Monica Gellar from Friends. Patty Bladell from Insatiable. Hannah Marin from Pretty Little Liars. All of these characters are part of an old trope throughout movies and tv shows that focuses on the “former fat person.” This tired trope deserves a rest; it is 2020. It is time to move on from this outdated and problematic plot line and create more inclusive and accurate characters.
The stale plot line of the former fat person is often used for “comical” value. It can usually go one of two ways.
- The person was plus-size in their past, lost weight, and became a horrible and conceited person.
- A person lost weight for someone else and in doing so became the person they always wanted to be.
Both of these character plot lines are extremely toxic.
The first trope emphasizes the damage that writers perceive being plus-size would have on a person’s self-esteem. When the character was plus-size, like Bladell from Insatiable, they were self-conscious and deemed a social outcast. But as soon as the character lost weight, they automatically became conceited and obsessed with looks. They also usually had an obsession with getting back at those who were once mean to them because of their weight. This is a damaging plot line because it dwindles a character down to appearance, and the character is one-dimensional. All aspects of their personality and ambition are centered around the problems that the screenwriters believed all plus-sized people must grapple with.
The second manifestation of the formerly fat person trope is just as problematic as the first, and it might be even more damaging. Instead of a plus-size character losing weight because they wanted to, the character lost weight for other people. Monica Gellar from Friends, for example, lost weight because Chandler Bing once called her “fat.” She didn’t lose the weight for herself, she lost it because someone she was interested in rejected her. While it isn’t bad for someone to lose weight, the idea that a plus-size person loses weight to appease someone else or gain affection is incredibly damaging.
The idea of being a formerly plus-size person and only becoming self-confident and happy as soon as weight is lost is not OK. TV writers need to write characters that are plus-size, happy, and confident.
It’s time to ditch the outdated and offensive stereotype of all plus-size individuals being unhappy with the way they look and write them as complex characters that can love themselves and be loved the way they are.