Even before Coronavirus, I spent a lot of time inside having date night in with my husband due to my chronic illness. I watched Netflix’s Dumplin’ last night for the second time, and I must say, it was even more intricate than I had noticed the first time around.
Dumplin’ centers around Willowdean, a young troubled plus sized teenaged girl whose mother was a former beauty queen still stuck in that world. The movie begins after Willowdean’s aunt Lucy has died, who she says has raised her and her best friend Elle.
Willowdean grows up in a world that rejects her – the world “whale” is screamed at her in pools, on streets, and in the school hallways. One incident at school causes her to get suspended, and subsequently overthrow the patriarchal system of beauty by infiltrating her mother’s beauty pageant with her new oddball gang of misfits: another plus size girl who is multitalented, a non-binary goth, and her best friend Elle.
At the core of this movie is the spirit of Aunt Lucy and the love of Dolly Parton’s music she instilled in Willowdean and Elle. They form a sort of pair of fairy godmothers over the two girls and the entire movie. There is hardly any music in the soundtrack that isn’t a Dolly Parton song.
Overall, this is a fun, fabulous, feel-good body-positive movie about a young teenager coming to grips with who she is and what that means.
My husband kept saying how Willowdean was messed up throughout the movie, and that was because she was growing up. She was a girl dealing with a lot of issues at home and at school. One of the reasons why he kept saying so was because of the interactions between her and the romantic lead – she kept rejecting his advances because she was led to believe no one could love her as she was in her plus size body.
I have struggled with this often, especially as someone who for all of my life was a size 0 and a former model, but developed hypothyroidism and became plus size myself. My husband calls me beautiful every day, and thank God for that, and I have a hard time accepting it. I had a hard time accepting compliments from men when I was thinner, too, because of the inner turmoil I hid inside.
This movie is not only a body positive movie, it is about the inner turmoil all women face when we realize we don’t like who we are or where we are. When we don’t like where we are, we are at odds with ourselves and our environment, and the same is true vice versa. These are the stories of all of the women, Willowdean’s mother included, in Dumplin’. I think any of us, male or female, has found ourselves there even at certain moments of our day.
Who should watch this movie?
If you’ve ever felt like an outcast, alone, misunderstood, or listened to Dolly Parton, you’d probably love this movie.
Spoilers: If you’ve ever dressed in drag, you’d probably love it even more!