I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I realized adventures were for skinny girls only, but I remember being absolutely devastated at the epiphany. Wendy went to Neverland. Susan and Lucy (and Polly and…) went to Narnia. Meg defeated IT and saved her brother and father. Sophie met the friendly giant. Beatrice rescued the absolutely bonkers Future Faction Society from Kate Winslet.
I desperately wanted to see myself in the Hero’s Journey. I wanted to discover the sapphire ring that looked like the night sky and had magical powers. I wanted to unearth that my mother, who died birthing me, was actually a witch and now I was a witch, too. To angrily flirt with the Attractive Male Love Interest, because our personalities clashed, even though he was supposed to be teaching me about this New World.
You know, the classics.
I realized I was fat in grade eight or so. When I look back, I wasn’t really fat, but I was bigger than the other girls so fat I was. The books I loved now had a sad tinge to them. Adventures never happened to girls like me. Heroines were always laughably average, but not actually average. They were always obviously pretty. To quote The (hilariously on-point) Toast:
She wasn’t perfect. Her mouth was, if anything, a trifle too full, like an overflowing Cupid’s bow.
“Would you…do you think you would like to go to the dance with me?” she asked sportsball captainback.
“That’s disgusting,” he said, sneering. “Your lips are beautiful and kissable and someone better than me is going to point that out to you in just a few years. Get out of my way.”
She cried out of her eyes. One of the eyes had a little freckle in it, which made her disgusting.
“I just don’t know what to do with this,” her hairdresser moaned, comically letting his arms fall to his side. “Your hair is just so wild and unmanageable, a lot like you. It can’t be tamed.”
“Neither can I,” she said, and she roundhouse kicked him in the face, and then she ran outside to find a real man who could handle someone who played as hard as she worked.
“You only thought that was a flaw this whole time,” his mentor that he thought was dead but totally wasn’t dead at all, at least not “dead” in the way you traditionally think of dead told him. “It was actually your secret strength. You don’t have any flaws at all and you’re going to destroy the bad guy so much.”
He totally did.
Modern adult fare is only slightly better. Melissa McCarthy exists but she can’t do everything. My aversion to most modern sitcoms keeps me away from Mike and Molly, anyway. I don’t know how many ‘fatty fall down’ jokes I can take. Rebel Wilson? I’ve heard good things. Pam Poovey from Archer is a fan favourite (I did cosplay as her last year!), but the show can be so cruel to her due to her looks. There was a scene in the most recent season where she loses a lot of weight while on the ‘all cocaine’ diet (The secret? It’s all cocaine), and confesses to Archer that she keeps taking cocaine because the company treats her better now that she’s skinny.
That scene broke my heart. It ended with Archer trying to tell Pam that they likes her better before, but then he got distracted by her cleavage and became Archer again. So close. So close.
It doesn’t help that I don’t even know what I want for fat representation in media. Do I want one where it’s shown how tough life can be for a person of size in this society? Or do I want one where her weight isn’t treated at all, and she has an amazing life like other TV shows?
But that is the wrong question. I shouldn’t have to choose which representation I get, because there should be examples of every kind in my media, not just occasional bone thrown in. I’m tired of seeing the same body types over and over again, where ‘curvy’ means a character has boobs.
Be better, media. Be better.