As someone who is not thin and self-conscious about their size, I am always skeptical of media surrounding people who do not subscribe to societal beauty standards, especially if they are on the larger side. There are only a minimal number of pieces of entertainment that represent people that are not skinny in a positive light. Most of the time, characters who are considered to be fat are mocked and made the butt of the joke or shown to be sad and disgusted with their bodies. A movie that challenges those ideas is Netflix’s Dumplin’.
Based on the young adult novel with the same name, Dumplin’ follows Willowdean, or “Will” Dickson, a plus-size teenager living in a small Texas town with her former beauty pageant queen mother. In honor of her since passed aunt, Will decides to sign up for the Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant in order to protest the unrealistic beauty expectations and fatphobia that pageants promote. As Will becomes more invested in the pageant, she learns to accept herself and others for who they are, no matter their body type.
This film is one that has stuck with me since I first watched it for a multitude of reasons. Some of them include the friendship between Will and her best friend Ellen, the romantic plot between Will and her coworker, Bo, and how integral a part Dolly Parton’s music and personality play in this motion picture. While these aspects are ones that I enjoyed, the main component of this movie that has impacted me the most is the portrayal of a fat person that is not mean-spirited or filled with self-hatred. At the beginning of the film, Will is not comfortable in her body or confident in herself. But through the journey she goes through, she comes to realize and confront insecurities that she has tried to ignore. This leads to her having an even stronger sense of love for herself. Additionally, this is a story where a fully fleshed-out plus-size character is able to have a happy ending that is fitting. Will is allowed to feel joy instead of disappointment, the latter being a common conclusion for a character with her body type.
This piece of media is great, but I will acknowledge that this film is cheesy, and there are elements that are quite predictable. It’s a coming-of-age feel-good movie for a teenage audience. Of course, there are going to be moments or plot points that are formulaic. Despite this fact, Dumplin’ is a charming, uplifting project that made me feel empowered as a not-skinny person. Even if you are someone who is on the thinner side, I would still check out this movie if you have the chance.