The Nostalgic Whiplash of 2000s Thin-ema
Allow me to set the scene. You’re talking with a friend and something you’ve said sparks a memory. “Wait–” they say, “that reminds me of Generic Movie from the 2000s… did you ever see Generic Movie from the 2000s?” A dormant vault within you breaks open. You LOVE Generic Movie from the 2000s. How could you have forgotten it? That same week, you bust out the popcorn, shoot your siblings a text (“you’ll never guess what I’m watching right now”), and spend a reluctant $3.99 on whichever streaming service allows you to indulge in your childhood favorite. You press play. It’s just like you remember: witty, dramatic, and full of jokes about weight. Wait— what?
The 2000s was a thin-obsessed decade. Size-zero supermodels grew to be household names, “quick-fixes” to lose pounds were constantly advertised, and celebrities’ figures were tracked in magazines under sections titled “Weight Watch”. Likewise, it was common to joke about plus-sized individuals on screen, if not write entire characters whose main trait and fault was simply being fat.
A favorite movie in my own household was The Devil Wears Prada. In this movie, Anne Hathaway is thrown into the fashion world of the 2000s– a world in which her character is called fat as a size six and her coworker starves herself to the point of passing out, only then allowing herself a portion of cheese so small it belongs on a cocktail tray.
These instances aren’t what caught our juvenile attention— it’s common not to remember these jokes at all. Yet, our younger selves were taking this information and internalizing it— letting it shape our relationships with food and our bodies beyond the film’s 2006 premiere.
This problem may have been overlookable if this movie were an exception, but it isn’t. Monica Geller, a character from the sitcom, Friends, is pitied in the show for being formerly-overweight. The show even includes a flashback where the actress dons a fat suit and dances around eating a donut— all while a laugh track plays over the scene. The movie Sleepover was a flick specifically about and targeted to pre-teen girls. Yet, it has a character who is given no depth outside of being chubbier than her friends.
So what does this mean for the movies we’ve spent years calling our “favorites?” Do we redact that title? Decide to never watch them again? In the 2000s, people weren’t as concerned with inclusivity and representation. Today, there is a notable increase in mid to plus-sized representation in media (Kat from Euphoria; Willowdean from Dumplin’)— and I can especially appreciate those that exist without constant exploration of body image in their plotline (Donna from Parks and Recreation; Sookie St. James of Gilmore Girls). Still, I find myself scanning my screen for a larger character that is viewed with equal amounts of desire and complexity as their thin counterparts, exempt from shame or battling self-worth. All I can hope is that they are being written right now and that the day they hit the theaters, people will, at the very least, be receptive to them- if not find themselves truly represented for the first time.
Art by Angel Ye