Plus and Mid-Size in Media Representation

Growing up I only ever saw skinny women be the love interest in movies. Not even in just chick-flick films like You’ve Got Mail, but in all the Disney films I loved and watched on repeat as well; such as Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid. Women who didn’t have perfect, flawless, white skin and washboard abs were always assigned the role of, “the funny friend” or even sometimes, “the villain.”

The tv show Friends is a show that even to this day, about seventeen years since the finale aired, has millions of viewers. Although I still enjoy it myself, I always skip the episodes portraying Fat Monica. Fat Monica is the past version of one of the main characters, Monica, and is deemed the butt of the joke to all of her friends. In the episodes that show flashbacks of Fat Monica, she is portrayed as being awkward, bumbling, and just outright undesirable. It is also revealed in one episode that her future love-interest, Chandler, only becomes interested in her because of her new skinny and socially accepted body. In a Vogue article, the author writes about discussing Fat Monica with her friend who said, “Of course, Monica’s lines got laughs. And at age 17 I felt that reaction so deeply. It said a lot about what the world expected from me; deprivation and self-hatred, cattiness and pain…whatever would make (and keep) me thin.” The author goes on to write, “But soon I realized that her fatness was treated as a shame, as something to overcome in order to impress a man, of all things.”

Another more recent example of this idea of only skinny = beautiful was when the 2018 Netflix film, Insatiable, premiered. This show portrays an overweight girl getting into a severe accident which results in her jaw getting wired shut which then results in her losing a ton of weight because she cannot eat solid food. Due to this weight loss, she is then deemed extremely desirable to all of her classmates. The show attempted to pass itself off as trying to show themes of never judging someone on the outside but ultimately all it accomplished was showing that if you lose a lot of weight, even if it’s because you almost died, you will become more liked by everyone around you.

I am someone that considers myself “mid-size.” I am still possibly within the socially acceptable, and media acceptable, limits of what the female body “should” look like but every day I am plagued with images, current and previous, of media and marketing pointing out that because I don’t have a flat stomach or a thigh gap that no one, not even myself, could love who I am. A lot of people, including media companies, will try to pass off this shame by saying they’re just concerned for people’s health and don’t want to promote obesity. However, media companies have made billions off of selling this idea that skinny = healthy. Diet culture is a multi-billion dollar business even though it has been repeatedly proven that diets are not sustainable and ultimately do not work. What has been proven though is that, ” People who are clinically underweight face an even higher risk for dying than obese individuals, the study shows.”

What is perhaps the most ironic is when I started to hate my body less, I started to work out more and spend more time considering what I am eating. This is not because I want my body to fit into some socially acceptable box, but because I no longer want to punish my body for not looking like Skinny Monica’s body. Now, working out and eating vegetables is because I want to celebrate my body and give it love and care. I no longer watch television programs that celebrate being skinny and I unfollowed all social media accounts that made me hate what I saw in the mirror.

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