beauty

The 'Sad Fat Girl' trope needs to end.

I am a happy fat girl. I have good friends, a job I enjoy, a lovely partner and in general, minus a few bad days, I feel good in my own skin, even sexy.

I go drinking, dancing, eating, dating, shopping and my life is good, full and fun. (Well, when we aren't in lockdowns.) 

However, whenever I turn on a television show or a movie and a woman on the screen is my size or bigger, I don't see my life reflected back at me. Instead, I am greeted with the 'Sad Fat Girl' character. 

Watch: How to improve your daughter's body image. Post continues below.


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It's a reminder that the mainstream media believes that if you are plus-size, you are not a leading lady or, at best, you are not a happy leading lady. Instead you are actually just very, very sad. 

The 'Sad Fat Girl' is a character we all know. Think Jenny Gross in Winners & Losers, Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton, Alma Fillcot in Women Who Kill and even Annie Easton in Shrill

These characters are all different versions of the 'Sad Fat Girl' because they all have one thing in common -  their weight somehow dictates everything about them, from their romantic choices, to how they feel about themselves, to their popularity. 

I always imagine the delusional writers of these 'Sad Girl' characters patting themselves on the back for writing such a 'different character' and rebelling against beauty standards before crying out: "Where's my Emmy?" 

But they are never going to get one because they are reducing women to a stereotype. 

Usually, the 'Sad Fat Girl' in movies and television does end up finding happiness, of course. 

This says less about how mainstream media treats fat women and more about Hollywood; a nice glossy ending is always preferred. 

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It is interesting that almost always the happy ending involves the 'Sad Fat Girl' character settling, with the not so subtle implication that fat girls have to settle

Shrill actually tried to make a guy too embarrassed to introduce the main plus-size character, Annie, to his housemates because of her size, into a romantic lead. 

Happy endings for the 'Sad Fat Girl' often seem like the consolation prize. 

These characters are always forced to think outside of the box to find their happy ending. Just once, I'd love to watch a romantic comedy, where the character is plus-size, and her size isn't a plot point, nor does it define her. 

Surprisingly, Amy Schumer's character in I Feel Pretty whose traumatic brain injury made her feel good about herself and her body, was not the romantic comedy of my dreams. 

Stressfully, Schumer isn't even plus-size, but it's a prime example of how women that aren't considered 'thin' are treated in mainstream pop culture. 

The problem with the Sad Fat Girl is that it plays into the stereotype that women need to be thin to be cool, sexy, loved or popular. 

It was something I certainly believed as a teenager. I only had to turn on the television to have that echoed back at me, and this isn't a trend that died in the 90s, with Courtney Cox wearing a fat suit on Friends

It's something that still very much exists. 

Women that are not thin are either used as comic relief, think Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect or plus size women are portrayed as sad characters, think Alma Fillcot in Women Who Kill, who seems to have no self worth and all allegedly because she isn’t small.  

Image: Supplied. 

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Why is a woman's weight still so important? Sometimes the writers get a bit creative and try to mask it as 'girl power.’ 

Look, she's fat, but she sings, or dances, or is sexual. However, there is an underlying assumption that the viewer should either find this funny or incredibly inspiring. 

Still, fat women can be sexy and talented without it being funny or inspiring. It can just be. Women in plus-size bodies experience all the complexities of women in small-sized bodies.    

Movies and television shows have somehow managed to fall miles behind the rest of the culture. Accounts on Instagram at least are somewhat embracing the body positivity movement and the body neutral movement. 

I have yet to watch a television show where there is a plus-size female lead where her body isn’t a huge talking point. 

Even The Mindy Project, which admittedly is one of my favourite shows, insensitively references Mindy Kaling’s non-thin body. 

The romantic lead that she ends up with initially told her that she’d be hotter if she lost ten pounds. Charming!

Associate Professor Lauren Rosewarne from the University of Melbourne, an expert in gender and the media, says: "How we feel about our bodies is influenced by many factors beyond media. 

"That said, when certain types of people are disproportionately depicted in narrow and caricatured ways, audiences are given lessons such as fat women are always depressed, or fat women are always on a body transformation journey etc. etc. Thus audiences get repeated messages about fatness having specific and often inaccurate and problematic meanings." 

See, that's the thing about the 'Sad Fat Girl' trope; it misrepresents plus-size or fat women. It makes us seem like we are unhappy and constantly on the back foot in life, which simply is not the case. 

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But when it’s constantly shoved into your face it’s hard not to believe. 

I remember, when I first entered my twenties I was genuinely surprised men were attracted to me, because the mainstream depiction of plus-size women had screwed with my mind so much. I felt that it would be impossible. 

I'm aware of the counterargument that fat women are treated poorly in society, so shouldn't our movies and shows reflect that struggle? The truth is, I don't think so. 

When I was a teenager, I did experience painful moments because of my size, and the occasional hurtful moment as an adult. 

If a movie was made about me, I wouldn't want that to be a part of the story arc because it is such a small part of who I am. 

I promise my size is not what makes me interesting. Until we start looking at fat characters as interesting, funny, sexy and flawed, we continue to misrepresent a whole group of women. 

The 'Sad Fat Girl' character needs to end, so we can finally hear fat women's complex and fabulous stories.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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