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



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”.


            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.

Melissa McCarthy and Kanye West Bumper Photos

            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.


            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.”

I Wanna Be Liked By You: how this society of “likes” reveals our inner fears


             Everybody enjoys being “liked” on their favourite social media. Each time you post a new picture or a new subject to share with your friends, you are probably waiting to get some notifications on your phone screen. Sometimes, it is similar to an action movie – you are waiting and waiting, ready for something extremely interesting to happen. There is also a sort of anxiety that never leaves you. You need to be “liked” as a token of your own existence in the others’s gazes. And this factor is typical of our generation.In fact, we are fully “connected”. For example, Snapchat’s recent update allows you to see where your friends are and above all, if they are in your area. Have a nice private day, pals!

         From the morning to the evening, we all live with the others without seeing them. They are always spying on us, scrolling on our Insta stories and “liking” our pictures as we were consenting objects of consumption that they would like to buy in a supermarket. Our whole life is defined by a certain perception of ourselves that we are willing to give to others : a fake smile, beautiful dresses, nice landscapes, extraordinary holidays in The Bahamas, big cars, endless friendship and sexy lovers. We are definitely all jealous of Instagrammers. They have an amazing life surrounded by puppies, butterflies and unicorns pooping rainbows. However, the reality behind “likes” is way more complicated and exposes how much human beings are complex. There is a deep desire to be seen, to be loved and to feel almost “relieved” that many people “crave” for our updates. It thus seems that we exist to please our peers as if we were always trying to escape our loneliness. In his famous song “Carmen”, Belgian singer Stromae explains that our perception of love took a whole different meaning over the last few years. In English, it is even more striking with the use of the verb “to like” instead of “to love”. We “like” tennis, but also pasta, ducks and your friend’s friend. “Like” is such a common word to identify a difficult concept that falls somewhere on the love spectrum. After all, we could ask ourselves: what’s love? Love is divided into so many emotions that it would take years to study them all. The art of attraction is still very hard to deal with. You experience love in so many ways with a huge range of individuals that a simple “click” on Facebook is not enough to prove that you love someone. These particular moments of joy that you cannot not translate into Instagram posts are already extremely difficult to express through arts. For example, Nathalie Sarraute, in Tropismes, shows that we cannot explain our emotions: they appear like an ephemeral twist and change both our physical and intellectual reactions. These little clues of our inner-self reveal our anxiety, our capacity of thinking and of course, our deep feelings of love. And these subtle elements are now ignored because we live in a society steeped into superficial goals.


         Sorry folks, but “likes” are nothing more than “clicks” – desperate “clicks” that say : “Please, love me. Even if I don’t know you. Even if you don’t truly care about me. Even if we have nothing in common. Love me, for the sake of loving me !”


         Ultimately, the society of “likes” is dangerous and based on fake opinions. More recently, Essena O’Neill, an Australian Instagram model, quited the famous social media claiming it didn’t reveal the truth about herself. She decided to erase her comments on her Instagram’s pictures in order to put forward how she felt when she took these numerous selfies. That is why she denounced self-promotion, manipulation and body insecurities behind these perfect images. You could be the prettiest girl in the world and get no “likes” because you don’t share a certain type of content on your Instagram. Some dedicate their whole day to figure out what to post in order to get people’s attention more easily. The beauty game on Youtube is an interesting example because it became a genuine business to expose ourselves on social media and to ask for “likes”. They attract companies and promote their products through their videos. And as you can imagine, they gain some money for this. However, if you take a look closely at their videos, they all look like each other and they do what you can actually do yourself in front of your mirror. Ladies, bring your foundation, your eye-liner and some liptstick : you’ll conquer the beauty game and maybe you’ll get a chance to be the new face of L’Oréal! Not only it shows a sexist image of women associated only with cooking, make-up and fashion, but also reveals a clever commercial strategy. In addition to this, it just desacrates the real meaning of “love” in order to make it a common thing. You are distributing “likes” just like an automatic Coke distributor: to everybody, at any moment and for no reason. We all aim to love and to be loved. Consequently, this feeling of satisfaction when someone likes you is “normal” because you interpret this notification as proof of your own existence. We live within a society, so being recognized by the others is important for us as it helps to build a web of relationships that can be emotional or professional. Although it is not a bad thing to get suddenly happy when someone “likes” you, we should not be affected or depressed if social media ignores us. We are not a product of what the others might perceive. Conversely, we build ourselves thanks to what we do every day and our own experience.

         That is why, we shouldn’t be “liked by you” but by ourselves. Like yourself as the strong and independent individual that you are. And maybe others will like you even more.


“She is beautiful when she is angry” : What I learnt from being an intellectual woman in a sexist society



            We all remember this famous documentary named She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, released in 2014, which is about women involved in the second wave feminism movement in the United States of America. However, I must say that I am particularly interested in the significance of the title. It reveals that women are perceived in certain men’s gazes as only hysterical girls whose speeches are led by emotion and a kind of hubris they cannot control. Moreover, they are still beautiful because, as we all know, women are only defined by their beauty. Just take a look at women magazines and analyze their main subjects. How do we lose weight fast? How to be healthy? New make-up trends! Which one will suit you the best? …I doubt you will have the opportunity to read an article about Simone de Beauvoir or Jane Austen in your common Cosmopolitan Magazine.


            I have never been a Cosmo girl – except when I go to pubs to get a nice cocktail! I got interested in literature at a very young age. From Les Malheurs de Sophie to Camus’s L’Etranger, I was always eager to know more about these writers who made me travel around countries of words and landscapes of sentences. I realized that I could imagine different stories and create my own world. That is why each step in the streets, at the beach, in cafés, each person passing by, each inquisitive animal became an unique element of a new story. I wanted to be a writer. It was not a wish or a dream. Being a writer appeared to me as a genuine goal. Unfortunately, people did not understand why I did my best to be an artist. At school, I felt quite different from the others. At the beginning, I thought that people saw me as “odd” because I was a literature/philosophy enthusiast who spent my free-time writing and thinking about my novel. However, the criticisms were more subtle as some professors and students hinted that women should get interested in other fields. Ultimately, this mindset influences our education as female authors are not taught in classes as frequently as male authors in terms of literature studies. Remember those women who took men’s names to write because they were not allowed to?


            I thus was considered the “intello”, “nerd” one. Girls were particularly difficult to deal with. To them, it was quite strange to see another girl reading Voltaire’s essays. The Twilight series was way more interesting and “girly”. It resulted in my being defined as odd. My goals, my hobbies, my dreams. Everything was “odd”. And, I think they were probably shocked that I still enjoyed fashion, red lipstick and feeling pretty and sexy. After all, women cannot be beautiful AND intellectual. Pop culture have showed us this cliché lots of times. I remember watching Beverly Hills 90210 with my mum. Brenda (Shannon Doherty) was the popular and wonderful one while Andrea (Gabrielle Carteris) was the “ugly” BUT intelligent girl. This helps to explain why our society is steeped in misconceptions about women and is also still influenced by sexist images that have spread more easily nowadays. If we think about it, everything is about women’s bodies and looks. They have to “fit” in a perfect Ikea baking tin in order to obtain a marvellous rainbow cronut – ready to be the most “liked” Instagram picture ever. When it comes to intelligence, self-development and arts, women are easily critcized – particularly if they raise their voices against the system.


            Although it was difficult for me to face these problems, I was inspired by many female figures who denounced this unfair silent treatment. Emma Watson, Ashley Grahams and Jennifer Lawrence are all new figures of pop culture and feminism promoting a whole new perception of women. Above all, Emma Watson brought into the spotlight the figure of the intellectual and independent women through her roles on screen (Hermione Granger and more recently Belle in the new Beauty and the Beast movie) and also her endeavours such as being an activist for the HeforShe campaign Similarly, some TV shows are more and more keen on depicting women as strong individuals. I watched the new season of Orange is the New Black and I found Danielle Brooke’s performance absolutely delightful. Her character, Taystee, is an amazing example of an intelligent, charming, sensual and funny woman who fights for her causes and never gives up. From a second-role character in the first season to the main role in season 5, Danielle Brooke revealed a rebellious Taystee that is for me an iconic feminist character. Andrea’s sad destiny is now slowly disappearing in order to develop “angry”, albeit wonderful women.


            So, yes. I am angry. Sometimes a bit too much. Sometimes a bit less. However, I am a journalist and I am writing to expose my analysis and my thoughts that I developed over the years. And I am convinced that writing and speaking are both the best answers to sexism. Like Taystee, we just need to keep on fighting and reading. Because women who read are dangerous, aren’t they?



Kilgrave is not only a comic book character: how to identify a manipulator and to overcome a destructive relationship


               Two years ago, Netflix released its series Jessica Jones, inspired by the famous Marvel comic book. Jessica Jones, a super-heroine, was involved in a relationship with Kilgrave (David Tennant), a villain who can mentally manipulate people in order to get what he wants from them. David Tennant gives a unique touch of madness to this character and his performance was indeed excellent. However, Kilgrave is definitely not a simple character that does not exist and entertain people when they’re “Netflix and chilling”. There are hundreds and hundreds of Kilgrave destroying the minds of men and women every day – and there are no Jessica Jones to save them. The “Kilgrave Syndrome” has a real name: these are manipulators.

                 In France, we call them “les pervers manipulateurs”, but there is no official term in English to talk about this kind of people. However, “manipulators” seems to be a perfect word to describe their methods. According to Isabelle Nazare-Aga, author of Manipulateurs parmi nous (Manipulators among us, 1997), they represent 3% out of the population. Like Kilgrave, they master the art of perversion and mental abuse by powerfully controlling their victims in the name of love. That is why Kilgrave pretends to love Jessica Jones more than anything to justify his murders, numerous acts of violence and mental torture particularly when he forced her to kill Luke Cage’s wife, which explains why our favourite super-heroine lost confidence in herself. They want their victims to self-doubt so that their power takes over the person’s mind successfully. They become more and more dependent of manipulators and think they only exist in their gaze. No matter what Jessica Jones does, she cannot help being constantly afraid of facing Kilgrave and to share her life with him again. It is also important to add that manipulators can take different forms: parents, lovers, friends, teachers, boss… Conversely, manipulators are extremely versatile – the most important criteria remains to have built a close relationship with the victim.


          It is understandable: manipulators always choose the same type of person such as someone looking for affection and love, nice and generous souls or people in a difficult situation. Jessica Jones had lost her parents in a car accident and Kilgrave appeared as the stereotypical rich and sexy man that could save her from her fears. Why? Probably because they are extremely easy to manipulate. Above all, manipulators are cowards. Remember how Kilgrave is terrified by Jessica’s rebellion at the end of the TV show? They won’t fight against a strong personality. Once you’ll discover that their kryptonite is your freedom, they’ll just run away – escaping again and again their own responsibilities and will probably ghost their partner.

         However, most people do not perceive that they are prisoners of manipulators. The pressure of love, friendship, parenthood and work make them forget that they are victims of a psychological phenomenon that is rather common. When they realize the problem, they understand how much the relationship was toxic and unhealthy. But sometimes, it’s too late – and victims suffer all their lives and feel guilty. And if he was right ? And if I was truly mad ? Truly stupid ? Maybe I’m mean. I’m bad. It shows manipulators still have a strong power on their victims – even after a potential break-up. In France, manipulators are today more and more recognized by the law and can be punished for what they do such as harassing text messages or suspicious attitudes.

         Like Jessica Jones, the only way to fight against manipulators is to be free again. That is why it is essential to talk about it, to express what we feel if we are developing this kind of relationship with someone – a therapist, a member of the family, friends. So be a super-heroine/super-hero and have your say about this cause. Some words are even sometimes better than magic powers, aren’t they?