+Size Matters : Fat Monica & the Reformed Fat Friend Trope

When I started my blog back in January of 2015 I did so with half of a notebook full of  potential post titles, and blog topics I wanted to cover. These topics included race, fashion, life in NYC, beauty routines and dating, however, even with all those note-filled pages only only one item was underlined, and highlighted under a section I had entitled “+Size Matters” — Fat Monica. It was a blog topic that I had been pushing back discussing because it is a problematic aspect of a popular character from a beloved 90’s sitcom. However, once 2018 started I decided to start the year with another entry to the +Size Matters series. Why? Well we are just finishing off the third week of January which traditionally is when the pressures of diet culture reaches its zenith due to the  weight loss resolutions pushed at the start of the new year. So its basically the perfect time to look at  the very damaging  trope that Fat Monica embodies, that  of the “reformed fat friend” which perpetuates diet culture and the “value” that is attached to thinness especially when it comes to women’s bodies.

To be clear, I know that this particular “Friends” character has pretty much been analyzed to death and for good reason. “Friends” was and still remains to be a popular series, even with its problematic lack of a diverse cast though set in New York City, but it is definitely gaining some strong criticisms  at the moment since it is now streaming on Netflix. People are doing a double take at the sexism, homophobia, stereotyping and fat-phobia/fat shaming that is present in almost every episode. Continue reading

+ Size Matters : Curvy AF & The Significance of Body Positive Fashion Illustration

Last month we saw the unique collaboration between body positive artist, Jonquel Norwood of Jonquel Art and plus size fashion designer Courtney Smith of Courtney Noelle Inc. The brain-child of Jonquel, this event brought a different kind of fashion event – one that definitely put a spin to the concept of “wearable art.”

This event was one that I was really looking forward to since the day Jonquel first mentioned the idea of working on an event that celebrated both fashion and body positive fashion illustration. After all when people think about art it is rare that fashion is considered as part of that category. Yet the fact is anything that is designed, be it fashion or otherwise, is perfected first on paper with illustration really being a major part of the process toward the end result so it stands to reason that art and fashion shouldn’t stand so independently as they often are. Nevertheless, what made Curvy AF so unique, besides the unapologetic name of course, was the idea of having the holiday fashion show and accompanying art exhibition to not only provide a unique shopping experience, but more importantly empower women and prove that style and beauty have no size.

Art with fashionable women is not new but Jonquel’s work is relevant for when it comes to fashion illustration plus size bodies are the last thing you expect to find – especially dressed in styles that the fashion industry has made a point to say women above a certain size should never wear. I greatly admire her eye for great style as she even references straight size fashion designs to clothe her models, reworking them to show how they could work on a plus body. Continue reading

+Size Matters: Shrek Franchise

It’s been a while since I’ve done another media-literacy study of plus representation in media but after this unplanned hiatus I’m back with some new content for this ongoing series. So for this come-back I thought it was only fitting to finally deliver on a promised post – my review of “Shrek.”

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Image Credit : DreamWorks

Yes, the “Shrek” franchise received it fame for being  the most anti-fairy tale family film ever conceived though it does play with many of the tropes, many of which were created by Disney, in order to make fun of them. However,  the franchise is noteworthy for depicting a very real relationship in an animated feature with characters that are visibly plus. (Now as an adult I can’t help but wonder if this is meant to convey that only “average people” have relationship problems that need solving, but that is a discussion for another time and place.) Continue reading

+Size Matters: Hairspray (1988 and 2007)

hairspray-postHairspray is a very interesting film and musical as the protagonist is plus size but the story presents a character of this body type be more than just a source of humor due to “gluttonous practices.” The heart of the story is the theme of acceptance of difference, whether it be size, race or even economic background. The protagonist, Traci Turnblad, uses her privilege and local celebrity platform to bring on a cultural change which in this case involved integrating a very popular dance show. The very title implies the significance of appearance which is conveyed better in the 1988 original with the opening sequence being that of the council members getting ready to  go live on television.

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Colleen Fitzpatrick as Amber Von Tussle, Debbie Harry as Velma Von Tussle, Divine as Edna Turnblad, and Ricki Lake as Tracy Turnblad, Hairspray (1988). Image Credit: © 1988 New Line Cinema

I truly believe that what makes this Hairspray so appealing is the layers that come with it. The story follows Tracy’s rise in dance show scene, the racial conflicts of the 1960s, the socioeconomic differences of their community, as well as the relationship between the two mothers, Edna and Velma, and their daughters, Tracy and Amber. With the live broadcast of the musical adaption set to air tonight, I thought it would be great to take a look at these two very distinct films and how they help set the standard for what makes a great body positive, plus size protagonist lead story.

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+Size Matters: My Top 5 Positive Animated Plus Size Characters

It’s been a while since my last post and if you follow me on Facebook and Instagram, you know about the unexpected death of my beloved laptop. (Poor thing was only 2 years old…) However, thanks to my good friend and mentor, I now have a borrowed laptop to work on which has allowed me access to resume work on my blog. And I’m happy to report that I have a few outfit posts in the works as well so stay tuned for that. That said, let’s move on to today’s discussion: animated plus size characters.

Animation is an often snubbed form of media as it is usually geared towards children. For the most part this is our first introduction to Western standards of beauty (or at least it is here in the US) with fat bodies not being the norm. These often negative portrayals, though many are brief, tend to perpetuate negative stereotypes and body image perception, even more than live action portrayals. Media on a whole reflects society’s standards and beliefs of body image, but animators usually exaggerate it as they see fit, usually for a “comedic effect.”

I present to you Exhibit A. 

So when we are continuously fed this idea that being bigger makes a plus size person undesirable and the punchline to a joke, it limits what they are capable of which is not a message you’d want for any kid.  Fortunately, there were a few positive representations that do make it to the screen that helps change this visual practice. By “positive” characters I mean that their characterizations and story lines are not specially linked to their size or limited to archetypes like comedic relief, instead they are truly fleshed out personalities. As one can expect these characters had brief appearances  in their respective films or series, but they do leave  quite the impression as they challenge the controlled image of what a plus size character is. With that in mind, here are my top 5 positive animated plus size characters.

**It stands to reason that there are spoilers ahead, so consider yourself warned.**

Disclaimer: This list is completely made up of female characters, however, I am considering making another list specifically about plus size men in the near future.

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