A body positivity and inclusivity moment from Netflix’s film Dumplin’.

Netflix’s Dumplin’ is one of my favorite portrayals of girlhood as it is able to accurately represent being a teenager. Additionally, it provides representation for different body types on the big screen.

The main character, Dumplin’, is the daughter of a former pageant queen who is still involved in pageants. As shown in the movie, pageant culture is full of unrealistic expectations of how a girl should look and act.  In the film, Dumplin’ is plus-sized and her mother is straight-sized. Dumplin’s relationship with her mother is hurt by pageant culture and the differences in their body types. The plot centered around Dumplin’ rebelling against pageants by entering in one. She does this even though she does not fit into the stereotypical “pageant girl” look. As the audience, we can see this rebellion against pageantry as an adventure with friends. Yet, another theme is challenging beauty standards.

When I watched this movie, I was surprised at how much I was able to relate to the themes through my experiences. While I am straight sized, I have a different body type than my mother and my sister. As shown in the movie, it’s difficult growing up in an environment where you’re the odd one out. This is especially hard when this difference is based on looks because it’s visible to others.

We see Dumplin’ struggle with her body image in the film which is something that many girls face. This isn’t helped by the overwhelming presence of social media. We see Dumplin’ judged for breaking barriers for plus-sized girls and we see her devalue herself because of her looks. But, at the same time, we also see her friends and her mother rally around her to give her support. This film normalizes how difficult it is for girls to navigate through girlhood with so many expectations put on them.

As I mentioned before, the presence of social media puts so much pressure on girls to look a certain way. This can be through influencers or companies marketing products and images towards girls. I see many ads each day that market products so that my skin can be clearer, my eyelashes can be longer or my hair can have more volume. Additionally, beauty or fitness influencers can provide an unrealistic image to girls. The film Dumplin’ recognizes these struggles that girls experience and validates them. It confirms that girls of all ages and appearances experience  insecurities.

In the end, the message that Dumplin’ gives is something that holds so much value to girls. The film emphasized the importance of being comfortable in your own skin. While it is ok and normal to have insecurities or feel pressure to look a certain way, at the end of the day, no use comes out of comparing yourself to others. Someone’s appearance is unique to themselves and beautiful in every way. Dumplin’ took something that was based on judging girls’ appearances and turned it into female empowerment. She also encouraged other pageant participants to follow her lead. She shifted the pageant’s focus to body positivity, inclusivity and experiencing girlhood. This is an amazing, uplifting and validating film so give it a watch!

-Jessica Martin
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Terms to know 

Straight Sized: a clothing size not considered ‘plus size’ or a fashion industry term for the clothing size most designers use as a model.

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