For us bigger girls, there aren’t many characters in the media who look like us, who are body positive. Fat girls get to be wacky sidekicks, the butt of the joke (sometimes literally) or simply non-existent in fiction, TV and movies. But every once and a while, a bigger, body-positive heroine emerges, and I think they’re worth sharing and celebrating! Here are my top picks. Please share your favorites in the comments!
YA novel by Karen Healey
You tend to find only two kinds of big girls in YA fiction – funny sidekicks or big girl romance novels that revolve around her size and reinforce a lot of negative body messages. Thus, Healey’s supernatural romance Guardian of the Dead is a refreshing change – yes, Ellie is overweight and, yes, it does have an impact on elements of her character… but it’s not a book about an overweight heroine. It’s a book about a heroine who happens to be overweight (and it’s not a big deal). For the first time probably ever, I found myself truly relating to the YA character and embracing the idea of picturing myself (as we tend to do when reading) as I am, not as the skinny heroine I’d like to be.
Contemporary Novel by Jennifer Weiner
If Kate Winslet (below) is the patron saint of the curvy girl in movies, Jennifer Weiner is the patron saint of curvy girls in books (and among fiction writers). And her titular heroine is Cannie, the protagonist in Good In Bed, about a plus-sized girl whose ex-boyfriend writes a mortifying magazine piece on how big girls feel they need to try harder in bed. Cannie sets out on a soul-searching and hilarious weight loss journey, and concludes that she doesn’t need to change at all – and she finds someone who loves her, as is. I don’t think Weiner has ever written a “thin” main character — all her heroines are normal or curvy or plus-sized (who, I should note, have positive friendships with thin women, too). Weiner’s latest project is a TV show, entitled “The Great State of Georgia.” The casting call for the lead role reads: “The starring role of Georgia is a big, confident, curvy girl who can sing very well and has a southern accent.” Raven Simone, who is known for being curvy (and weight struggles) is already signed up. This is why I love Jennifer Weiner.
A Fantasy series by Jasper Fforde
God love Jasper Fforde. Not only does he make Thursday – gasp! – normal sized, he makes her old… with wrinkles! Ok, she’s in her 50s and has some wrinkles in the latest installments of the series, but it’s notable because how often do you see older female characters headlining fiction (or anything)? Here’s the thing, Thursday isn’t actually big. A lot of bigger girls wouldn’t consider her a “fat” or curvy character and might take exception to my including her on my list. But, Jasper does this fun thing with his books — he has his significant other, on whom Thursday’s physicality is based, model for fun photos snaps of scenes from the book and posts them on his website/turns them into postcard giveaways for fans. And she is delightfully and gorgeously normal sized (maybe a size 8 U.S. or a 10?). So in my mind, Thursday can be curvy, because she is not stick-thin. I think we need “normal,” kick-ass heroines as much as possible, even if they’re not plus-sized, don’t you?
A comedy-drama airing on Lifetime
Though Drop Dead Diva sounds like a train wreck – thin, blond model dies and is accidentally dropped into the body of a plus-size lawyer – Jane has emerged as the most big-girl body-positive character on TV. Jane, at a size 16, is unabashed about her size and eating, and gets to enjoy all the things thinner characters do – career success, several love interests and a well-rounded character profile. Two seasons in and the show has resisted giving Jane a weight loss/makeover plotline, though they have address issues of weight loss, incredibly well.
Cancelled ABC family drama
I’ve extolled the virtues of this prematurely cancelled show before, but I’ll say it again: all the characters on Huge, from obese to “plus size” (as in, the modeling industry’s odd definition thereof) to thin but with food issues, are realistic, engaging and body positive, despite the show taking place at a “fat camp.” Notably absent from this list, you may notice, is Lauren Zizes from Glee BUT her actress counterpart Ashley Fink IS included among the cast of Huge — she plays a sex-positive plus sized girl on the show. Huge is a great but rare example of a show where the characters being fat is both a part of their identity but NOT their defining characteristic – ie: they are real people with a wide range of personalities and issues. Good stuff.
2001 drama film Enigma
Do you know how hard it is to come up with film characters who fit the bill? Really, really hard. So I’m going with the patron saint of curvy girls – Kate Winslet. One of my favorite “normal curvy girl” characters of hers is Hester, the “surprise” love interest of Dougray Scott in WWII historical drama Enigma. Hester is hardly fat (she’s maybe a size 8 US, tops), but she’s certainly curvy (helped along by the fact that Winslet was pregnant during filming) AND she’s a nerd, so she gets my vote. She wins the guy over the very svelte, blond Saffron Burrows, proving that you don’t have to be stick thin and shockingly gorgeous to be desireable/attractive. Score one for Team Curvy Nerd!
I’m sure I’ve forgotten some, so please chime in with your own favorites in the comments! That said, there really aren’t that many to begin with, a sad fact that needs to change!
Related: RIP: ABC Family’s Huge