I remember the first time I ever watched Jennifer Aniston on screen. I was watching Friends during Prime Time television and I thought, “Wow she is stunning.” I wasn’t actually physically attracted to her, but I recognized the beauty she had. I recognized what others would see in her. The rest of the world fell in love.
So, imagine what they will think when a “stout freckled kid” upstages her. That’s the thought that ran through my brain as I watched Dumplin’ last week. Please keep in mind that’s not how I’d reference her.
From IMDB– Willowdean (‘Dumplin’), the plus-size teenage daughter of a former beauty queen, signs up for her mom’s Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow her footsteps, revolutionizing the pageant and their small Texas town.
While stars like Tess Holliday lined up to watch the movie this past weekend, I keep thinking of old school folks like my older family members saying “The world isn’t ready.” And, that’s what the entire movie is based on: the world being ready for plus size beauty. I’ve been a fan of Danielle Macdonald since her 8-Mile style debut in Patti Cake$. I didn’t love the whole “she shouldn’t be pretty until she puts on lipstick” theme of that movie, to be honest. But, she was awesome! Her rapping was pretty bomb and that Jersey accent crushed, especially for an Australian! Unfortunately, we saw the same bit of that “not traditionally pretty” theme in Dumplin’ on Netflix. I do take issue with that, but it’s not MacDonald’s fault. And, to be frank, it’s what most plus themed movies have to be, for now. “The world isn’t ready,” otherwise, they’ll say.
However, to date, Dumplin’ is without a doubt the most positive depiction of plus teens in today’s media. In a world where “the fat girl” has to employ humor, sex, or tomboyish bonding to get the dude, I like the idea that Willowdean just gets him, straight up. What I didn’t love was the fact that she couldn’t believe it! I mean, am I the only one who thought that Bo kid wasn’t all that dreamy? Maybe it’s because I spent this weekend watching Edward Cullen while I wrote my articles for the week. Yes, I literally watched all five movies. Yes, I just told you I did that. I’m not sure why.
The movie employs some pretty awesome plus positive scenes to move it into the stratosphere of awesome, from the swimsuit scene where two very different bodies broadcast inclusivity to the argument between mom and daughter about worthiness in front of the entire group of budding young signups. I wanted to find the exact quote, but what gives IMDB? No quotes yet!
Maddie Baillio, the supporting plus talent in Dumplin’ almost literally plays Tracy Turnblad from NBC’s Live special again in Dumplin’, equipped with bright beautiful smile, incredible singing talent, and resilient glow! She is a great juxtaposition to MacDonald. Millie’s complete opposite demeanor shows the audience that plus women are not always sarcastic and they’re not always bubbly. Because they aren’t always ANYTHING. 67% of the US population are each unique snowflakes. Do I think all blondes are _____? All thin women are _____? Okay, maybe I need to backtrack on the blonde thing. There are still some stereotypes we battle, there. But, you know what I’m saying!
Hilliary Begley as Lucy is a powerful role model. We love that she raised Willowdean with the awesome force of a badass confident woman. There was little mention of her “confidence despite size,” which we found refreshing! In fact, it was one of the only characters we’ve seen in all of cinema that wasn’t “beautiful despite being big.” This is important and needs to happen more in all things film.
What’s also important is that Millie came in second place during the pageant. Should she have come in first? Probably not. Unfortunately, because of the atmosphere and reputation surrounding the pageant world, it would be unrealistic to think a plus size woman would win the prize, no matter how beautiful and talented she was. But, I love that she did come in second, showing her small southern town (and us) that plus woman roars!
Here’s the deal: Dumplin’ is definitely one of the best movies with plus stars at the forefront since Ricki Lake’s Hairspray! It is funny, vibrant, and well cast. The script flowed well and the story was totally believable, despite Anniston’s caricature of a southern belle pageant mother. Then again, I don’t live in a small southern town so perhaps that is just not something I’m familiar with. We still maintain that a movie with plus women that doesn’t revolve around them being plus would be lovely! But, maybe 2019 is the year for that!
DISCLAIMER: No royalty free photos of my celebrity crushes who played Lucy, Millie, or Willowdean were available. Just Aniston! Womp Womp!