Right after watching Dumplin’ I told all my friends to watch it, then my mom, and then sang the soundtrack off-key for weeks. Directed by the same genius behind The Proposal – which in my opinion, is one of the greatest movies of our time – Anne Fletcher’s newest movie is a story about self-love and accepting your body the way it is.
The basic premise of the movie follows the life of an overweight teenager, Willowdean Dickson, and her relationship with her mother – a minor celebrity in Clover City, Texas, as a former beauty pageant queen. Nicknamed “Dumplin’”, Willowdean is raised by her plus-sized Aunt Lucy, played by Hillary Begley, who teaches her to love Dolly Parton. The dramedy includes the famous trifecta of high school: bullies, crushes and dramatic arguments with your best friends. As far as stories go, it is conventional, and the only real unique features are drag queens and Parton’s new songs.
Despite its “happily ever after” ending, Dumplin’ is a movie to add to anyone’s list simply because it portrays body positivity in the best way. Willowdean’s mother, played by Jennifer Anniston, seems embarrassed by her daughter’s appearance which results in merciless bullying at her high school. As a pageant queen, she encourages her daughter to diet – stocking up their fridge with “rabbit food” of salad leaves and condiments. While other pageant runners jog across the streets with assumedly Lululemon and flying ponytails, Willowdean spends her time with drag queens and the gospel of Dolly Parton. Rather than continue to criticise her body and weight, Willowdean ignites a mini-revolution against the “oppressive hetero-patriarchy” and signs up for the Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant. Her courage and dedication towards the revolution, rather than an obsession with appearances, was refreshing to see in the movie.
It was a breath of fresh air in contrast to Netflix’s depiction of body acceptance in its TV series Insatiable. The series follows the story of a teenage girl wiring her jaw shut, losing weight and wreaking revenge on her high school. It has an overtly negative, and frankly appalling, attitude towards weight and accepting your body, and thousands of people petitioned for the cancellation of the show soon after trailers had been released. Compared to this, Dumplin’ reminds us that “every body is a swimsuit body”. It is a movie that embraces any body type, whether skinny or overweight, and emphasizes self-acceptance and love. Against a backdrop of an unquestionably brilliant soundtrack, Willowdean advocates for what she believes in. She turns Parton’s words into a mantra we should all remember: “it is hard being a diamond in a rhinestone world”.