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The Whale: What’s about this movie that made the entire audience cry?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Casper Libero chapter.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky, The Whale is the topic of the moment in cinema world. It tells the story of a writing professor who, after a notable loss, finds comfort in food, causing him to develop morbid obesity. In addition to the film’s initial premise, we also see the father-daughter relationship, in which Charlie (Brendan Fraser) and Ellie (Sadie Sink) share troubled and intense moments, and striking passages of tertiary characters. Aronofsky is known for works with strong visual characteristics, this time, it was no different. The Black Swan’s director opted for a more emotional and veiled approach considering his past works, without leaving aside a shocking and obstinate touch. The director made the film one of the most emotional of the Oscar nominees by focusing on raw relationships without flourishes. Understand below why The Whale made everyone cry:

Fatphobia: the way it is represented in the movie 

The prevailing anti-fatness behavior towards him gradually presents the way Charlie feels about himself. The shame and constant hiding from the public eye portrays daily apathy and hopelessness, building up an oppressive scenario in every sphere of his life. 

The remote job and the relationship with his students, the hard moments with his daughter and a frustrated past based on grief enhance his weight stigma. 

The movie can explain that being fat does not necessarily revolve around the lack of health concerns, but reveals a surprising life background. It’s essential to understand that it’s not about the size of the body, but sensitivity when addressing personal issues. The focus is on the person, not on their body. 


Among the various themes addressed in The Whale, one of the most present and constant is the insecurities of Brendan Fraser’s character, Charlie. The negative behavior regarding appearance and the feeling of inadequacy are insecurities most viewers have experienced in the past. Knowing that, when portrayed openly and explicitly on the big screen, many spectators saw themselves in Charlie who, in addition to image problems due to binge-eating, has a troubled relationship with his ex-wife and daughter. We see that his image is one of the most relevant topics for him, since, even in his work as a writing teacher, he refuses to fix the computer camera, making his appearance unimaginable.

His feeling of insecurity is also portrayed when meeting new people. Dan, the “delivery pizza guy” is introduced to the protagonist’s appearance in a meticulously planned way. When seeing Charlie for the first time, the worker froze and ran away. There are multiple ways of interpreting this act, such as fear of those people like Charlie and a sense of guilt due to his contribution to Charlie’s health state when delivering the dozens of pizzas to him over a long period of time.

The father-daughter relationship

After abandoning his eight-year-old daughter Ellie, Charlie is distant from her, doing as little as possible for her upbringing. Right at the beginning of the feature, when we discover the fatal fate of the protagonist – caused by his morbid obesity – Charlie finds himself in a dilemma of reconnecting with Ellie so that they would have their last moments together. The naturalness that the director created made viewers see themselves in this father-daughter relationship that deals with absence and differences, but also talks about love and connection. Despite all the hardships, during the plot, we see how much Charlie loves Ellie and would overcome anything on behalf of her wellbeing.

The soundtrack

A soundtrack of a movie can make a scene very remarkable, but more importantly, it adds up to the meaning of the project. 

The Whale is truly associated with the American novel Moby Dick, a voyages’ narrative of a sailor who searches for a giant white whale for revenge. This connection between both pieces is emphasized by the main character’s profession: the writings may point out very special facts of the movie. 

The soundtrack chosen brought tension and anguish to the audience, once it refers to whale and seabed sounds in specific scenes: when Charlie stands up, walks, feels pain or even laughs over something. 

Not only the thick and strong sounds transmit an awkward, almost scaring vibe for the character, but it may reveal an animalization of the fat body, one of the critics that surrounded the film. 

From a different perspective: the fatphobia behind the cameras

The discussion raised by the fat-acceptance movement about representativeness in the movie starts from the choice of the actor: Brendan Fraser wore a “fat suit” in order to play the obese character and The Whale’s audience did not hesitate to question this fact given it’s not common to see many fat actors.

It is known that the society structure is not prepared for embracing fat people.Therefore, putting them in movie screens is providing visibility and recognition spaces.

It’s easy to notice stereotyped roles. For instance, the movie Big Momma’s House played by Martin Lawrence and the Netflix TV series Insatiable played by Debby Ryan, where both of them wear fat suits, depicting the fat characters in a comic and mocking storyline. It’s necessary to highlight the importance of the humanization and dignity of fat people in multiple ways. 

Many specialists and the internet public brought up similarities between the “fat suit” wearing and the use of “Blackface” for racist performances: the imitation and “construction” of fat or black people’s conditions and attitudes comes with stereotyped and ridiculed positions, decreasing diversity in spaces of greater connection with the public. 

It’s important to question yourself: at the end of the day, does the emotion of a whole audience change a discriminatory society or intensifies it? 


The article above was edited by Ana Beatriz Aith.

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Isabela Tumolo

Casper Libero '25

True crime enthusiast and singer in my free time, I love to tell stories and discover the world!
Maria Cecília Dallal

Casper Libero '26

edito alguns textinhos por aqui! estudante de jornalismo da Faculdade Cásper Líbero. happy to be here! <33