Zoolander 2 is one of the most highly anticipated sequels of 2016 — so far, at least. Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller), aka the male model, aka the inventor of Blue Steel (and other classic looks), has finally returned to the big screen alongside his BFF Hansel (Owen Wilson) — he's so hot right now — and his arch nemesis, Mugatu (Will Ferrell). When Zoolander ended, Derek had found love with his intellectual superior, Matilda, the two had a son, Derek Jr., and they had just opened the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good and Want To Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too. With a conclusion so happy, it's hard to imagine how Zoolander 2 could top it. But the Zoolander 2 ending might've just done the trick.
Early on in Zoolander 2, it's revealed that Derek's wife, Matilda, died tragically after the Zoolander Center building collapsed just days following the opening. A grieving Derek went into hiding after his son was taken by Child Services, and he and Hansel also went their separate ways. After that opening, it's hard to believe that the ending of Zoolander 2 could be anything like the ending of the first film. And yet, the way Zoolander 2 ends is shockingly similar to the ending of Zoolander. In fact, the two endings are basically identical.
Once again, Derek Zoolander finds love, defeats the villainous fashion designer, and regains his position as the king of male modeling, all in the last five minutes. In the new film, Derek defeats Mugatu, who appears to die in a glitter bomb explosion, with the help of his son, Interpol fashion agent Valentina (Penelope Cruz), Hansel and Hansel's surprise father (MAJOR SPOILER) Sting. The epic battle once again propels Hansel and Derek to fame as the most desirable male models in the business, and Derek finds love with Valentina. The film ends with Valentina and Derek opening a new school — The Valentina Center for Swimsuit Models — having a child together, and taking on the world. Probably the biggest difference between the endings of Zoolander and Zoolander 2 is the existence of Derek Jr. (Cyrus Arnold), who is now a young tween.
Throughout the film, Derek Jr.'s main purpose seems to be for Stiller, Wilson and Ferrell to make "fat" jokes. When we meet Derek Jr., Derek is shocked to find out that his son isn't the traditional beauty he dreamed he would be. Instead, Derek Jr. is — gasp!—"fat." Derek panics, and considers simply abandoning his son for good because he is overweight. Derek insults Derek Jr.'s weight, while Hansel wonders if being fat makes you a bad person. "I know it doesn't make you a good person," he ponders. In the end, Derek sees the beauty within his son, and defies Mugatu when the villain calls his son "fat," saying, "No, he's plus size!" In the closing moments following this climactic scene, it is revealed that Derek Jr. has become the world's most famous "plus size model."
The comedic value of this Derek Jr. subplot is debatable. Is it humorous to make fun of the "plus size" label that women have worked so hard to make positive? Sure, it might help to show how the fashion world's ideas of "plus" is distorted, as one look at Derek Jr. shows that he doesn't actually fit into that label, but even if he did, is the entire joke offensive? The fact is that plus size models are discriminated against in the fashion industry — just as those who consider themselves plus size often are in real life. These models contribute positively to the world of fashion and media, and belittling the need for them doesn't help anyone. Furthermore, plus size is a term mostly used to describe women, so to give the title of the world's best plus size model to a teenage boy, while admittedly humorous, also feels a bit backwards — especially for a film whose female characters are there primarily for boob jokes.
Really, the ending to Zoolander 2 is just what you'd expect from the comedy: sweet, funny, happy, and very slightly problematic.
Images: Paramount Pictures (2); zoolander/Instagram