“Big Girls, You Are Beautiful ” : The Role of Curvy Women in Pop Culture and Why We Should Change It

 

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Do you remember this famous Mika’s song ?

“Diet Coke and a pizza please

Diet Coke, I’m on my knees

Screaming, « Big girl, you are beautiful”

            After all, Mika is right, why should “big girls” feel bad about eating a pizza? I feel like there is a kind of shame associated with eating in front of other people if you are curvy. That is why they should also take a Diet Coke to feel like they are not too obsessed with junk food. Society wants to make you pay for being different – and it does that all the time, no matter how and why you are different. The cult of being skinny is not that young. In the sixties, Twiggy was a beauty role model for many women and in the eighties, it was already popular to look almost androgynous – so extremely thin in order to redefine the feminine standards. However, this trend seems to have accelerated in recent years, affecting younger and younger children. If you take a look at Youtube comments about curvy Youtubers/models, you’ll always read these words : “You are not healthy.” This sentence is the new “You’re fat” but with a sort of nice and caring tone as if these fourteen years old were doctors. Most of the time, we are influenced by pop culture and the numerous images that cross our computer. Movies, TV shows and advertisements are mostly responsible of our misconceptions about “fat people” – and particularly “fat women”.

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            Curvy women have always had a specific type of roles in cinema/TV shows. While skinny women are considered sexy or lovely and get to be the main characters, fat women are the funny sidekiks in the gaze of the others. It only serves to emphasise how society perceives these women. For example, I am particularly intrigued by Pitch Perfect’s “Fat Amy”, played by the talented Rebel Wilson. I did not see Anna Kendrick’s character being called “Skinny Beca”. Most of Amy’s jokes are indeed linked to her weight – like the fact she does not like physical activities. Ultimately, there is a great injustice – people are mocking a certain type of appearance. How are viewers with a similar appearance meant to feel? Being “fat” should not be an insult anymore or a word to make fun of overweight people. After all, Rebel Wilson is a charming and dynamic actress that would deserve a main role. A role that is not about her weight but her personality. A role where she could express different emotions. In Bachelorette, we encounter the same dilemma. Rebel Wilson’s character is getting married before her friends. They are quite surprised and shocked that the “fat girl” is the first to get married. And of course, people don’t mind that someone is getting mocked. It is funny – and we should definitely assert that it is funny when it is clearly not. Obesity is a problem and not every obese person is responsible for their weight issues. Many illnesses – both mental and physical – can have a terrible impact on one’s weight. Consequently, you can take weight without even eating! However, if I were to go along with the opinions espoused by numerous directors and screenwriters in their work, I would agree that fat women are too fat to be loved, too fat to be sexy, too fat to be treated as thin women. And this tendancy to talk about differences in general in cinema have always upset me because they cannot create different characters without talking about their differences. I dream of a curvy heroine that would never mention her weight, that would be sexy just for the sake of being sexy.

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            Fat shaming became a vicious trend, particularly towards women, and can be identified as another element of everyday sexism. In Spy, Melissa McCarthy, who could have played the sexy agent role, is represented as just an incompetent and clumsy curvy girl. Sadly, it shows once again that cinema is keen on tropes – these stereotypes that you will see in every movie. Either women are objectified or they are strong and thin. Would you imagine Wonder Woman being a bit curvy? Having some hips or a bit of stomach? No. It would be surely unaesthetic. True heroines have no fat – it is well-known. And many women are happy enough just to watch a strong woman character on screen – which, despite everything, is good news. Nevertheless, in this case, tropes are a get-out-of-jail-free card. They reinforce prejudices, clichés and stereotypes and encourage us to stay in our comfort zone where we don’t have to face them.

            That said, many activists have fought back against the negative representation of curvy women in Pop Culture by becoming themselves Pop Culture icons. Ashley Grahams slayed the game by being the first woman with a non-conforming body to be a Sport Illustrated model. Her Instagram account is full of positive ideas that she spreads through the Body Positivity movement. A lot of curvy models posed for her “Swimsuits For All” campaign, raising their voices against the sizes’s dictature. More recently, ASOS decided to expose their models’s stretch marks. I am sure that Body Positivity is more and more popular and that it will probably make directors think differently about overweight women – and by extension, about women in general. Women are not perfect. No matter how Instagirls look, we live within a society of images. And just like Plato’s cave, we are prisonners of the shadows cast by the puppeteers that play with our perceptions. Where we see “perfection”, there is Photoshop, surgery or a lifestyle that you could not have because you work, you are a mother, a student or simply someone whose job doesn’t involve being on show to the world.

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            I’m still waiting for Ashley Grahams to be the new Bond girl. But above all, let me finish with some of her words and then you can go and get your full fat chocolate chip cookie without Diet coke (and don’t feel bad about that, just grab some Oreos to feel better): “I have never fit into a mold that I was supposed to. I was told ‘No, no, no’ to all my hopes and dreams. I never forgot them. I never let anybody beat me down with them, and you shouldn’t either. At the end of the day you can do whatever you want. Don’t let your body hold you back.”