The Breadcrumbs widget will appear here on the published site.
A Fat Girl's Opinion of Dumplin'
By Ghia Vitale
I highly recommend Dumplin’ to anyone who wants to see an empowering plus size lead. You’ll also like this movie if you like body positivity, feel good feminism, and Dolly Parton.
Dumplin’ is a movie that’s available on Netflix. The movie is based off a young adult novel by Julie Murphy that’s also called Dumplin’. Both the movie and the book have an overarching theme of self-love. I became aware of Dumplin’ by hearing fellow writers gush about how wholesome it is. I also saw people describe the movie as as inspiring and body positive. Oh, and plenty of Dolly Parton’s music is in the mix as well. Once I read some reviews of Dumplin’, I knew I had to see this movie and write a movie review.
Dumplin’ is a progressive movie because it depicts plus size women leading full lives. This is contrary to the “walking fat joke” roles fat people usually play in movies. This movie features multiple plus size characters who are happy, courageous, and multifaceted. As a self-proclaimed fat girl and plus size woman, I appreciate this kind of representation a lot. It breaks the stereotype that all fat people are miserable and incomplete.
The movie follows the life of a plus size teenager named Willowdean Dickson (Danielle Macdonald). Rosie Dickson (Jennifer Aniston), Willowdean’s former-beauty pageant queen mother (who’s also a single mom), calls her “Dumplin’” as a term of endearment, but it’s a nickname Willowdean despises. To defy her mother and honor the memory of her deceased Aunt Lucy, Willowdean decides to compete in the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant, a beauty pageant her mom runs.
Willowdean’s participation inspires other girls to join the beauty pageant. First off, there's Ellen Dryer (Odeya Rush), Willowdean's best friend who Aunt Lucy introduced her to. Millie (Maddie Baillio) is a plus size girl who’s hopeful about winning the competition. Hannah (Bex Taylor-Klaus), on the other hand, just wants to smash the patriarchy. All of these girls put their own spin on the definition of beauty when they compete in the beauty pageant.
I’m going to be real with you: I’m not a fan of beauty pageants. I don’t like how beauty pageants prioritize conventional beauty while reducing women and femmes to their looks. If you’re like me and you dislike beauty pageants, this movie will be a pleasant surprise for you. There are many reasons why Dumplin’ is body positive, but the body positive message Willowdean and Ellen send during the swimsuit competition will really make you smile.
I enjoy how Dumplin’ doesn’t reduce Willowdean to her weight. Yes, Willowdean sometimes struggles with insecurities because she’s a multifaceted character. Battling insecurity is a part of not only in the lives of plus size women, but most people’s lives. I definitely know what it’s like to feel insecure about my size. However, she doesn’t sit around and hate herself or her size. Instead, she challenges the sizeist beauty expectations that others hold for her. Willowdean is the kind of representation that plus size women like me have fantasized about for years.
Dumplin’ depicts the complicated relationship between a plus size girl and her former-beauty pageant queen mother. Rosie’s world is full of body tape measurements, tailoring dresses, perfect hairstyles, and teaching women how to be conventionally attractive. Willowdean verbally expresses that she knows her mom doesn’t like her plus size body or appearance. Due to having a mother like Rosie, I’m not surprised by Willowdean’s protest via beauty pageant. It reminds me of how other plus size women I’ve known have often told me they have strained relationships with their thin(ner) moms.
I also enjoy how the movie portrays a fat girl dating someone “out of her league.” In fact, this movie sticks a middle finger to the entire concept of “leagues” in dating. Willowdean’s crush is her coworker, Bo Larson (Luke Benward). He is thin and considered conventionally attractive/handsome. Bo reciprocates Willowdean’s crush, but she has a problem with accepting this. She just can’t understand why a conventionally attractive guy like Bo would want to date a fat girl like her, especially when thin women are fawning over him. Still, I like how Dumplin’ portrays a plus size woman “getting the guy,” especially a guy that other people would consider “out of her league.”
Let’s not forget the Dolly Parton element. Aunt Lucy passed her love of Dolly Parton down to Willowdean. Dolly Parton songs are weaved into the movie throughout its entirety. Spoiler: There’s a Dolly Parton-themed drag night that Willowdean attends. There, she makes connections with people who knew her aunt well. It’s very heartwarming. Dolly Parton never appears in the movie, but Willowdean and Ellen are obsessed with her enough to make her presence nearly constant throughout the movie.
Overall, Dumplin’ is a positive and uplifting movie. Watching it is bound to pick up your mood. Honestly, I wish this movie or the book had come out when I was a teenager. Willowdean would've inspired me to feel more confident and love myself more. Fortunately, Dumplin' is now here for the world to enjoy.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.