Fat Acceptance: Dumplin

[Dumplin Spoilers]

Okay, I cannot concentrate on any of my work while DUMPLIN exists, so here we go. (I haven't read the book, so all I know about it is the previews, please don't give me ANY information at all, nothing, no thing, thank you.)

Oh wow, a movie set in Texas that actually looks like Texas.

Oh god, I love Aunt Lucy so much. It's nice to see a "fat girl with a thin mom" trope where the kid has other fat people in her life to help. Like, YES, it is lonely being a fat girl with a thin mom, but there are OTHER fat women to help you along, so this is NICE.

I have paused the movie to weep openly at a fat girl in a swimsuit on my television. Like. She is actually wearing a swimsuit and LIVING and not just "fat shy girl refusing to let herself exist" like these things usually go.

A cute boy enters the movie.

Oh, her MOTHER. Yeah. Oh oh oh, having to go to the pageants and just stand in the wings and watch her mother fawn over these girls.

Every scene with this cute boy, oh my heart. "He just wants to be friends so he can ask me questions about girls he actually likes." It's like my chest is being lovingly cut open to expose my heart, my god. God, it's SO HARD to get this nuance across to straight-size people, it's not that she's unwilling to "see her own value" or wev, it's that this is what IT IS. How it GOES. What people DO. The boys who are nice to you see you as a RESOURCE, not as a girlfriend, yeah. and after the fifth or sixth time you get your heart broken and feel foolish for realizing that Jim / Jason / Brandon / Kevin was only interested in you so he could Learn The Secret Of Girls, you stop hoping. So many stories about fat girls don't understand this. They'll show a girl Not Trying and act like she's "just" self-rejecting herself because she's fat, and not realize that only happens after a lifetime of other people rejecting you first.

God, she looks just like me and I almost never see a movie with someone who looks just like me and she *dresses* like me, it looks like actual off-the-rack stuff, I cannot tell you how powerful this is.

THE GOTH GIRL. Willowdean is horrified at what she just did, and the goth girl just strolls by and says "good aim" and I am laughing and screaming.

Oh god oh god oh god this conversation with her mother.

*audible gasp* oh shit


"All my favorite things start off as bad ideas" and I'm crying again, bless.

The LOOK on the faces of the women at the sign-up table. I'm sobbing oh my god. Jennifer Aniston is an amazing actress.

I would die for Hannah.

Millie, baby, what are you doing.

"We're Spartacus and the pageant is the Roman Empire."

Ahhhh! Thank you! I'm informed that Hannah is played by "Bex Taylor-Klaus, a gay nonbinary actor who uses both she/her and they/them pronouns." I LOVE THEM.  (I'm not sure what pronouns Hannah uses in the book, hang on.) Okay, it seems like Hannah in the book uses she/her, and the actress uses both she/her and they/them, so I'll stick with she/her for the live-tweet for the character -- unless the movie tells us differently.


This cute boy is killing me, I just. That torture of liking a boy and being so certain that he won't ever like you back. Oh god oh god I completely understand that reaction, that face, her eyes. That HURT. (In the right way good rep does.) How do you explain to your straight-size friend about the back-fat rolls? Because even if you're okay with the fat, and even if he's okay with the fat, society has ground into you that he's not SUPPOSED to be okay with the fat and it's so confusing and

I really appreciate that the mom isn't evil incarnate, the way former beauty queens always are in movies. And, like, so far the blond pretty girls haven't been evil either. It's not like there's ONE BAD PERSON who has to be defeated; the whole pageant is a complicated phobic mess but it's not the fault of ONE HORRIBLE WOMAN. That's always the down side for movies like this, for me, because sure it's fun to take down The Evil Woman and now all your problems are solved, but that's not what my oppression looks like in real life.

Everyone who has been awful to Willowdean so far has been boys, not Mean Girls, and frankly that fits my experience too. When the women are awful, it's in subtler ways. The looks on their faces. The ways they try to keep Willowdean out of things "for her own good". It's still harmful stigma, but it's not the Mean Girls style of bullying you get in movies (which absolves men for all this.)


Not sure how I feel about this "I never thought of you as fat" argument. Willowdean IS fat, like... that's not a bad word. and I wish they'd made it a little more explicit why her friend (who is played by an Israeli actress) isn't comfortable among white Texans, because I feel like that's going to fly over some heads. I mean, she does say she's uncomfortable there, but I think a lot of white viewers are going to miss just how she'd be treated in a Texas town like that. I will say that the "I don't see you as fat" thing IS a thing that straight-size friends say (so it's at least realistic) and I do like that Hannah immediately says she DOES think of Willowdean as fat, thus defanging the word.

I love this movie so far but whooboy, file this under "things I like but would have avoided because of the name".

I really do appreciate, SO MUCH, that the thin girls -- both the mom and the contestants -- aren't horrid. Because it's. It's not like that. I mean, some of them are in real life, sure. But it's usually so much more subtle than that. Facial expressions frozen into pained smiles when they look at you. Doors and opportunities subtly closed. Frosty politeness. I love how this movie captures the politeness of Texas, actually, and how oppression can still thrive under the surface of all the congeniality.

Oh oh oh the scene with her mother doing alterations for the pageant frontrunner and it's all the PAIN even though (especially because) the mom and Bekah are being so kind. Because THAT is the pain. Not some mean girl calling you names at school (though that hurts too) but seeing your mom talk to a girl about her crushes and it's all so painfully NORMAL but you can't have or be that with her -- or you've been told you can't. EVERY scene where Aniston interacts with the thin girls is just so painfully REAL to me. Because Aniston is so good at being motherly with the thin girls in a way that Willowdean never experiences from her.

These scenes make Willowdean feel like a spectator in her mother's life, and I KNOW that feeling. And it's not like her mom is being mean! She's being sweet and motherly to the girls. And moms ARE nicer to kids that aren't your own, because you tend to feel like you have to be stricter with your own kids. I get it. But with the fat/thin dynamics, it just. OUCH.

I just. I REALLY appreciate that the mom is nice and not mean or drunken or abusive or whatever. She's a nice woman AND she's not equipped to raise a fat daughter. BOTH THESE THINGS CAN BE TRUE!!!!!!!! People hear about our thin moms and recoil with, like, "but that's ABUSE" and yeah, it IS creepy as fuck to throw out all the food except a tiny salad, but it's. It's complicated. IT IS COMPLICATED.

And god, I understand why Willowdean is mad with Elle? I DO? It was Willowdean's idea to join this pageant. She joined it to show how it treats her, how shitty it is. It DOES hurt when your straight-size friend suddenly realizes that SHE can fit in with the straight-sizes and bails. I just like how they both have legitimate reasons to be upset and neither of them are obviously bad and wrong. The enemy here is the pageant but also the fatphobic culture. Ellen should be allowed to enjoy this thing. Willowdean should be allowed to chose, for REAL, whether she wants to be in it or not. And I feel like the movie captures that.


I am inarticulately in love with Hannah, I don't even know what to say except that I love every second.

I'm not sure how I feel about this drag queen scene, except that it serves as an interesting mirror to the beauty queen contest going back on in the city. They even both have "queen" in the title. There's a focus on dresses and hair and talent, but it's like the beauty queen contest is for the privileged people in the city and the drag queen celebration is for the alternative crowd and it's an interesting juxtaposition? Gonna defer to trans folk who have more experience with drag culture than I do, though.


We pause this live-tweet while I build an altar to Hannah in my backyard.

oh OUCH. But I mean. How do you EXPLAIN to this boy? Like. It's not enough that he likes you. If you date him? If you marry him? You'll always see the looks, the whispers, the shock. People asking why he's with YOU. And she knows that and he doesn't understand. (I do want movies where the fat girl just gets the sexy guy without it seeming aberrant--it's one reason I like SPY so much--but we need this too because being able to SAY IT, to SPEAK IT, is necessary. It's not that it's "unrealistic" for hot guys to like us, it's that if you date a hot guy you are signing up for a lifetime of people reminding you, over and over, that they don't think you deserve him.)


God, her mom watching from the wings. Yes.

Millie's mother oh my gosh I'm crying so hard. MILLIE. "There's nothing in the rules that says big girls need not apply." But this thing is such a REAL thing. Mothers who close doors in order to protect us from failure. And it's not like they're being evil because, I mean. We will fail. Bekah IS going to win, we know that. It's such a fine tension between "trying anyway, because it's there" and protecting us.


The Texas skirts are so perfect and this is SUCH a rare Texas movie that FEELS like Texas.

oh god the swimsuit competition is about to start and Willowdean's FACE and my HEART.  HER SWIMSUIT. OH!!!! HANNAH OH SHIT. MILLIE AND HER MOTHER.


LOOK, even if you can't watch the whole movie, go to 1 hour and 28 minutes in okay and watch that part. I just. It's. She's beautiful and amazing and good but this is also something do-able? It's not one of those impossible movie montage things where I'm like "well, I can't backflip off a diving board and chop a shark in half on the way down, so this is fantasy". It's REAL and DOABLE and she's so beautiful and glamorous and perfect. God, and the LOOK on her mother's face; she'd been so prepared for disaster and now she sees that Willowdean can DO this just as good as any other girl.

Hang on I am getting some pictures.


I cannot describe how valuable this is to me, I am a dragon hoarding screenshots because these are life.

*inarticulate noises*




JENNIFER ANISTON ashdkajdhkajadh


Oh, Millie's mother bracing for the results. My heart.

Oh that was MASTERFULLY done. Oh that ending was just PERFECT. That may be the best movie about a fat girl I've ever seen. I've re-watched the talent scene 18 times now. I can't stop. The details of the facial expressions in every scene. This is WHY you gotta get a fat actress to play a fat part. She is so AUTHENTIC and it makes the movie so true to experience.



I'm really glad there's chemistry between Hannah and Millie because we don't get a lot of rep in that direction either. So this movie gave us a boy liking a fat girl and a girl liking a fat girl and I needed BOTH.

And it's actually really powerful to me that Hannah is constantly supportive of Millie and Will taking this journey. In every scene, in a thousand little ways, Hannah is affirming towards Millie and Will without taking over, taking charge, taking control. She doesn't tell them how to be girls, or use her thinness to shut them down or talk over them.

That's REALLY HARD to pull off. To shoot scenes with one pretty androgynous person and two fat girls and CONSISTENTLY the fat girls remain the focus and their thin friend supports from behind. Especially when, by virtue of being the Comic Relief, Hannah has the best lines. She could've easily stolen the focus. And they were so careful with the filming to make sure she's their supporter and friend. (and possible crush, for Millie!!!)

I just. Everything they did with Hannah in this film means SO MUCH to me. She's wonderful and hilarious and good, but she's also truly truly supportive. Millie and Will could've done this without Hannah--she doesn't provide key support without which they'd have been lost (and I'm glad for that)--but WE need Hannah so we can see a thin girl loving a fat girl and it's beautiful. It's so subtle and perfectly masterfully done.

The opening dance number with all the girls is really a great example of what I'm talking about: they put Hannah BEHIND, physically, Millie and Will. What other film does that??? What other film would give us TWO fat girls and then put the thin girl BEHIND them?  And Hannah is smiling. Not because she's suddenly bought into pageants being her thing, but because she's getting to see Millie and Will shine. She's happy FOR THEM. I can't tell you how unbelievably powerful and rare this rep feels for me.


Okay, there's another cool nuance thing that I want to talk about but it's a SPOILER so mute as needed, okay?

The thing that sets Willowdean off on this adventure is the realization that her fat Aunt Luce filled out a pageant entry and didn't follow through. Willowdean thought she didn't enter because she was fat and afraid.

It's only much later that her mom relates that Luce had confidence, but the family didn't have enough money to afford pageant dresses. They found an off-rack dress and Luce stayed up all night fixing it up for her sister, so her sister could win. And.... I don't know if straight-size people will realize this, but "off-rack pageant dress in PLUS size" basically isn't a thing.

Luce couldn't join because of a lack of opportunity which was, itself, caused by the fat-hatred which makes clothes (a) difficult for us to find and (b) prohibitively expensive when we do. So she channeled her energy into helping her sister win. I NEED TO STRESS THIS. Because so many fat girl movies are about a fat girl self-rejecting herself from greatness, and her arc involves "learning" that she's awesome and the only thing holding her back is herself. AND THAT IS NOT HOW THIS WORKS.

Luce didn't hold herself back because she wasn't sufficiently confident. She couldn't find a dress. Her thin sister could. It is literally that simple, and that real. There are so many things I haven't been able to attend because "what do I wear". (Fat clothes are, in fact, so hard to find that I was honestly stressing so much over the "donation" subplot because I was like NO KEEP THOSE.)


Queer Eye, but it's girls and they dress me like Hannah from Dumplin, complete with aviator glasses. This, combined with the fact that the "pretty" girls are nice, is really important to me. A lot of these movies don't empower us so much as pit us against some other version of femininity.


I want to talk about the ending of Dumplin and something I really liked so mute the word to avoid spoilers.

The climax of the pageant is when Millie unexpectedly wins first runner up. She doesn't win the crown; she's the runner-up, essentially second place. This is a VICTORY. A big deal. Slow motion sets in as Millie takes the huge bouquet and Will cries with joy for her. What a win!

Then Will leaves. The pageant is over for her. Because she knows, just as we know, just as everyone has ALWAYS known, that Bekah will win the pageant. We get the ironic touch of Bekah politely pretending to be surprised (and maybe she is! She seems like a nice girl!) even though we always knew she'd take the crown.

There was never any chance that a fat girl would take that crown. Not in that setting, not in that movie. That wasn't in the cards and the movie didn't try to pretend otherwise. The REAL victory, the REAL surprise was taking runner up. And I think a lot of straight size people might find this upsetting?

But it was SO POWERFUL for me. In a movie about the reality of fatness, the narrative never pretended we have an equal shot at a beauty queen crown. Not because we aren't beautiful and talented! We are! (Good enough to earn runner up, even!) But because that crown is reserved for people who aren't us. And we know that, and the movie acknowledged it.

I love escapist settings and we need and deserve more. I love the climax of Hairspray when Tracy is all YOU CAN'T STOP THE AVALANCHE and everyone cheers. But I also need movies like this one which offers realistic triumphs without gaslighting me about oppression. We don't see Bekah's "talent" portion (outside of the audition montage) because we don't NEED to. We KNOW she's going to win. If you don't know it too, you get to learn it when you see Will not bothering to stick around. She knew.

I was actually AFRAID they'd find a way for Will to win. Not because I don't want fat girls to win! But because that wasn't this movie. The fact that Will COULDN'T WIN adds so much nuance to her choice to disqualify herself. She came, she was amazing, and she DIDN'T let them "fail" her. They couldn't fire her, she quit. In red shoes.

We need movies where the fat girl wins.

We need movies where the fat girl can't win.

They aren't going to be the SAME movie. Dumplin was the latter, and I needed that. I needed a movie to look me in the eye and acknowledge the truth. I really hope thinner folks can recognize that was NOT a moment of disappointment or "settling" for less. Millie winning second place, and Will walking out: those were amazing, powerful victories.

I like, too, how the impossibility of winning the crown lets the viewer understand (if they didn't already know) WHY Millie's mom didn't want her to compete. Millie's Mom knew she wouldn't win and wanted to shield her from that. The difference isn't that Millie disagrees and thinks she can win. The difference is Millie wants to do this even knowing she won't. And I love her for that.

She tells her mom she needs her "support". Not her belief. Not faith in a miracle that won't happen. Her SUPPORT for the choice Millie has made, eyes wide open, to do something for herself even though she won't win the crown. I just. That is so important to me.


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