Plus size lead, drag queens and Dolly Parton: what more could we want from a movie? Upon seeing the trailer for the Netflix movie Dumplin’, I was excited but skeptical. Netflix doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to portraying plus-size people on screen (we all remember the mess that was Insatiable). But this movie is different.
Dumplin’ is about a plus size girl named Willowdean, played by Danielle Macdonald, who is trying to navigate life while fitting into her ex-beauty queen mom’s world. In the small town of Bluebonnet, Texas, most girls seem to be obsessed with beauty pageants and becoming the next beauty queen. Already from this, we know how fatphobic the beauty pageant world is and how Willowdean has always found it hard to fit in, even with her own mother, played by Jennifer Aniston. Amidst this, she still finds happiness in Dolly Parton and her aunt Lily, who raised Willowdean more than her own mother did. When Aunt Lily dies, Willowdean finds it even harder to deal with pageant season without her.
Seeing her mom obsessed with the world she has never fit into, Willowdean feels more out of place than ever. Still, not having her mother figure around was hard for Willowdean, and she finds herself looking through her Aunt Lily’s belongings. When she finds an incomplete application for the beauty pageant that was her Aunt Lily’s, Willowdean has the idea of joining the beauty pageant in protest of its fatphobia. She inspires a revolution when two other girls, a plus-size girl named Millie and an androgynous girl named Hannah, decide to join her. One of the most empowering moments is hen Willowdean refers to their protest as a revolution because for most plus-size people, just existing in their bodies is a revolution in itself.
In one scene, Willowdean decides to take her friends to “Dolly Parton Night” at a local bar. Upon entering they see a group of drag queens performing as Dolly Parton. After their performance, some of the queens decide to take Willowdean and her friends under their wings and help them prepare for the pageant. Through the queens, Willowdean learns self-love and acceptance, shining when she takes the stage for the pageant. The best moment of the pageant was when Willowdean and her friend Ellen come out for the swimsuit portion wearing the words “Every body is a swimsuit body”. This simple statement is so powerful and important and it was inspiring to see it in the media. Every summer we always hear the term “swimsuit body” and know that most people mean thin bodies. Dumplin’ shows that anybody can have a swimsuit body and be confident in themselves.
Obviously this movie wouldn’t be complete without a love interest, who is Willowdean’s coworker Bo. The simplicity in their relationship is refreshing. Willowdean thinks he’s cute and he likes her too. After going on a date, Willowdean questions why Bo would like “someone like her.” He is confused and tells her that he thinks she’s beautiful and shouldn’t care about what other people think. Though simple, I thought this was the most refreshing way to portray their relationship. Willowdean didn’t have to change herself to be with him, he never said anything about liking her despite her weight. Just a simple, cute, happy ending that all plus-size girls deserve.
Already this movie is so different from the many narratives we see of plus size girls. One thing that makes Dumplin’ so special is that it was written, adapted and directed by women, which is something we don’t see often. Yes, there were the fatphobic comments that Willowdean and Millie faced that I could have done without, but they were expected. Dumplin’ is a movie that made plus-size girls more important than Jennifer Aniston for once and this is all I could have ever asked for in a movie.
One thing I love about this movie is how relatable it is and how I could see myself in Willowdean. She went to school, worked, dealt with friend and boy drama and dealt with family issues. Her body was never made to be the punchline but the symbol of a revolution, which I thought was beautiful. Seeing plus-size girls in a positive light in the media is refreshing and inspiring, I can only hope that we receive more movies and TV shows like this from Netflix.
Featured Image Via Polygon