I find my body positivity through representation. If I see my body reflected in women who I think are beautiful, then I have no reason to think badly of my body, right? This visual connection is one I'm certain people gravitate towards, which is why feminist and body positive films are so important. By representing all kinds of women of all kinds of sizes in our media, then maybe more and more children will grow up getting to see themselves on the big screen.
Of course, body positivity has been lurking in our films since long before the phrase existed, because arty filmmakers pretty much adore questioning societal and media-based standards of beauty. Take every John Waters film, for instance. Divine's existence in 1988's Hairspray totally changed my views on beauty and of myself. I've been happily and gloriously tacky, fat, and fabulous ever since.
For some, simply seeing a fat character is enough to fill them with joy. For others, specifically body positive moments in a film can completely help with their own self love journeys. Every time I watch Hairspray (both versions), I love that Tracy Turnblad's weight is only used as an insult by the ignorant, and that she never lets it stop her following her dreams and helping others. Everybody has their favorite film moments that have affected them from a body positive standpoint. These are mine.
1. Hairspray: Welcome To The '60s
Like I said, Hairspray is a body positive masterpiece. Almost every scene is filled with promotions of self love. This one in particular means the world to me. As I introduce my own mom to body positivity and encourage her to love herself, I can't help but see the parallels between this song and our own relationship (although Mother Jones definitely isn't an agoraphobe).
2. Pitch Perfect: Fat Amy's Recruitment
Rebel Wilson's character in Pitch Perfect is arguably questionable to begin with, but as the film(s) carry on, it's obvious that her only defining trait isn't her weight and she's so much more than a token character. I love this scene particularly, because Fat Amy is totally removing the stigma of being called fat.
3. Little Miss Sunshine: Diner Scene
Olive's dad makes me so angry for the entirety of this film, but it helps to highlight how brilliant the rest of the crew is at raising Olive's self esteem and self love. From the rest of the fam encouraging Olive's ice cream eating to her granddad telling her she's the best to the adult pageant queen confirming that yes she does eat ice cream too, this film is packed full of body positive moments. Why is this one so special? Because it shows that often, our parents' negativity is totally wrong.
4. Juno: Dad's Speech
"Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what-have-you. The right person is still going to think the sun shines out of your ass. That's the kind of person that's worth sticking with." Clearly, the wrong person is an idiot for not loving you for who you are.
5. To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar: Town Stands Up To Sheriff Dollard
I might have a small obsession with drag queen movies, but they provide me with everything I need out of a film! In Too Wong Foo, the small town rises up to defend the drag queens against the sexist, transphobic sheriff. One by one, the women stand up and claim to be drag queens too (think Spartacus) and the sheriff leaves humiliated. These small town women prove that "small town mentality" is totally bogus as well, as they defend their drag queen friends to the end.
6. Magic Mike XXL: Ladies Club
The entirety of Magic Mike XXL is a feminist masterpiece, but when the men's club turns out to be a ladies' club hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith? I screamed. The best part about this movie isn't just the male strip performances, but the women who receive them, because they come in almost every size and shape and get celebrated in the way they deserve.
7. Muriel's Wedding: "Waterloo" Karaoke
When Muriel is banned from the holiday by her gal pals for not being cool enough (read: loving ABBA in the '90s), she storms onto the resort anyway and drops a truth bomb (no spoilers) that makes all the women realize how petty and shallow their friendship group really is. To follow, she makes besties with an old school friend and performs a badass rendition of "Waterloo." Regardless of what others want you to be, being yourself is what's truly important.
8. Pink Flamingos: The Filthiest Person Alive
This scene of Divine strutting through the city looking fabulous — to go piss on the lawn of people who've wronged her — is exactly how I conduct myself and my self love too. Her IDGAF attitude is legendary and her confidence will never cease to inspire me.
9. Legally Blonde: Fake Costume Party
For the entirety of this film (and the next one) nobody can understand how Elle Woods can be so perky and pink but also be an intellectual. She's constantly put down for how she presents herself and equally constantly crushes people's expectations of her and her pastel pink pumps. In this scene, Elle refuses to be embarrassed over being purposefully humiliated. Instead, she flawlessly insults the "frigid b*tch" who did it and carries on with her life. It's an attitude we should all adopt.
10. Fried Green Tomatoes: Car Parking Space
Kathy Bates rediscovering herself in middle age through visiting an old lady in a nursing home really shouldn't have appealed to me as a teen, but as my mom's favorite film, it worked its way in there. This is my most-loved scene, because it's exactly how I want to be when I grow up. "Face it girls. I'm older and I have more insurance," is the ultimate middle finger to ageism.
11. Bridget Jones' Diary: Wobbly Bits
It hasn't been uncommon for me to try to hide my body from men I've just slept with, as though they haven't just seen my body bouncing about at every angle for the last hour. Things are different when you're not in the heat of the moment, of course, and I totally understand Bridget's point of view. There's something special about hearing a partner confirm that they love your "wobbly bits" and can lead to ultimately being comfortable naked around them. Then again, it'd be a lot easier if that partner was Colin Firth.
I believe there's a lot of body positivity to be found in cinema. A scene might be an insignificant aside, the basis of an entire character, or the plot to the whole film. No matter what, the representation is important, since that representation is going to make at least one person feel understood. And that one person will probably be me, crying in bed with a tub of Ben & Jerry's, binge watching these movies that help me love myself again after I've been feeling sh*t.
Images: New Line Cinema (1); Giphy