I love pop culture so much. I’m somewhat of a pop culture junkie. I love the Real Housewives of everywhere. All of them. I watch all of them. I don’t know any shows featuring a Kardashian/Jenner, yet somehow, I know all the names of their children. I’ve also decided that, of the adults in that family, Khloe is the best one. Don’t argue with me.
I keep up with slang. I have a soft spot for British slang, but I keep up with American slang like it’s my job. I hate to not get someone’s references when I am talking to them and I swear someday I am going to be on Jeopardy! and then all my hoarding of useless information will pay off. Just wait until Alex Trebek is declaring me the Jeopardy! champion, and then you’ll know that my endless fascination with re-runs of The Golden Girls was worth it (The Golden Girls are fabulous on another level. If you don’t know this, we can’t be friends).
As a kid, pop culture helped me identify what I wanted my adult life to look like. I didn’t grow up with a lot of “normal” in my life. So, movies, music, and television, were a huge influence for me. Some of my most fond memories of childhood and adolescence involved music and movies. Frequently, I would identify with characters in movies and think “I want to be her when I grow up.” Pop culture serves a very important purpose beyond fueling my need for trivia. Pop culture communicates ideas and values to us. It presents us with ideas of what we should emulate (Bea Arthur, obvio) and what we shouldn’t.
Part of the very effective way movies and TV signal these ideas to us is through repetition. How many movies have you seen wherein a rag-tag group of misfits win the day? Maybe they form the Rebel Alliance or they find One Eyed Willie’s treasure? You’ve seen that story a thousand times, so much so that we are inclined to root for the under dog in life because we root for the under dog in our fictional characters (was anyone rooting for Darth Vader? I think not.). Much like the rooting, we disavow the negative stuff. Eating people’s livers with some fava beans and a nice Chianti isn’t how you presently do life, right (please say no)? Because, brilliant as he may have been, Hannibal Lecter was a bad guy and we’re not supposed to want to be the bad guy. It’s a magical kind of cinematic transference.
With that in mind, let me ask you this: when was the last time you saw the love interest in a movie be played by a plus size girl/woman?
I can answer for you. It was exactly never. Sure, we big girls get the occasional role of the wacky best friend, or maybe Melissa McCarthy (I adore her, just in case she’s reading) has a new movie involving a lot of comedy and self-deprecation. But have you ever watched a movie where the big girl was the girl that the lead male wanted and couldn’t get? The plus size cutie was his truest heart’s desire?
You haven’t seen that movie because it doesn’t exist.
I went to the movies this passed weekend and that experience is what triggered this post. I watched a movie based on a book I loved, which is always makes my eye twitch a little because I’m afraid they’re going to ruin it. This book, in particular, contained a plus size character. She was kick ass, too. She got to help save the day and she got the boy. You might be able to imagine my dismay when Hollywood whittled her down to a very attractive and very thin, red head.
One of the things that really got me thinking, though, was that in the book, the male character wanted this kick ass female character. He didn’t want her in spite of her size. He enjoyed her body and found her attractive. He referred to her as “Rubensque” and said she was “all curves.”
But when do heterosexual men get told that it’s okay to have a plus size cutie that’s “all curves” as his truest heart’s desire? You can’t choose something that’s never presented as an option. And sure, everyone knows a man who is dating or married to a plus size woman. But it’s not the same, right? We aspire to the things we see on television, in magazines, we hear about in songs. Those things fuel us in a way that Bob and Karen down the street simply don’t.
I wracked my brain for the remainder of the afternoon, trying to come up with a single example of movies or TV presenting a plus size woman as the first choice as a romantic partner. Not a consolation prize, or who you wind up with in a bar at the end of the night, but at the first choice. I couldn’t think of a single example.
This made me really sad. I am sad for plus size women like myself, but I am also sad for men. We need these kinds of reinforcing images in our lives. It affirms that our desires are “normal” and that it’s okay to pursue them. People of color and the LGBTQ community have been waging this fight for years. Those communities have long voiced the need more representation in movies and TV shows so that the people watching can see themselves reflected in a broader way.
Plus size women have a similar struggle. I’m not saying it’s the same as racism and bias based on sexual orientation. But its a void that never gets filled. If it’s a void for plus size women then it’s a void for the men who might be sexually attracted to them or want to choose a plus size woman as a life partner. It creates a lonely place for both parts of the equation.
So, while I love pop culture, I think it’s done some people quite a disservice. It’s sent a lot of the same messages and ideas over and over again without allowing room for all the options. Since pop culture isn’t sending this message, I’m going to send it on pop culture’s behalf. Hopefully, we’ll get to see a Hollywood representation sometime soon.
It’s absolutely acceptable to find plus size women attractive.
It’s completely normal to be sexually attracted to plus size women; to enjoy the way our bodies look. Our bodies are different, but different doesn’t mean bad. It just means different.
It’s a-okay to fall madly in love with a big girl.
Whether you see it reflected on the silver screen or around you every day, those are all things you can do.
A Big Girl