Bigger people seem to have designated roles they are forced to fill in for movies. You’ve seen it in the “Pitch Perfect” franchise, “Big Momma’s House,” “Bridesmaids” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” The big-boned characters, whether a man or a woman, in almost ANY genre have the same shared character traits: big and loud, serve as the comedic relief, and overtly sexual. The characters make it no secret that, in spite of their sizes, they’re there to be seen and maybe use their charm to get in your pants. As a result, fat people are hardly ever taken seriously in any movie role (the last I could think of was “Precious”), and they’re seen as the obnoxious but endearing sidekicks.
I can’t name any other movies off the top of my head where a bigger person was in a serious role or served as the main love interest. I’m sure there are some, but they’re pretty far and few in between. This begs the question: Why?
It’s not like big people aren’t still people. It’s startling to see yet another movie trope that works to dehumanize a certain demographic of people. There are most who are falling in love, exploring their sexuality, being the top dogs of major corporations and falling on hard times like the rest of us. However, this “fat person funny, ha ha” trope can work to tarnish our real-life perceptions of them, which can turn an era of acceptance into one of exceptional vulnerability. I already have one example of this happening.
The other day, I stumbled across a video on YouTube titled, “Plus Size Dating Horror Stories” by a creator named Stella Williams. After disclosing her newfound confidence of jumping into the dating world, she continued to recount her various dating experiences where her dates seemed to view her as more of a fetish than an individual. One date wanted to take her out to his car, park it behind a movie theater and delve into intimacy before they even knew each other’s last names. Another placed her hand on his crotch without her consent. These examples suggest that these overtly sexual movie tropes are beginning to bleed into our reality and target big people yet again.
None of this is to say that I’m not grateful for the widened variety of representation that we already have in the media. This is a day and age of “outrage culture,” so I know it seems that this could be another reach for something to yell about. I’ll admit that it’s awesome to see more people that look like myself and the people around me in films.
However, I am still concerned. It would be a nice change of pace, both in Hollywood and in real life, to see more acceptance of big people as their true selves. To seem them on the big screen as parents, kids, girlfriends, boyfriends, spouses and heroes would be incredible. Hopefully, this acceptance can spread and show the world that bigger people can fulfill roles outside of the funny sidekicks. More importantly, I hope it can remind big people everywhere that their sizes don’t typecast their lives.