Fat characters without fat are still characters

Get a better premise

So this post comes from two different things; one, the book/movie Relative Happiness, and two, the Big Girls Do It book series.

In both, the main adjective of these kick ass female characters is that they are fat. Fat is their premise.

This is the thing that the authors choose to define them as a character.

Why is this such a focus?

What if we wrote a “fat” character without acknowledging the fact that they have extra weight or using that to define the character.

What if we wrote a fat character like any other female protagonist in a romcom?

In most romcoms with a skinny protagonist, heartbreak happens because of some personality flaw. In a romcom with a fat protagonist, it is because of her weight.

Here is Relative Happiness’s IMDB summary:

Plus sized and 30 years old, LEXIE IVY is a feisty Bed and Breakfast owner who desperately needs a date to her sisters wedding. In small town Nova Scotia, that’s no easy task, especially when the most eligible bachelor is Joss, the rough handyman fixing her roof. When Adrian, a handsome and charming guest, arrives and seems to take an interest in Lexie, she thinks all her problems are solved. But she misreads the situation and is soon reeling, believing her romantic dream has slipped away, maybe forever. After a series of hilarious mishaps and a reality check or two, Lexie opens her heart and eyes to see that love may be a lot closer than she thought. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3269932/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl)

So let’s try taking out the fact that Lexie is “plus sized”:

Thirty year old LEXIE IVY is a feisty Bed and Breakfast owner who desperately needs a date to her sisters wedding. In small town Nova Scotia, that’s no easy task, especially when the most eligible bachelor is Joss, the rough handyman fixing her roof. When Adrian, a handsome and charming guest, arrives and seems to take an interest in Lexie, she thinks all her problems are solved. But she misreads the situation and is soon reeling, believing her romantic dream has slipped away, maybe forever. After a series of hilarious mishaps and a reality check or two, Lexie opens her heart and eyes to see that love may be a lot closer than she thought.

Does this make Lexie any less of an interesting character? Does the story seem any less believable since it is a “plus sized” woman going through the situation?

Let’s try it with the Big Girls series:

Gorgeous, rock-star guys like Chase Delany don’t go for girls like me. They go for supermodels and actresses, skinny-girls who never eat and spend all day working out. I’m not that girl. So when he locked his fiery brown eyes on me for the first time, I couldn’t quite believe it was really happening to me.

It was the second night I spent with him that I’ll never forget.

A little difficult but insecurity happens whether it is because of weight or personality:

Gorgeous, rock-star guys like Chase Delany don’t go for girls like me. They go for supermodels and actresses. I’m not that girl. So when he locked his fiery brown eyes on me for the first time, I couldn’t quite believe it was really happening to me.

It was the second night I spent with him that I’ll never forget.

Wow, not that hard at all.

Same questions; how does this change the story? How does it change how the audience sees the character?

The reason weight is such a big deal is that we make it a big deal.

What the synopsis of Relative Happiness and Big Girls is really saying is “despite being fat, this character is still awesome.”

What if we just said, “hey, there is this awesome character and she is going through shit.”

What if the audience focused on a strong, confident, amazing character instead of how the character is hideously over weight.

Related Content: Rachel Wiley’s “10 Honest Thoughts on Being Loved by a Skinny Boy” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRFOTqTicvY

Rebel Wilson & Melissa McCarthy Vow To NOT Lose Weight? http://perezhilton.com/fitperez/2013-12-17-melissa-mccarthy-rebel-wilson-weight-loss-pact#.VJ9g-M8BA

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2 thoughts on “Fat characters without fat are still characters

  1. adewade December 28, 2014 / 2:05 am

    Slight devil’s advocate, sheerly for practicality: If a screenwriter doesn’t expressly state that a character is outside the Hollywood norm for bodytype, odds are, it won’t happen. So if it isn’t necessary for the character, odds are, you won’t see larger-than-hollywood-model bodytypes. Happens with racial character choices too, though hopefully less so nowadays? I’ve heard screenwriters recommend giving minor characters culturally-specific names just to encourage, say, an Asian actor or Indian female actor to be cast as the shop clerk, rather than the default white guy.

    • Rebecca Zimmer December 28, 2014 / 2:15 am

      Noted. What I want to see is keeping the fat character without focusing on the fact that they are fat.

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