When most Millennials were growing up, there weren't many body positive cartoon characters to look up to. The princesses tended to be whippet skinny, with waist sizes as wide as the bracelets that fit on their wrists and slender builds that were meant for daintily running through meadows or waiting in towers. Then as we got older and moved up to Saturday morning cartoons, we got introduced to a potluck of new protagonists; but while the faces and characteristics differed, the bodies all sort of stayed the same. All the while, I kept noticing that none of them really looked like me.
Don't even get me started on what would happen when a character was plus size. These folks were usually around for a negative reason. In The Little Mermaid, we had evil, slimy Ursula, with her round tummy and heinous plans. In Alice In Wonderland, we had the terrible Queen of Hearts, who was stout, thick, and as ugly as her intentions. In The Simpsons, there were Patty and Selma, who are rough around the edges and more than a little bitter in their single ladies club. Most times, the appearance of a body type that veered away from the skinny mold symbolized a character flaw. Either they were evil, bitter, negative, or just lazy. So when you're bombarded with images like that, how can you possibly have a positive outlook on your own body?
Well, I'm glad to say that not every character out there supports that trope, even if it sometimes feels like it. There are a few (and there should be more) that break the mold and inject a little body positivity into their messages. Below are seven cartoon characters that promote body positivity.
1. Jessica Rabbit From Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Where curvy, hyper-sexualized women are often made into ditzy, man-eating, heart breakers, Jessica Rabbit broke away from the mold. Knowing how she comes across, she puts the stereotype right on its head when she tells Eddie Valiant, "I'm not bad... I'm just drawn that way." And it's true. All through the movie, she proves to be compassionate and loyal, coming across as the sweet girl next door rather than the cool femme fatale her slinky dress and long legs make folks think she is. This was an important move on TV. After all, why does a woman with cleavage and a penchant for dresses that show off her curves (á la Natasha Fatale or Marvel's Deathbird) automatically equate to a villain?
Jessica Rabbit shows how that's an outdated way to think, making it clear that she only has eyes for her husband no matter what others think of her, is brave, quick-witted, and can kick some major butt while wearing opera gloves.
2. Nani Pelekai From Lilo And Stitch
Nani, the 19-year-old big sister to Lilo, proved to be one strong woman in every way. Not only did she pick up the pieces after she and Lilo are left without parents, but she also had an amazingly refreshing body type when it comes to Disney characters. Nani is flat-chested with wide hips, thick thighs, and even a little bit of a VBO. She was absolutely beautiful, and the best part was how confident she was. Instead of covering up, she went around in crop tops and short shorts, not once alluding to the fact that her body wasn't what's regularly seen as ideal.
3. Pooh Bear From Winnie The Pooh
One of Pooh's famous sing song lines is, "I'm short, fat, and proud of that," and he's forever unapologetic about his chunky bits. Pooh loves his stout physique through and through, and doesn't see any reason why he should ever change. Just watch him do his squats and be all, "I seriously can't wait to eat some honey." You're a man after my own heart, Pooh.
4. Betty Boop
This saucy flapper was a symbol of the first youth rebellion in the States in the 1920s and '30s, when kids went to odds with their parents' stuffy, Victorian ways of thinking. Her character was equal parts innocent and equal parts aware of her sexuality. She embodied the idea that women didn't want to hide their bodies behind corsets and frumpy tent-like dresses any longer.
Boop was an important body positive cartoon character back in the Depression Era because, unlike the rest of the characters coming out at that time, she was strictly female. Most characters (like Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, or even Ms. Pacman later on) were just female copies of their male counterparts, with the addition of eyelashes or lipstick or a kitten heel. Betty, however, was all woman, sporting a short dress, garter, and cleavage to match. She proved there was nothing shameful about the female figure.
5. Garnet From Steven Universe
Garnet from Steven Universe is an amazing character because she helps to say "no" to muscle shaming. While a lot of light is being shed on body positivity as it applies to plus size figures, buff gals unfortunately get sort of left out sometimes. That's where Garnet comes in.
In Steven Universe, Garnet has the power to shape shift to any form she wants, so it's quite the statement that she decides to stay in a body with thick, strong thighs, big hips, and a powerful build that matches the steady warrior that she is. On top of that, there was a character arc when it was revealed that one of the main characters had a crush on her and thought her to be knockout beautiful. Because duh, she is.
6. Gene From Bob's Burgers
This little guy doesn't have a qualm in the world about his round boy body. He constantly walks around in his tightie whiteies, doesn't mind being naked in a burger costume, openly talks about his body parts ("I think I have the best legs in the family... and the smoothest bottom") and doesn't even consider for a moment that his soft tummy might be something he should focus on "fixing." Instead, his tummy pooch is a non-issue and isn't made a part of his identity (he's not "the fat kid"), but rather it's just how he looks. And he's totally cool with it.
7. Rose Quartz From Steven Universe
The show's resident mama Rose Quartz is a warrior queen slash mother of Steven. She has a soft tummy, is over eight feet tall, wears a snug shirt that accentuates her curves, and is completely comfortable in her own skin. On top of that, every character in the show thinks she's fiercely beautiful, including her arch nemesis. And the best part? Rose's fatness has nothing to do with the story — it's never touched upon, it's not a major character trait, and it doesn't define who she is, which breaks every major "fat girl" trope out there.
Clearly these body pos cartoon characters are totally gorgeous, and not just aesthetically.
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Images: Disney (2); Fox Studios (1), Cartoon Network (3); Republic Pictures (1)