Where are the fat Disney heroines?

An online petition exists, created by a high school junior in Virginia, asking Disney to feature a plus size heroine in one of their movies. Specifically, the petition mentions making “plus size princesses in Disney movies”, but I find the “princess” concept in Disney to be generally anti-feminist and wearying. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy this new music video about the real messages our classic Disney princesses send to girls (even though Frozen isn’t exactly a beacon of feminism itself):

I thought I would go through and just do a roll call of fat female Disney characters, in either a major or at least visible supporting role:

As you can see, we have a stunningly diverse array, ranging from soft, grandmother-types, all the way to vengeful, angry, exaggerated villains. Oh wait, those are just two types. Oooh, we also have a little girl! (An aside, Lilo and Stitch is my favorite animated Disney movie. It’s perfect in every way.)

My Ursula ears from Disneyland

My Ursula ears

Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some Ursula. She’s always been my favorite villain, and I honestly think she’s a better role model for female empowerment than the vast majority of princesses. She knows was she wants, she pursues it ruthlessly, she’s a business woman, she’s powerful, and she’s persuasive. All of this brings me back around to my original point: Where are the fat heroines?

Well, some people flat-out claim it is a bad idea for “health” reasons, like Kathryn Darden, the author of this ugly article from theexaminer.com. A plus size female role model would “only enable and encourage the obesity problem” because girls would emulate the character and subsequently overeat. Darden compares having a plus size heroine to having one who smokes, abuses pills, purges, or cuts on herself. Sorry, Ms. Darden, but your article kind of makes me want to do all four.

Anyhow, we should be happy with what we’ve been offered by Disney so far. They’ve already thrown us fat chicks a few bones:

“Disney has already created Merida with her “plus-size” face, so it’s not like all Disney heroines are stick thin. Snow White is also usually portrayed with a soft, round face. Apparently these heroines are not fat enough…”

Oh, how stupid of me! How could I not think face shape and body type were the same thing? I mean, I should really just stop complaining, because while none of the female characters look like me, at least they don’t ALL look like yard sticks. Maybe the obesity epidemic in America started with Snow White. Everyone saw her fat face and immediately started scarfing down popcorn so they could emulate her. Maybe that’s why movie theaters started upsizing all their snack offerings; they needed to keep up with the Snow White Fat-Face Fad.

Okay, back to the petition. I am signing it. This is my rationale, which I included on the petition itself:

I am signing this petition, not because I actually believe that these sorts of internet petitions actually result in the desired change, but because I want the issue to be considered and discussed. I am a plus size, body positive blog writer, and I strongly feel that all people deserve to feel loved and valued regardless of appearance. Whether or not someone is fat should not impact whether they live “happily ever after”, or are deserving of a Prince Charming to love them unconditionally. In truth, it never really bothered me too much that all of the female leads had cartoon Barbie bods until I read this petition, followed by all the counter arguments. Disney is a mega-corporation in the business of making money, and unless they think a decision will be financially rewarding, they won’t make it. What really pushed me over the edge was the hate. Every argument I read against this petition screamed “FAT IS BAD FAT IS UGLY OMG GROSS”. People are making fun of fat people, curvy people, and even the thoughtful girl who wrote this petition in the first place. Detractors are disguising their prejudice and condescension as “concern” by setting up straw men labeled “Health” and “Obesity Epidemic”. People need to see this hate, READ this hate, and know that it is, in actuality, hate.

I hope you will take the time to go and sign the petition as well, if for no other reason than to promote the dialogue.

6 thoughts on “Where are the fat Disney heroines?

  1. Well said. I’ve always bemoaned the fact that the only plus sizes on Disney and the like are either evil or grandmothers. Merida was a great start but Disney couldn’t/wouldn’t let that stand when it comes to products. There is still controversy over the revamping of the Merida for the doll version, in which Disney tarted her up and slimmed her down.

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  2. Disney princess are not anorexic. They are fit. Being fat is not healthy. Disney should not promote unhealthy body image.

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    • Our article does not claim Disney princesses are anorexic. The girl who wrote the position also did not claim that Disney princesses were anorexic. I am confused — what gave you the impression that was our perspective?

      This isn’t an essay about fitness versus fatness, healthfulness versus illness — it’s about a teen who wants to see more more female body diversity. It’s about a teen who thinks that Disney is doing a poor job making their target audience (children) feel good about themselves.

      What Disney is currently serving up are body types that may look “fit” but are actually, truly, physically unattainable. No one can have the proportions of Aurora from Sleeping Beauty without rib-removal and a neck lengthening. Everyone deserves to feel good about themselves and see positive representations of themselves in popular culture.

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    • Nikotianaa, I have to agree with you. And while I also agree with Shiloh that the use of the term anorexic is overkill I can see the point you’re making. What we’re seeing, and what was written in this article is that Disney is making progress in the last 5-10 years. Sleeping beauty was made in the 50’s, the same time as Barbie. Yes, our culture sees that these ideals are outdated and should reflect more current standards but these movies and dolls already exist and expecting a fat heroine out of the blue is unrealistic. Working towards change is always important but it’s only in the last couple years that we’ve seen a move away from the idea that you can marry a man you’ve only just met (thank you Frozen). That’s over 60 years in the making. Since the 50’s the standard of beauty has reached impossible peaks and only in the last 10-15 years has the fashion world even started to recover from the waifish trend of the 90’s. I think it Is incredibly important for girls to feel comfortable in their skin because lord knows I sure don’t and it’s something I struggle with every day. What matters are the ways girls are taught to cope with their feelings. Shiloh I have the utmost respect for you and your confidence. And I agree with you, this isn’t an issue of what Disney needs to do, the real issue is how do we change feelings about fat women from pure ugly hatred to acceptance without delving into the fitness/fatness argument?

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  3. Sometimes you have to look a little off center screen. Did you notice the curvy serving maid in Brave that caught the interest of the muscular heroic type? And in the Black Cauldron, another rounded serving wench got the attention of the masculine gaze. Given, they were the bad guys, but it seemed like a wink to the adults in the audience.

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