We finally have a plus-sized Disney heroine – the little girl in me is thrilled
Posted by  badge Boss on Oct 31, 2022 - 05:00PM
Last week, Disney announced its first ever plus-sized heroine, Bianca (Picture: Disney)

Growing up, I was always the biggest kid in school – and the biggest ballet dancer in the mirror, uncomfortably fiddling with my tight leotard. 

I was chubby, and classmates called me ‘Emmie the elephant’. It hurt.

No one looked like me – not in the films I loved, or in the illustrations of the books I cherished.

Growing up in the ‘90s and early ‘00s, every Disney princess and heroine looked skinny: Belle, Aurora, Snow White, Jasmine, Cinderella, Pocahontas, Mulan, Ariel, Esmeralda, Jane, Meg. 

Every. Single. One. That is, except, until now.

Last week, , Bianca – a ballet dancer – as part of Short Circuit, a series on its Disney+ platform featuring short films. 

The six-minute-long film, named Reflect, focuses on Bianca’s journey with . 

In the film’s teaser we see the heroine overcoming her self-esteem and body image issues to dance, despite her appearance.

While I have my problems with it (like, did Disney’s only fat character had to have an entire storyline dedicated to only body-image and not just *exist*?), I’m practically quivering in my big pants thinking of how revolutionary this will be for chubby little girls everywhere.

In the past, the only obviously bigger woman in Disney that I can think of was , and while she was fierce and fabulous in her own way, she was also a villain.

In The Little Mermaid, while she wore body-hugging dresses, Ursula was still painted as grotesque and manipulative – transforming into the slim, beautiful, seductive and approachable Vanessa in attempts to sabotage Ariel and Prince Eric’s relationship. 

As a girl, I learned from Disney that skinny equaled heroic, desirable, and ‘good’. Big meant bad, undesirable, evil.

Any other characters that were portrayed as plus-sized were side-lined and stereotypically, quite frankly, dumb. The stupid side-kick, often with an insatiable appetite: Rolly (named after his ‘rolly-polly’ physique) from 101 Dalmatians, Gus from Cinderella, Heimlich from A Bug’s Life.

This is a long overdue pointe-shoe step in the right direction (Picture: Disney)

Obviously, some are already wondering if Reflect’s ‘obese’ protagonist, exploring self-love and , is a good message to send to young girls – that it promotes an ‘unhealthy lifestyle’, or glamorises obesity. 

Where were you when both Sleeping Beauty and Snow White were kissed, without consent, while they were unconscious? 

When Mulan had to dress up as a man to be taken seriously? 

When Cinderella’s only purpose was to clean and find love? Not to mention Disney’s historical problems with blatant , white male saviours, and the patriarchy? Are you really that stupid and narrow-minded?

Reflect would have changed my life as a young girl. Being fat and not accepted as ‘normal’ led me into a dark place from an early age – and I’ve struggled with my own body image for my entire life, despite only being a few months shy of 30. 

On bad days, I wake up and cry, actively despising every ounce of my deemed fat figure in the mirror. 

Children need to see themselves on screen to feel inspired, to feel accepted and human

Maybe, just maybe, a Disney heroine that looked like me would have encouraged me to keep up ballet dancing as a child, despite being the biggest girl in the mirror that pinpointed every single damn imperfection in comparison to the skinny girls.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been left thinking that everything about me was wrong, that no one would ever sweep me off my feet like a Disney princess as I’d be too heavy and disgusting to hold.

Maybe I would love myself more often than not as a grown woman – have a better, healthier relationship with my body and not have been on diets for years. 

Maybe I would know sooner rather than later that I was worthy of happiness, of love, of respect – and not shunned, scorned or belittled myself for being fat.

Reflect looks joyful. It’s pure and it’s real. Though Disney has been producing films since 1934, (and we’re nearly 100 years late) it could be inspirational to a new generation of children to see big as beautiful – in the same vein as the Colombian Mirabel has been inspirational to see in Encanto, and Halle Bailey as the first Black Ariel in the live action remake of The Little Mermaid.

Children need to see themselves on screen to feel inspired, to feel accepted and human.

Do I think six minutes is enough? No, not even slightly. Bianca should be worthy enough to appear in a full, feature-length film and not simply exist in a story about weight – but it is a start.

This is a long overdue pointe-shoe step in the right direction and it gives me hope that one day, finally, girls like I once was will feel enough.

That one day, all of the bullied ‘Emmie the elephants’ will look in the mirror on the way to ballet and smile at their reflection, pursuing their dreams instead of the ‘perfect’ body.’

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