. Why the fuck do you think this natural blonde has red hair? It also solidified my longstanding love for the Disney villains, thanks to Ursula.
Look. Ursula is just an entrepreneur who got a bad rap, okay? She identified an opportunity — help the merpeople get what they want — and set the terms of payment. Then Ariel comes along and signs a contract and is unable to fulfill her end of the deal. And suddenly it’s all Ursula’s fault? Should she have manipulated the situation with the intent of making sure Ariel couldn’t fulfill her end of the deal? Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, she is the villain, after all….. If nothing else, she did teach us all the importance of body language.
Miss Piggy from The Muppet Show
Ellenor in The Practice
I was 15 when The Practice first aired and Camryn Manheim was the first fat women I remember seeing on a screen who wasn’t a) a cartoon or b) a muppet. For a brief period of time in high-school, I seriously considered going to law school and it had everything to do with Ellenor.
A year later, when she won an Emmy for her performance, Camryn got up on stage and raised that statue high above her head and yelled “This is for all the fat girls!”
This was 16 year old me, sitting in my bedroom, clutching my pillow staring at the television screen:
Sookie in Gilmore Girls
Ah, Melissa McCarthy before she was ~*MELISSA MCCARTHY*~ Is there anything not to love about Sookie? It would have been super easy to relegate her to the role of Lorelai’s “fat friend” but Sookie is a well-rounded character with her own narrative arcs.
Brienne in Game of Thrones
Brienne isn’t fat, but she is still a shining example of body positivity. Even in George R.R. Martin’s fictional world, she represents a body type that is outside the norm but she gives zero fucks. She defies all cultural expectations in Westeros of what a woman is supposed to be like.
Taystee and Cindy in Orange is the New Black
Taystee and Cindy are two of my favorite characters from the entire incredible ensemble that makes up the cast of Orange is the New Black. Like Sookie, they are well-rounded characters with full backstories and narrative arcs and they just happen to be fat. Which, honestly, is how it should be. Too often, however, fat characters entire storyline is centered around their fatness (most often in the form of wanting to be less fat) when the reality is they should have completely separate storylines and they just happen to be fat.
Because that’s just how it is for those of us living our lives. I mean, the fact that I am fat is 100% the least most interesting thing about me.
Gina in Beautiful Girls
This speech says it all:
Who are some of your body positive role models from tv and movies? Share them below!